Vision for 2014

My wish for 2014 is for the Sheffield City Region to become the most economically successful and sustainable place to live in the UK. A region that is forward-looking, led by innovation and improves the opportunities and well-being of everyone.

Sustainability is not just about re-cycling and saving energy, it is also about creating products and services that help us to reduce carbon and energy needs. Great examples of this are being developed and tested by businesses and the universities at the Advanced Manufacturing Park and elsewhere in the region. The demand for goods and services that promote sustainability is growing faster than demand in other sectors and we need to capitalize on this to promote growth and jobs.

A sustainable economy also raises the quality of people’s lives by improving health and well-being and creating opportunities that lead to fulfillment in education, work and in personal lives.

FutureZone 20:50

As well as running Green Directions, I am a member of the Sheffield City Region (UK) Low Carbon Sector Group.  Together with partners, I am developing a major infra-structure proposal; FutureZone 20:50.

FutureZone 20:50 is a proposal for an innovation park, close to the Advanced Manufacturing Park  www.attheamp.com/ , showcasing both a vision for living and working sustainably in the future and our region’s innovation and manufacturing excellence. It would include:

  • A vibrant interactive low carbon and innovation visitor attraction
  • a conference and exhibition centre
  • pavilions owned and run by companies highlighting their innovations and commitment to sustainability
  • a centre to showcase the outcomes of universities research and development programmes
  • a growth hub providing support for businesses to enter supply chains and capitalise on business opportunities ; for example, through the Catapult Centres
  • a low carbon retail zone
  • a low carbon transport hub including a cycle park

FutureZone 20:50 is about the future not the past. It is about inspiring and supporting sustainable growth for the economic and social benefit of people and communities.

My partners in the project are MMEK and Oliver Schutte. You might like to have a look at their websites to see examples of their inspiring work:

MMEK  –  a Dutch design company who have expertise in the creation of visitor attractions.         http://mmek.nl/

Oliver Schutte  – a Costa Rica based architect with experience in pan-European sustainability projects  http://www.a-01.net/

MMEK are currently working on an industrial/environmental museum in Zeeland  http://mmek.nl/en/#/mmek/work/industrial-museum-zeeland/ and have a lot of experience in the sport and leisure market e.g. the Dutch national football museum  http://www.voetbalexperience.nl/    They have also worked on visitor experiences for the Dutch flower industry and the Dutch water industry. You can see the full range of their work on the website.

 

The Saga of the Heat Pumps

Here is the sorry tale of our heatpumps

  1. Our electricity consumption has been excessive from when the heat pumps were commissioned
  2. Our annual electricity consumption is well over double the projection at time of purchase from Eco Heat Pumps
  3. The excessive electricity consumption is clearly the responsibility of Eco Heat Pumps and Danfoss because of faults in specification and performance
  4. We have incurred substantial losses through excessive electricity bills as a result of the faults
  5. Danfoss claim that we are not entitled to any reparation as the guarantee period has expired yet the faults were reported within weeks of installation.
  6. Danfoss have benefitted from buying a business with a presence in the heat pump market. This also means that they have a responsibility to meet the contractual obligations of the company that they took over.
  7. The heat pumps have been very unreliable. We have had to repair them on many occasions at high cost. We recently had a compressor replaced at a cost of £1,608
  8. Danfoss’ approach discredits the industry as a whole. Customers are entitled to receive a service that delivers what it promises.

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Data (readings taken 14/7/13)

Thermia Diplomat 10 – fully operational since February 2006

  • Heat Pump hours – 27635 @ Output capacity of 9.54 @ COP of 4.6-3.3
  • Add Heat 1 hours – 6047 @ 3kwh
  • Add Heat 2 hours – 1242 @ 1.5 kwh
  • Warm Water hours – 7269

Thermia Diplomat 8 – fully operational since January 2008

  • Heat Pump hours – 27591 @ Output capacity of 8.13 @ COP of 4.6-3.4
  • Add Heat 1 hours – 6133 @ 3kwh
  • Add Heat 2 hours – 2959 @ 1.5kwh
  • Warm Water hours – 1317

Electricity Use – kwh/annum

  • 2009       28,537
  • 2010       33,750
  • 2011       31,254
  • 2012       22,615

Eco Heat Pumps projected electricity use for the heat pumps     11,166 kwh per annum

This data does not fully represent consumption because we have 2 wind turbines and a solar power array. Prior to 2011 we had 1 turbine – 6kw Proven – which generates about 14,000 kwh per year.  This suggests that without the renewables contribution we would be consuming around 40,000 kwh per year. Eco Heat Pumps said that the system should cost about £670 per year to run @ 6p per kwh. On this basis we should be consuming 11,166 kwh per year on heating. Allowing a generous 6,000 kwh per annum for other electricity costs, we are clearly consuming well over double what we should be consuming.

Background

Purchase

  • September 2004 – quotes sought for heat pumps from various suppliers. Architects plans for renovation project supplied
  • Chose Eco Heat Pumps mostly because we chose to support a local business
  • 20/10/04 – Quotation received based on Eco Heat Pumps calculation of floor area of 450 square metres
  • 15/3/05 Final quotation received estimating running costs of system @ £670 per year based on electricity cost of 6p/kwh

Installation

  • Eco Heat Pumps provide specification for installation and approve our plan to self-install under guidance.  Install to be overseen and commissioned by their engineers (Alan Donald – based in Scotland)
  • Summer 2005 – Ground loops installed to a better than specified standard. Greater separation of individually dug trenches and slightly deeper than specified – 1.25 metres instead of 0.8 metres.
  • Plumbing and electrical installation inspected by Eco Heat Pump engineers
  • 8/2/06 – Heat pump system tested, passed and commissioned
  • Underfloor heating system tested and commissioned by Eco Hometec – at the time a partner organisation of Eco Heat Pumps

Outcomes

  • 17/4/06 – wrote to Eco Heat Pumps because of concerns about electricity useage mostly owing to considerable use of Add Heat functions
  • I have weekly data from the heat pumps stretching back almost to the time of installation.
  • 24/4/06 – reply received from Eco Heat Pumps saying that the poor performance was due to an incomplete renovation and the need for the building to dry out.
  • 7/1/08 – Letter to Eco Heat Pumps again complaining about under performance.
  • 28/4/08 – Danfoss acquires majority share holding of Eco Heat Pumps
  •  November 2008 – letter to Eco Heat Pumps/Danfoss again expressing concern about performance. Data provided.
  • 6/11/08 – Visit by Stephen Andrews and Mike Walsh from Danfoss. A very unprofessional visit as documented in a letter sent to Danfoss after the visit. Cursory inspection of the heat pumps with rude behaviour. No data recorded or analysed in anything but a superficial way during the visit. No historical data asked for. The exercise was an attempt to bully me into submission. The data provided in this submission shows how
  • 23/2/09 – Letter to Danfoss again expressing concerns about performance. This followed a visit from a Danfoss engineer Lee who was shocked by our energy consumption. He identified a particular issue about pipe sizing near to the heat pump units.
  • 3/4/09 – Letter from Stephen Andrews at Danfoss suggesting that we should bear the cost of replacing the pipe work identified by Lee as being too small – 28mm instead of 40mm. (The pipe sizing had been guided by the Eco Heat Pump engineers.)
  • 9/5/09 – Reply to Stephen Andrews at Danfoss which challenges the accuracy of his statements in the letter of 3/4/09 e.g. that he inspected the heat pump data during his visit. It also challenges his unprofessional and dishonest behaviour.
  • 11/5/09 – Receive email from Simon Pepper at Danfoss saying that they no longer were prepared to offer heat pump service beyond the guarantee period having moved to a ‘supply only business model’
  • 22/6/09 – Letter from Stephen Andrews rejecting my arguments and disowning the problem.
  • 26/6/09 – Reply to Stephen Andrews cataloguing multiple failure in performance by both Eco Heat Pumps and Danfoss management and staff
  • 16/7/09 – Stephen Andrews agrees to change the pipe work at Danfoss expense without accepting liability for failures
  • 19/7/09 – I signed an agreement that we would accept that the fitting of the new pipework would end the issue about the underperformance of the brine circuit.
  • 20/7/09 – confirmed in a letter that we accepted the agreement provided that the remedial work was effective
  • Spring 2009 – Danfoss replace some pipework at their expense – some metrics improve following this work but the core issue of excessive electricity consumption remains.
  • 15/4/13 – Spreadsheet sent to Stephen Bancroft  – now Technical Manager at Danfoss – with all our heatpump data for several years – includes the overall hours in use and the add heat hours.
  • 19/4/13 – Stephen Bancroft visits – spends about 2 hours on site discussing issues and looking at metrics
  • 20/5/13 – Stephen Bancroft sends a report to us which confirms underperformance and makes action recommendations. In the accompanying email he says  ‘Initially I think we need to get the buffer installed and monitor internal temps and run hours.’
  • 4/6/13 – letter from Stephen Bancroft saying that Danfoss can only offer advice as the products are beyond the guarantee period. It also says that prior to installation a SAP report should have taken place on the building and that the system was not designed well.
  • We identified the issues and complained within 2 months of the installation of the system. The complaint stems from then which means that the guarantee is valid. Eco Heat Pumps were responsible for the oversight of the project and at no time proposed a SAP report. They also designed the system. Danfoss is now responsible for their work.

Other information

  • The building has a floor area of approximately 510 square metres – therefore the pumps have been undersized
  • Over the past 8 years much time and money has been wasted in trying to get the heat pumps to perform properly

How we developed our green building project

So what happens next when you have just bought a farmhouse, circa 1800, with attached barns two other collections of outbuildings and 10 acres of land? This was the wonderful opportunity and challenge facing me and my partner Sarah Brown in November 2003. We had both renovated properties before including another barn conversion, a terraced house and a detached house but this was on a completely different scale.

I started to research ways of tackling the project and was soon spending hours at exhibitions, reading magazines, watching programmes such as Grand Designs and searching on the internet. It didn’t take long for me to realise that we would have to take a radical approach to the renovation if the family were to live in such a large property sustainably.

Walking into the National Homebuilding and Renovating Show at the NEC in 2004 I was completely overwhelmed by a vast range of unfamiliar technologies such as heat pumps, under-floor heating, electricity generators, mechanical ventilation and insulation systems. Piles of leaflets returned to Sheffield, followed by more research and meetings with potential suppliers until an outline plan started to emerge.

A core part of the plan was to put in under-floor heating driven by ground source heat pumps which I installed with the help of a friend, Clive Quarmby. We spent many weeks digging trenches, laying pipes, soldering, fitting valves etc., using 8 different diameters of pipe in the process.

Sarah was pregnant with Arthur (now 6 – birthday in February), while all this was going on. By the time she returned from hospital with Arthur most of the heating was working and some of the floorboards in the bedroom had been restored. She was not happy.

Heat pumps need electricity to work and so we decided that we would have to make our own (we are all electric) to meet our objective of becoming energy neutral. I researched solar and wind power during 2004. Solar panels were about 5 times more expensive than they are now and were much more expensive than wind turbines compared with the amount of electricity they were likely to make. So, we bought a 6 kilowatt Proven wind turbine expecting it to make about 10,000 kilowatt hours per year. It didn’t. It made 14,000 kilowatt hours per year – fantastic.

The only trouble was we were using a lot more electricity than I had anticipated despite investing thousands of pounds on insulation and high-tec glazing. More investment was needed – more insulation and more energy generating technology.

For the last 18 months we have had a 4 kilowatt solar power system which generated 4100 kilowatt hours in its first year and have just installed a 10 kilowatt Xzeres wind turbine which is on target to produce between 25,000 and 30,000 kwh per year. As a result, our electricity production is greater than our electricity use which means that we are saving tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere. The energy saving, together with Feed In Tariff payments, also mean that we now make a profit from electricity rather than having a bill.

There is still a lot to do as a part of the house does not have any wall insulation. Once this and other improvement works are done we will save even more energy.

Tough Times

Times are tough. Both parents have serious illnesses in a Birmingham hospital and I am visiting them 4 days a week from here in Sheffield.

My mum has had Alzheimers for some time now and has been looked after during this period by my father. Both are 83. My dad has had to do much of the nursing care for my mum as she has gradually lost functionality. He has been fantastic. He has developed his cooking skills and, prior to the hospital admissions, was confidently producing very good meals including traditional Sunday lunch. For him, anything less represented a decline in standards.

My mum used to become anxious if dad was absent from the house and as a result he rarely managed to pursue his own interests and activities such as going to concerts/theatre and playing golf.

Dad has also been the rock for my brother who was born with partial deafness and some learning disabilities. David lives independently and also has very good support from a good friend, Mick, but it is my dad who has been the key person in helping him to live something like a functional life.

In July this year, my mum developed a circulation problem in her right leg. While waiting for an investigative procedure the leg deteriorated and had to be amputated. She has been in hospital ever since though with her Alzheimers, she usually thinks she is somewhere else – on a train, on holiday etc.

While our family was in Toulouse in August, during our house exchange holiday, I received a phone call saying that dad had been taken into hospital. Within a week he had been discharged – they thought it was a bladder infection (in royal good company there).

I brought him home and stayed with him but it was soon apparent that all was not well. An ambulance took him back to hospital where they treated the symptoms of an infection but otherwise could not explain why he was still feeling ill.

At the point of him being discharged again, he suddenly declined badly and on September 13th was admitted to intensive care. By the time I reached the hospital that evening he was on a ventilator and had wires and tubes all over him. He had Pancreatitis and I was told that it was unlikely that he would survive.

But he did! A week later he was moved onto a ward where he remains. He is in a poor physical and mental condition, he is more confused than my mum at the moment, and is still in danger. At least he recognises me and is sometimes able to talk lucidly.

All of this means that I am visiting Wards 305 and 726 of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital 4 days per week and have taken over the management of my brother too. (Fortunately my father had the wisdom to set up powers of attorney for me with regard to both him, my mum and my brother to assist me if a situation like this arose – it has been a great help.)

Also of great help have been my family. Partner Sarah has a full time demanding career which now involves more jobs on our small-holding and more taxi runs with the children. The older children have been great too in both moral and practical support (notably Frankee looking after Arthur, our 6 year old). Lots of other help and support has come from friends such as Sam who has picked up Arthur from school on several occasions.

Under these circumstances it is a great source of upset for us to be put under pressure by an officer of Sheffield City Council’s Environmental Protection Service.

Earlier this year, after many installation problems, our 10 kilowatt Xzeres wind turbine finally started working. It has been producing electricity very well since but for some reason, in doing so, it is making more noise than other Xzeres turbines. This has induced a complaint from the couple who are our immediate neighbours.

Although the matter of noise nuisance is subjective and in this case our turbine’s noise is less than the traffic and other common machinery and wind noises, we agree that the issue should be resolved for everyone’s benefit.

To this end we have co-operated fully with the officer to get noise reduction action from Xzeres. Much success has been achieved, but further work is necessary. Action from Xzeres has not been as effective or timely as it should have been; however, an action plan is in place and the latest work will start on October 3rd and be finished in a few weeks. Despite this, the officer has told us to turn off the turbine. This will punish us for matters beyond our control at a time when we are already under duress.

In Short:

  • An action plan is in place to resolve the issue
  • The action plan was provided to the officer before he issued his ‘advice’ to shut down the turbine
  • We have been totally co-operative with the officer throughout the process
  • While the turbine makes more noise than it should, it is not as noisy as a car, lorry, tractor, chainsaw, strimmer etc., all of which are common sounds in this environment
  • There are two complainants in this case one of whom has a history of anti-social behaviour, all our other neighbours are supportive
  • We have had no complaints from any other members of the public
  • We receive a huge amount of interest in the positive impacts of our turbines and other renewable technologies and do a lot of work to disseminate this information as widely as possible to encourage others to take action on climate change
  • The turbine produces, and therefore saves, about 2000 kwh electricity per month and a CO2 saving of around 3 tonnes
  • The financial value to us of the turbine is around £600 – £1000 per month through electricity that has not had to be bought and Feed In Tariff (FIT) payments
  • In the week September 23rd to September 30th, 2012 the Xzeres turbine produced 644 kwh. The FIT payment for this is £188.69 and the electricity bill saving (@12p per kwh) is £77.28 – total benefit – £265.97
  • We are a family who have invested in excess of £100,000 and immense amounts of time to install renewable technologies for our benefit and for the benefit of the wider community.

The officer says that he has not taken the decision to shut down our turbine lightly and yet he has chosen to act at this precise time despite having received a plan to resolve the issues from the manufacturer, and having full knowledge of my parents’ illnesses with all its emotional and practical implications. He even telephoned me while I was in the intensive care unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

We are good citizens of this city. Our mission is to reduce our carbon footprint and by doing so to make a positive contribution. The carbon reduction plan has been running for several years and we are succeeding. We produce more electricity than we use (we are all electric) and through energy saving and generation we prevent around 35 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year.

We are strongly of the view that the officer’s ‘advice’ is therefore ill-judged, inequitable and partial. Furthermore it is undermined by his unprofessional and insensitive behaviour.

I can’t imagine that the workload of the Environmental Protection Service officers is comfortable. Therefore, why has so much time be devoted to our turbine when

  • no one is resisting the call for the noise issue to be resolved
  • the positive aspects of the turbine outweigh the negative
  • the negative impacts are short term
  • there must be far more pressing issues confronting the Environmental Protection Service about which other citizens are desperate for intervention

The action of the officer is therefore not only inequitable and disproportionate, it is also a tremendous waste of public money.

What can we do to tackle food availability issues?

In my parents’ lifetime – they are still alive aged 83 – the world population has risen from about 2 billion to 7 billion and it continues to rise. Malnutrition existed in 1928, tackling it is therefore an even greater challenge now.

Although instinctively anti GM, I am even more anti starvation and therefore think that projects to assess the potential of GM should be supported.

I feel most strongly that the dislocation of a high proportion of people from their food supply in ‘developed’ countries is a key problem.

It results in:

  • A lack of respect for the sources and value of food
  • Waste
  • Obesity

In my view, if more people produced some food for themselves many of these issues would be addressed and we would also increase food supplies considerably.

Corporate Fun Days at Green Directions

10 acres of land in our spectacular location gives us so much scope for setting up enjoyable corporate events. We are able to put marquees up, run activities such as archery, give tours of the farm and our green technologies and show people round our colourful eco-friendly home.

Another great pleasure is to use our friends in the local community to provide services; for example, Bradfield Brewery (supplies beer and sometimes a full bar), Sheffield Bouncy Castle Hire and Our Cow Molly ice cream. We are also lucky to have helpful neighbours such as Clive Quarmby and Alan Russell who cut and bale our hay, leaving space in the fields so set up our events.

Here are some recent comments.

“Really nice place – Stunning views.”

“The food was really nice – the hog was delicious! I am still full!!!”

“All in all it was great! Mark and the family were very friendly and you felt welcome there.”