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Letters: End this negative attitude to renewable energy right now

The main point:

Solar panels

Solar panels could become more cost effective

One must wonder whose side the Royal Academy of Engineering’s’ renewables spokesman Doug King is on (News last week).

While we can all agree that poorly positioned wind turbines are as useless as solar panels on north facing roofs, well positioned systems have a predictable and rewarding rate of return.

For example £10,500 invested in a 2kW southerly facing solar array in London will produce 1,750kW hours over a year. The feed-in tariff will pay 41p for every unit produced and another 3p for the amount exported.

Assuming half the energy is used by the householder the return is as follows: 1,750 x 0.41 + 875 x 0.03 + 875 x 0.12 the latter being for the energy the householder would have bought but now has produced at home.

This equals £717 + £26 + £105 = £848….an 8% return.

While not as high as Friends of the Earth would like, it’s a rock solid low carbon investment. And, interestingly, it is index linked and tax free.

Feed-in tariffs should be welcomed with open arms. That we are so far behind the rest of Europe should not deter us.

A third of the panels installed across the continent are assembled by Sharp in Wrexham, which is planning to extend its plant to meet the increasing demand.

That only 1% of these panels has been installed in the UK is possibly in part due to the negative spin given to comments made by the likes of the academy. With the feed-in tariff it’s all about to change.

  • Mark Whitby (F), mark@mark-whitby.com

As engineers, we are supposed to use our common sense and not make things unnecessarily complicated.

Three facts: the sun does not shine every day; the wind does not blow every day; the tide comes in and out every day.

The answer is obvious.

  • Mike McDowell (F), Green Court, Green St., CamGreen, Dursley, Gloucestershire GL11 5HW

 

ODA’s low emissions effort ignores the source of pollution

Olympic park

Low emission plant fuel would cut pollution at the Olympic park

I was disappointed to read (NCE 28 January) that the Olympic Delivery Authority has interpreted the London mayor Boris Johnson low emissions guidelines in terms of an “endof- pipe” solution, namely the retrofitting of particulate filters to the exhausts of construction plant at the Olympics site.

Far better all round would be simply to run the offending plant on biodiesel. Well documented benefits include at least a 60% reduction in particulates.

This fuel has a number of other advantages relevant to an urban construction environment, such as being biodegradable if spilled on the ground, less flammable - flash point 130°C compared with 76°C for ultra low sulphur diesel - benign local emissions, nontoxic, improved lubricity and, of course, a great saving on life-cycle carbon dioxide.

Best of all it can be adopted without cost; just fill the tank with bio!

  • David Teal (M), aeolus3@ntlworld.com

Numbers question

Recent letters have raised the issue of the cost of upkeep of the Institution’s buildings. My questions also concern the Institution but from a rather different aspect.

Are the same number of young engineers applying to join the Institution as in past years?

Has the Institution’s requirement that graduate applicants now need a four year master’s degree rather that a three year bachelor’s degree had an adverse affect - bearing in mind the threatened increase in university fees and the debt burden that so many graduates have to bear?

  • Roy Foot (F), 32 Sutherland Ave, Petts Wood, Orpington, Kent BR5 1QZ

Non-member civil engineers

The ICE carries out a good job of representing its members and puts itself forward as a voice of the profession.However, does the ICE have any idea how many people are out there are working as civil engineers (in all manner of capacities) but are part of the Institution.

I work with many different contractors, big and small, and there are many people I have worked with whose route to their current position was to start at the bottom at 16 and work their way up. They are all good engineers and managers but the ICE means little to them. Their voice needs to be heard. They can contribute so we should get them involved and if you want to be cynical - their subs would come in handy.

  • Adam Hunter, adamjhunter@btinternet.com

Expansion and integration

With regard to recent letters about the ICE’s Storey’s Gate building, most members will join Ralph Swallow (NCE 28 January) in anticipation of Peter Hansford’s promised explanation of the soaring costs.

I hope it will be full and detailed. Perhaps he could also provide the reasoning behind the re-integration of Thomas Telford and the ICE which is apparently planned as part of the move to Storey’s Gate.

My recollection is that members voted for a separate and independent commercial arm. What has changed?

  • Gordon Rees (F), gordon.rees.t21@btinternet.com

Down in the gutter

Regarding the letter from Frank Appleyard (Letters last week) I want to make it clear that I am unhappy that my subscriptions are going towards producing a magazine which prints such disgraceful (and probably libellous) letters of such extreme political bias.
I am amazed and disgusted that our technical magazine stoops to airing such gutter politics.

  • Archie Brock (Ret M), Barrhead, Glasgow, archie.brock@ntlworld.com

Escape route questions

Further to Frank Appleyard’s letter “For whom the door tolls” (Letters last week), members are entitled to know if the ICE was used as political or secure convenience for Tony Blair.

He is not a member and should only be in the building by invitation. Perhaps he would be willing [or should be required?] to donate a substantial [five or preferably six figure] sum to RedR as a fee for his safe passage.

  • Trevor Hodgson (F), trevorhodgson@btinternet.com

Does ICE value its technicians?

I write after reading Michael Woods’ letter (Letters last week), regarding the ICE’s attitude towards its technician membership.

I have been a Technician Member since 1996 and although my career has taken me more towards the water industry and I have pursued my professional development via other institutions, I have remained a member.

I have contacted the ICE on more than one occasion to ask if it is possible for it to recognise the fact that I am an Incorporated Engineer (IEng), but I have never received the courtesy of a reply, let alone an answer to whether they would acknowledge my IEng.

So it does make me wonder whether the Technicians are just an annoying part of the ICE membership that were unfortunately included when the ICE merged with SCET.

  • Marcus J Preedy (T), project engineer, Coastline Housing, marcus.preedy@coastlinehousing.co.uk

Poulos bites back

My attention has been drawn by a few colleagues to the article entitled “The Poulos Factor” (NCE 28 January). I would like to clarify that I am unaware of the existence of the “Poulos principle” mentioned therein.

I should also point out that it is incorrect to suggest that it will always be the case that “dense (sic) clays have a higher friction bearing coefficient (sic)” than more granular materials.

Specific instances will occur where the ultimate skin friction developed along a pile in a clay soil will be greater than that in a granular soil, such as when comparing say stiff overconsolidated clays with loose sands, but one can’t assume this will always be the case.

As the article implies, the design of piles must always take into account specific ground conditions.

  • Harry Poulos, senior principal, Coffey Geotechnics and Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney, 8/12 Mars Road Lane Cove West NSW 2066 Australia

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