EDICIÓN: August - October 2012

Renewable Energy

Text: Cat Weisweiller

DCE² Solutions is an Ibiza based bilingual (Spanish/English) construction and engineering company – offering a comprehensive catalogue of concepts, project management, design and build; along with all aspects of renewable energy. We caught up with its owner, Jonathan Littlefair, to learn a thing or two about renewable energy.

What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is the energy that comes from the natural world around us; such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat. It’s naturally replenished and, in many ways, free. However, to convert this free natural energy into usable energy for our daily needs, there are nearly always input costs. The key is to find ways of using this free energy Mother Nature supplies to help protect the planet and save money. Making it a win-win situation: ECO-nomic and economic.
How did you get into renewable energy?
I’ve always been into building things. I come from a civil engineering and construction background, where I’ve worked as a senior engineer on large infrastructure style projects in England including: Wembley Arena, O2 Centre, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the Olympic bridges. Meanwhile, time spent living in Ibiza over the winter months – predominantly in damp countryside villas – meant that I experienced first-hand the high costs and ineffectiveness of boilers and radiators. It got me thinking about how I could harness more heat from the fireplace to keep warmer. My new-found curiosity in such things inspired me to get trained in renewable energy to compliment my existing qualifications in civil engineering and construction. The logical next step was to set up DCE² Solutions, offering a one-stop of all aspects of construction, coupled with the added option of renewable energy. 
Why is using renewable energy so important?
With global warming, rising oil and gas prices and oil conflicts, it’s really important for us to adjust and start looking after the planet. Globally, governments are showing more support to renewable energy schemes. However, whilst at present giving grants, at some point I believe they may also levy heavy taxes on not only fossil fuels, but also on properties that aren’t energy efficient. The next 20 years will see renewable energy become a lot more important, so the race is already on to develop this technology around the world. From a business acumen point of view, I believe that everyone should be a part of this ecology drive.

Please give us some examples of renewable energy.
It’s everything, from wind & solar farms producing electrical energy for an entire nation, to an individual heating water in a barrel on the roof. In Scandinavia, for instance, they power lakeside cabins with generators thrown in a flowing stream. Here in Ibiza, our sunny climate lends itself nicely to the use of solar energy. In fact, the Spanish government already makes it obligatory for 70% of a new build’s hot water to be solar generated. However, what many don’t realise, is that renewable energy isn’t just about creating energy, but, more importantly, about not losing energy – i.e. energy efficiency.
Why is it so vital to be energy efficient when using renewable energy?
Renewable energy isn’t like conventional fossil fuel; for example gas. Gas boilers produce fast high energy, so gas can be called on demand, whereas renewables produce a slow steady energy. So, the key is to take this energy, store it, and then use it as efficiently as possible. The more you save, and the more efficiently you use it, the less you need to produce.
Please give us an example.
Solar energy can be used to power your electrics and heat your home’s hot water; especially for the summer months. The real art is to use this same sun energy and maximise its efficiency by using it not only to generate electricity and heat the hot water to your taps, but also to heat your home. For instance, we can use solar energy along with other forms of renewable energy (from fireplaces, ground heat and air heat) to charge an insulated protected thermal store. This store can then supply steady heat to the house - ideally through an efficient heating system like under floor heating. Installed with full insulation, high-grade pipes and correct spacing & zonal layout, a set up like this can run at low cost and heat a house for the entire winter.

Is using renewable energy more expensive?
Renewable energy, by its nature, should never be more expensive, but, in reality, people are often faced with the need to spend a considerable amount of money up front – however, after 10-15 years the installation costs will have been recuperated and the house owner will actually start benefitting financially. Another issue is that most houses built to date, especially in Ibiza, were built without energy efficiency in mind, so they lack the correct insulation, pipework etc. Often the major cost is not the installation, but the work required to break open and redecorate the house. This is something that can thankfully be remedied with good planning from the outset in new build projects, where things like insulating, damp proofing and an intelligent system design should be done as a matter of course – giving instant short-term benefits, as well as long-term ones.
With renewable energy, is there one solution that suits all?
No one place or person has the same needs; so solutions need to be tailored around each individual situation. Understanding your specific environment – and what is and isn’t achievable of it – is also imperative. Anyone looking to modify their homes, or start out on a new build, should consult with renewable energy specialists and do their own independent research, so that they’re in a position to make more informed decisions.
Are there any smaller steps that we can take to be more energy efficient?
Absolutely. Just a combination of hanging thicker winter curtains, using draft excluders, closing doors/windows, turning off lights, using energy-saving bulbs and disabling your electrical appliances’ timers will reduce your utility bills and carbon footprint significantly. •