Tesla, the maker of luxury electric cars, has unveiled a series of batteries that will allow homes and businesses to store renewable energy, as it attempts to solve a major challenge facing the transition to the low carbon economy. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder and chief executive, made the much anticipated announcement last night, confirming the new modular Powerwall system would sell at $3,000 (£1,954) for a 7kWh battery, rising to $3,500 for a 10kWh unit. Deliveries are expected to start in late summer in the US. Catherine Mitchell, professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter, called the announcement “a nail in the coffin” for conventional utilities.
“It’s a fantastic idea, I say – powering a bus with poo, who’d have thought?” The soft West Country burr belongs to Maisie, a 30-year-old nurse travelling with her toddler, Josh, and three bags of shopping. Squirming out of his mother’s grasp, Josh presses his face to the window as we pass rows of Georgian terraces and graffiti-speckled tower blocks. This is Bristol, and while the surroundings are typical of many British cities, our 41-seater bus is unique. Not due to its sleek design or humorous exterior – though it’s certainly turning heads as we drive past the harbourside – but because the aptly named No 2 bus doesn’t use electricity or oil: it runs entirely on human faeces.
Network Rail could cut operating costs by £150m between 2019 and 2024 by inviting investors to fund trackside solar arrays. That is the conclusion of a new report from infrastructure consultancy WSP, which argues installing solar panels on half of the trackside land in the UK could save Network Rail £30m a year, cutting costs by £150m over the next five year control period. It also investigates new approaches for creating additional value out of the UK rail network, argues that trackside solar panels could provide up to 2.44GW of capacity, increasing the UK’s current installed solar capacity by almost 50 per cent. The approach, which has already been pioneered in a number of European countries, is thought to be particularly attractive as trackside solar arrays would not eat into agricultural land, are unlikely to have a significant visual impact, and tend to have access to grid connections. The report acknowledges that Network Rail would not be able to fund such a large energy infrastructure programme, given cost estimates reach £2.9bn. But WSP’s renewable energy expert Barny Evans argued the project could prove highly attractive to clean energy investors.
Leading investment bank UBS says the payback time for unsubsidised investment in electric vehicles plus rooftop solar plus battery storage will be as low as 6-8 years by 2020 – triggering a massive revolution in the energy industry. “It’s time to join the revolution,” UBS says in a note to clients, in what could be interpreted as a massive slap-down to those governments and corporates who believe that centralised fossil fuel generation will dominate for decades to come. UBS, however, argues that solar panels and batteries will be disruptive technologies. So, too, will electric vehicles and storage.
Cumbria is set to be home to Europe’s first solar powered railway next year. A £5.5m scheme to extend and upgrade the Alston-based South Tynedale Railway is set to go ahead, including two major environmental projects. The upgrade won’t just benefit tourists but also run electric trains, powered by the sun, for everyday, all-year-round commuters. The volunteer-run railway will be extended to Slaggyford, just north of Alston, by 2016. It is hoped that by 2025 trains will run to larger towns such as Haltwhistle, encouraging commuters to leave the car behind. Steam trains will be adapted to be powered by processed wood waste.
Nurture Eden the award winning responsible tourism organisation seeking to encourage visitors to stay longer, spend more and show concern for the local environment when holidaying in Eden, is getting visitors to explore Eden on two wheels through its new ‘Cycling Eden’ project.
Rent an e-bike at one of the Electric Bicycle Network hire points and glide through the wonderful scenery of the Lake District. In the Lake District National Park, a 35-strong fleet of electric bicycles for hire are bringing the simple pleasure of cycling within everyone’s reach. It’s cycling, but not as we know it. Electric bicycles dismiss headwinds and flatten hills. Now everyone can enjoy the great outdoors on two wheels.
Plans to turn parts of the Lake District into a ‘hub for sustainable transport’ will bring 100 new jobs to the area, according to Cumbria County Council. A £5m government project has gained another £2m from operators in the area, bringing the budget to £6.9m.The four year plan will see new public transport and better traffic management to tackle congestion, the council said. The money will be spent on joining up passenger transport services, creating safe networks for walking, cycling and wheelchair use and also developing a system of pay-as-you-go electric bikes and low-carbon vehicles for hire. It will take place across the tourist hot spots of Windermere, Bowness, Coniston, Ambleside, Grasmere and Kendal.