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"Petrozavodsk speaks" about the results of GreenSol project

7 октября 2020 г.

"Energy saving technologies can be used in Karelia today" is an article by Victor Petrov for "Petrozavodsk speaks" (in Russian).  

Translation:

The largest modern project effective energy saving is being completed in the Republic of Karelia.

In November this year, the cross-border cooperation project "Green solutions for nature protection areas" ("GreenSol") will be finished in Karelia, which is unique experience of introducing energy-saving technologies in the infrastructure of naturу protected areas of the Republic.

The international project was being implemented for two years, and today we can say that the results are very optimistic. Moreover, the final achievements of the programme are not out of touch with an average person, like some "macroeconomic indicators "or "Dow Jones index". They are tangible, verifiable, and can serve us all here and now.

What was the goal of the project "Green solutions for nature conservation areas" and why is it so interesting to the residents of Karelia?

This is the maximum energy saving. In the broadest sense of the word, and, exactly that in relation to the conditions of Karelia.

Let's start with the economy. Did you know that Karelia is an energy – deficient region? We do not have enough electricity, and we have to "import" it. And if the electricity bill in the apartment is unpleasantly high, but not fatal, then for businesses, even small ones, the payment "for light" is still a burden! And if, thanks to new energy-saving technologies, it is possible to reduce energy consumption by at least half, is it not great for an organization?

The second point is the understanding of the fact that any extraction of energy for the needs of humanity is a damage to the environment. Moreover, the lion's share of the same energy generation is still achieved by burning fossil fuels – one of the most "dirty" technologies, accompanied by the release into the atmosphere not only the notorious carbon dioxide, but also a huge amount of all sorts of rubbish. This means that by reducing the energy consumption of an object or enterprise, we will also reduce the harm that energy production causes to the environment.

Based on the project's goal, specific points of its application in Karelia were also selected. Nature protected areas of Karelia – Kostomukshsky nature reserve, Kivach nature reserve and Vodlozersky national park - became a platform for application.

Any of these three objects is not just a section of forest with animals and birds. Each of the protected areas has many infrastructure facilities. These are administrative and guest buildings, warehouses, museums, laboratories, garages, camps… And so on and so forth. And as a rule, there are problems with the availability of electricity (you can't reach every camp with power lines), and besides, who else can work out "green" energy-saving technologies, if not institutions that are meant to work to that end?

Green energy technologies

The choice of technologies used for the project, their implementation and trial application were conducted by people who were not just technically competent, but also extremely reasonable. No one demanded to cut all the existing power grids and saw down the generators to scrap. Simple calculations show that in the conditions of the North this is a great stupidity and indulging in daydreaming.

Therefore, they did not abandon traditional generation (yet), but decided to focus on how much electricity consumption can be reduced without reducing the performance of the infrastructure.

Accordingly, for the implementation of the energy component of the project, three of the most developed technological solutions to date were selected. These are solar panels, solar collectors, and heat pumps.

Solar panels in the North

The conversion of light into electricity is a technology that is quite old, if not ancient (1842). But, despite its apparent "conventional use", it is now experiencing its second youth.

First, the technological improvement of the battery itself. Its efficiency becomes higher, and the cost per square meter is lower. What previously only military space could afford, today is available for a summer resident. Plus, the effective service life of the product has significantly increased.

The second circumstance is a real "battery revolution" that has occurred over the past 20 years. The fact is that we need electricity most often in the evening and at night, when the batteries are not working. And today you no longer need to pair tons of lead batteries with solar panels! The density of "reserving" energy has increased hundreds of times.

And thirdly, another revolution has occurred in energy consumption. If yesterday it was too dark to read with a forty-watt light bulb, now you can light up the whole house with the same forty watts.

The project managers set themselves the task to evaluate the efficiency of solar panels in Karelia, as well as to find out how effective they will be in different times of the year.

Solar collectors – how to heat water to three hundred degrees

The second technology to be introduced was solar collectors, devices for heating water with the rays of our sun. In principle, the thing is familiar. Many people have a "summer shower" at their dachas. However, here, thanks to the smart design of the flasks that make up the collector, the water temperature on a fine day can reach not the usual 30-40, but as much as 280 degrees Celsius!

Not going into unnecessary technical details, a collector acts as a thermos that passes radiant heat inside the installation, but does not give it back out. Due to the vacuum, the thermal insulation of the flask is excellent, and all the heat is spent on heating the water. And where to take the heat – in the batteries or in the shower – is up to owners. The technology is so simple that it is quite suitable for use in the country. It works not only in summer, but from early spring to early winter.

Heat pumps: let's take the heat away from the cold air!

A heat pump in its turn is already a real high – tech, so fantastic that at first it causes thoughts of a perpetual motion machine or some kind of circus trick. The essence of this unit is to pump heat from the outside – inside the room. Just like a regular pump, it requires energy to operate. But here is the result…

In short: we spend one kilowatt of electricity on the pump, and the room receives five kilowatts of warm air. And, contrary to common sense, on the street at this time there may be a light frost (up to 15 degrees, with an air-to-air scheme). And you can take heat from the water of the nearest lake (directly from under the ice), this is an air-water scheme.

In fact, there are no tricks here. This is a common refrigerator, but as if turned inside out. Taking crumbs of heat from the air or water, it concentrates and drives them into the room, returning an even colder "working medium" to the environment. The heat pump also has another bonus, which is very important for Karelia. In hot summers, it can work as an air conditioner.

Results of the project "Green solutions for nature protected areas"

These three pillars were used to launch the project "Green solutions for nature protected areas" in Karelia. What are its results and outcomes?

There are two main conclusions. First: it works in Karelia. Second: it is profitable!

Yes, you will not be able to completely abandon power lines or generation. From November to March, it's not have Africa here. But in the remaining months, the complex of technologies either provides the object with heat and/or electricity completely, or allows for significant cost savings.

In particular, solar panels proved to be an excellent source of electricity at remote "points" - camps, tourist camp sites, individual objects. In combination with batteries, they cover most of the needs of autonomous life: lighting, office equipment, communication equipment, kitchen appliances. Batteries storing energy make it possible to almost completely abandon the gasoline generator at such facilities. In winter, of course, this is still necessary.

For heating housing facilties batteries are not enough, firewood still beats competition here. However a hut in the forest does not call for much.

Solar collectors proved to be a great source of hot water for showers and kirchens. School physics tells us that to heat 100 liters of water to a boiling point, you need a liter of liquid fuel (at 100% efficiency), which means five times more in real life. But with collectors hot water flows from the tap without additional costs, in fact totally free! And – every day. In the end, the savings add up to tens of liters of fuel and hundreds of kilowatts of electricity.

Experience has shown that the solar collector technology works effectively for about nine months a year, which, firstly, is quite a lot, and secondly, it is in the summer that we have the peak tourist season, with all the ensuing costs of kitchen, bath and other communal services.

Speaking of the bathhouse. One of the authors of the project, an experienced engineer says:

I used to spend an hour heating up my bathhouse. Now with a solar collector it is ready in an hour.

Not bad, is it?
And finally, the effect of the introduction of heat pumps. Here everything is interesting. The fact is that the current technologies of "pump construction" already allow the system to work at minus fifteen degrees Celsius on the street. By the way, such cold weather does not happen very often in Karelia. On the other hand, the warmer it is outside, the more efficient the heat pump is. And it turns out that even on the coldest days, you can't get away from traditional heating, but in a long run when we count the effect for months, the savings become very noticeable.

If someone's friends use electric heating, purely in a friendly way, check with them the monthly cost "of light" for a country house. The bills there are just sky high! This means that in just a few years, the equipment will pay for itself and start making a profit. And the larger the area of the house (and, for example, for a hotel – it is hundreds of square meters) – the more significant the savings.

Conclusion

Yes, the project has come to an end. But the success of its implementation directly says that for Karelia, the transition to energy – saving technologies is a matter of the near future and a guarantee of a normal economy. Both on the national scale and for individual businesses and households.

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