Providing Local Energy Needs from Sustainable Sources
This suggested program has three main strands – the three R’s
Reduce – promote the reduction of energy needs through efficiency increases, reduction of losses and the use of artificial intelligence in energy control.
Renewable – promote the use of renewable and sustainable energy sources on a household, municipal and business basis. Develop use strategies for sustainable energy which minimise the effect of the intermittent nature of these resources. We live in an area which has abundant natural energy resources such as wind and solar.
Reuse – promote the use of energy and energy sources which are presently wasted or thrown away.
Development and Suggestions of the three R’s
Reduce the volume of road traffic by promoting the use of rail in the County. Wexford is fortunate to have both north-south and an east-west rail infrastructure. The county development plan should reflect these assets and promote the following ideas to preserve inhabitants lifestyles when, through lack of fossil fuels, cars become very expensive to run.
The current housing stock will still be in use when this becomes a reality.
We will also see tourism changing with more tourists without cars as the costs of running cars rises, the promotion of these ideas will help absorb these changes to retain our tourist industry in the county.
Promote the use of more environmentally friendly propulsion in private cars, for example electric cars for short journeys, hybrid cars or cars powered by locally produced fuel.
Explain and promote the importance of energy efficiency in cars.
Develop a network of cycle paths/roads in striking distance of the town; designate certain minor roads as cycle friendly roads (reduced speed limits and other aids to cyclists).
Promote car pools/car sharing.
Develop a larger village/town in the Wellington Bridge/Hook area to reduce the commuter/shopping journeys.
Promote and allow local embedded industries in the rural villages to reduce commuting journeys.
Promote the switch of freight to the rails, Rosslare Port to be developed as a Rail/Freight depot for the whole of the country. It is the closest port to Europe and has massive development potential. Instead of large lorries thundering along our roads the freight could be put on LoLo (the containers without the lorries) ships in Europe, transhipped to Rosslare, loaded onto rail for distribution to Cork, Dublin etc. Local distribution of goods would only go by road.
Promote housing and business development along the rail corridors.
When the supply of liquid fuels decreases then the Railway line from Rosslare to Waterford could be reopened and developed as a commuter railcar line. Village housing development could be encouraged along this line.
Commuters from the whole south of the county where the population density is high could commute either to Waterford or Wexford.
Promote energy efficiency both in building and use of housing. Intelligent controls of heating systems are a very quick method of realising efficiencies in heating for all types of building.
Planning permission could be a powerful tool for promoting sustainability in housing and in particular, rural housing.
New Rural Housing
New rural housing should have minimal environmental effect, dispersed housing has been a constant pattern in the Wexford landscape since prehistoric times and the rural population should be allowed to continue this tradition with the following restraints:
• Wexford has a long tradition of adobe housing with straw roofs that is very environmentally and energy efficient in its use of locally available materials and labour. It took a rare genius to develop a workable adobe dwelling in such a wet climate – it is a world beater.
• The development of a new model of this traditional housing should be promoted and encouraged to perfect its benefits and negate its problems in the light of modern regulations. See “The Mayglass Farmhouse” as an example.
• Wexford has nothing to learn from outside as regards sustainable housing in this regard as we did produce one of the most environmentally friendly houses in the world – lets return to this ideal.
• The rural house should have high insulation etc to reduce heat loss and have a low electricity need to reduce the need for infrastructure expenditure.
• Houses with a high sustainability factor should be more likely to get planning permission and a “sustainability index” should be developed to factor this into planning decisions.
• The ideas promoted in the book “The New Autonomous House” by Robert and Brenda Vale should be adapted and promoted for the “New Wexford Sustainable Rural Dwelling” in order to reduce energy use both in the building and use of housing.
• For instance, the new requirement for sewage treatment plants while highly desirable from an environmental point of view as regards pollution has been a backward step from an energy consumption point of view with increased usage of electricity to drive these plants. They should be required either to have a renewable supply or new types are developed which are not such high users of electrical energy
• The collection of rainwater for toilet flushing is a system which can be introduced on both new and old housing at minimum cost to give a good reduction in clean water usage. There is no objection in principle for using such water for washing machines also which would reduce the use of detergents. In New Zealand all rural water comes from rain water with no adverse public health effects so why do we follow the British urban model for our rural areas?
New Urban Housing
The options for energy reduction for urban housing are less radical than we can do in rural areas but the use of passive solar techniques, high insulation and solar water heaters can be promoted.
Wexford is very fortunate in having the most hours of sunshine in Ireland – the sunny South-East!
The electrical specifications should only allow the use of low energy lighting and appliances. The electric energy usage of the house should be part of building specifications and low energy usage housing design should be promoted. The use of a “sustainability index” in the planning of such housing should be introduced. The collection of rainwater for flushing toilets should be introduced immediately on all new housing.
Upgrade programs for energy efficiency should be promoted for old housing stock. Increased insulation and new higher efficiency or sustainable energy heating sources are some of the things which could reduce energy usage in old buildings.
Business and Municipal Buildings
The use of low energy lighting should be promoted as the very first step in the reduction of energy use in such buildings
• The heating profile in these building with their normally 9 to 5 occupancy ties in very well with passive solar design.
• New buildings should be designed with this in mind with increased use of natural light etc.
• Existing buildings can be retrofitted with increased insulation and more novel passive solar equipment such as “light pipes” could be used to cut down on the use of artificial light.
• Intelligent control of heating and ventilation systems would give relatively quick gains in efficiency as would the fitting of more efficient boilers etc.
• The planning by-laws could be altered to give preference to buildings designed with sustainability in mind through the use of a “sustainability index”. This would force best practice to be adopted to everyone’s benefit.
• Simple steps such as public lighting as far as possible using energy efficient lamps and even solar powered lighting would give easy increases in energy efficiency as well as promoting the renewable energy industry.
Housing, Public buildings and Factories
• Scholarships should be given for students to study sustainable energy engineering and rural planning for sustainability.
• Planners for rural areas should be trained as rural planners not as urban planners as happen at the moment.
• Where external heat sources are used priority should be given to sustainable sources such as wood chip, wood or straw pellet etc because these sustainable fuels can be available locally.
• For the larger factories etc consideration should be given to promoting CHP (combined heat and power) units which could burn, straw, wood chip and other solid fuels in steam plants to produce both electricity and heat for local space heating. These technologies favour the larger plants.
• Used vegetable oil could be collected locally and processed and pure vegetable oil grown locally, both to be used in very small to large diesel driven CHP plants to provide electricity and heat from the small single house scale to the large public building/factory scale.
• The new German parliament building in Berlin has a large CHP plant supplying all its electricity and heat fuelled by vegetable oil pressed from rapeseed.
• The rural house should as far as possible use renewable sources of energy for heating etc. So the use of solar panels, small wind turbines, heat pumps etc should be allowed and encouraged. Many of these technologies can only be used in rural housing.
• The use of wind turbines both large and small should be encouraged and special provisions should be made for local ownership and benefit from such developments.
Agriculture, Transport and Private Cars
• Low input farming methods should be promoted and encouraged such as min-till etc. These methods of production have less impact on the environment than present methods.
• Local farmers & producers markets should be set up to try to reduce the large transport costs of modern methods of distribution and to encourage local production and local consumption which is the best model both for job creation and sustainability. (This is the model used in most European countries – we follow the British bad example)
• Saturday local producers markets are a feature of most towns in rural France and Germany.
• A dollop of common sense should be applied to our zealous hygiene inspectors to allow the above to occur – the same EU regulations apply in France and Germany?
• Cars improved or built to use CO2 neutral propulsion such as electric cars, plug in diesel hybrid cars which can do short journeys with out burning fuel should be encouraged. One simple way of encouraging electric cars for instance would be to allow them special access to town centre parking as they emit no gaseous pollution into the urban environment.
Straw, Poultry Litter, Wood waste and Forest thinning etc.
There are many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of such products available for solid fuel use nationally and many tens of thousands of tonnes available in Wexford.
Wood based fuel pellets are available throughout Europe and very sophisticated stoves and domestic boilers are available which burn this sustainable, smokeless and environmentally friendly fuel. The ashes, which are at a much lower percent than traditional wood burning, consist of potash highly usable as a garden fertiliser eliminating ashes going into landfill.
The other sources of fuel as detailed above can also be pelletised.
Any waste wood in domestic and commercial rubbish can be sold to the wood pellet manufacturers for incorporation into their product.
Waste Vegetable Oil
A town based collection of waste vegetable oil could be organised as part of the refuse collection service and the collected oil could be cleaned and used to make biodiesel.
Organic waste and a certain amount of sewage could be used in a municipal anaerobic digester to produce methane gas for fuelling a gas powered engine driving a CHP plant which would produce heading for town buildings and electricity for the grid. Such a plant, privately owned already exists in County Wexford.
It could also produces garden compost which could be used on public green spaces or sold on to the towns gardeners.
One need not wait until a rubbish dump is full to get gas from the rubbish in fact treating it as it arrives prevents a lot atmospheric pollution and is a very sustainable way to go. It also cuts down on the amount going to landfill.
Coarse Paper and Cardboard
This can also serve as a feedstock for fuel pellets.
Good quality used timber
This could be collected and processed into wood pellets.