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Moor Green Allotments

An Oasis in the Centre of Birmingham, England


Towards a Greener Moor Green

Over the next few years it will become more and more urgent to move away from our current, totally unsustainable, “throw-away” society and to establish a sustainable, so-called circular economy whereby we re-use most, if not all , of what we consume. This is a daunting prospect and where better to make a start than on the allotments. On the Moor Green site, there is an enormous potential to develop the idea of a genuine sustainable society. We have already made a small start by installing around a kilowatt of electricity generating capacity by means of  solar PV panels on the pavilion roof. This was the result of a successful general Sustainable Moseley (SusMo) bid for funding from the British Gas Green Streets competition and the panels have been in operation for around 3 years and have provided a modest income through the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT). A quick glance at the pavilion roof will indicate immediately that the solar PV capacity could be increased very substantially, particularly in view of the additional roof space provided by the out-buildings.

The key to the exploitation of all sustainable energy is the ability to store the energy so that, in the case of solar for instance, sunny days can provide the energy for cloudier days and night time. Some solar energy companies are now offering the option of PV-panels and lithium-ion batteries which, during the day, can be charged by the solar flux and then employed in the evening when most of the electricity is consumed. In tandem with these developments, it would be very desirable to maximise the efficiencies of all the electrical devices, thus reducing the demand on the storage capacity.

It should be noted that that the sun, even in the UK, is a very significant energy source and in just 3 days, the earth receives sufficient solar energy to provide its energy needs for a complete year. This represents natural fusion power, albeit 93 million miles away and it would be a dangerous gamble to wait solely for man-made fusion power in the form of a fusion reactor. There are a number of positive factors associated with PV-energy and these are:

• They are based on Silicon which is one of the most common elements on the planet.

• Once installed they have virtually no maintenance costs apart from the occasional wipe with a damp cloth.

• They will operate satisfactorily over 30 years or more.

• The efficiency of new PV-panels is improving all the time and is now, regularly hitting 20%.

• Cheaper amorphous and polycrystalline panels are coming on -stream.

• Energy storage using hydrogen and fuel cells is becoming a reality.

With effective energy storage, it should be possible to employ the solar electricity to charge a variety of electricity-based tools for use on the allotments together with, where necessary, electric vehicles. This will obviate the use of diesel vehicles and hence eliminate the emission of harmful particulates and NOxs.

In my next article I would like to explore some of the above issues in more details and look at water conservation as another and practical sustainability priority.  

Professor Rex Harris