Solar panel performance – 2013

Another year, another desperately late solar panel performance post. It’s been sitting on my to-do list since January 2nd, but at least writing this will let me tick off something today.

solar 2013

2013 has an ever so slight edge on 2012 so we’ll estimate the kWh as 3,800. Sadly once the year is over the more detailed records are not accessible through the controller app.

Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from last month now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. I use the gas rate of 4.19p/kWh, since if the water were not heated by the solar panel, it would be heated by gas. Interestingly this is the lowest price for gas since 2009, according to my records.

That means the solar panel gathered around £159 of energy last year.

The running total to the end of 2013 is therefore £990 and will clearly top a thousand pounds next year.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to that figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

If you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”


Eurovision bingo

We’re not able to watch Eurovision tonight as we’re out at a wine tasting slash concert, but I’m sure someone will be taping it and we will watch it later.

For the last few years we have been using Meg Pickard’s awesome Euro-bonga-bingo cards and we’d wholeheartedly recommend them as part of the entertainment at any Eurovision party.

I really haven’t been paying attention this year and haven’t even heard our own entry yet. These things don’t come up much on Radio 4 during my commute to and from school. But for a pithy four line smackdown of every song contention, you could do worse than Will Howells.

And we can’t conclude this little look at Eurovision 2013 without a namecheck to this tweet:

Teaching through the medium of paper planes

A blogpost on compelling starters suggests getting kids to make paper planes with three facts from the last lesson on it.

Making paper planes is definitely an activity that is very popular with students. One of my own strong memories of school was my last ever geography lesson, which coincided with the last lesson that teacher would teach, as she was retiring. By the end of the lesson, we were in two teams hiding behind desk fortresses throwing planes at each other. And our retiring teaching was flinging them with the best of us.

I have used them to teach past tense in French – and have been really chuffed with answers to the question “what does paper planes have to do with the past tense?” “because we THREW them not THROW them.” The activity came from a “diverse ways of teaching new language” session on PGCE and leads the children through a target language sequence, with overblown gestures so they get what activities to do:

Je prends une feuille de papier >> J’ai pris une feuille de papier
Je signe mon nom >> J’ai signé mon nom
Je dessine une maison >> J’ai dessiné une maison
Je plie un avion >> J’ai plié un avion
Je lance mon avion >> J’ai lancé mon avion
Je ramasse un avion >> J’ai ramassé un avion

This was less than perfectly successful. My students do not have enough of a culture of target language, so activities out of the blue lead to vocal complaining. Also, unbelievably, not all students know how to make a paper plane. (“If you don’t know how, I’m not going to teach you. Make a paper ball instead.”) But the biggest problem using this as a starter is that it winds them up something chronic and it is then very hard to calm them down sufficiently that you can even talk to them, let alone task them with something constructive.

Despite the difficulties I repeated the activity with three different classes and by the end I had a killer top tip for using paper planes.

Since I had heard reports that the planes were leaving my classroom and then getting students into trouble elsewhere in school, the last instruction related to planes that I gave was “throw the planes at me.” (Met with incredulity. Seriously sir? Are you sure? And we’re not going to get in trouble?”)

The reason for doing this is this: one, they are itching to do it anyway, so you might as well give them an excuse. But two, it means all the planes end up at your end of the room and out of their hands, all the better for moving on to the next activity.

Fun things happen on snowy walk

When I get home these days, my Fitbit connects to my computer. On a good day, that then makes my phone go ping and say “You have nearly reached 10,000 steps! Just 2,000 more!”

2,000 steps is about a 20 minute walk, so that’s fairly achievable, and that phone ping is usually all the motivation I need to go for a quick walk to get me over the magic number as recommended by the NHS.

On Friday I got the ping quite late at night, after a slightly hairy drive home from ringing, and I was really reluctant about whether going out was a good idea.

I’m so glad I did.

Firstly I was out in the heaviest snow I have ever seen. Big, fat, Christmas card snowflakes falling at a million a minute.

Heavy snow 25/1/13

Secondly it gave me the chance to walk by Woodthorpe Park and take photos of an igloo I’d seen right by the railings on the Mansfield Road.

Heavy snow 25/1/13

My route then took me up Woodthorpe Drive, which is pretty steep and would tick off some more boxes on Fitbit’s “how many flights of stairs have you climbed today” measure. As I was doing this, I crossed over a bridge that was for a railway line that closed in the 1960s. In the park below, poking out of the bricked up tunnel, is a model train, along with a board recounting the railway history of the park. And third fun thing – for some reason known only to them, there was a group of lads, late teens, early twenties, gathered around the train smoking and drinking out of insulated travel mugs. What they were doing, only they know. They didn’t really seem dressed for the weather! They seemed to be having a good time, so I waved, and they waved back. Then… I made a theatrical show of making a snow ball out of snow gathered on the brick bridge and taking aim at one of them to squeals of No, mate, no, before deciding not to throw it, waving again, and continuing up the hill.

The weather was still coming in thick and fast, the pavements were now under 3″ of snow and even with my Yaktrax strapped to my feet, the snow was sticky and very hard to walk in. Cars were getting into trouble making it up the hill, snow was getting in my eyes and I was sorely tempted to stop off at the Bread and Bitter at the top of the hill. Having a pint halfway round your walk for health seems a little perverse, so I persevered on round the corner into the downhill stretch.

Heavy snow 25/1/13

When I got to Winchester Street, the fourth fun thing happened: one of the few cars to make it all the way up the hill was a 4×4 going at quite some speed – enough to make me look up from my feet to watch it go, only to see that running at full pelt behind it was an athletically built guy in marathon gear – trainers, shorts and t-shirt! (At this point I was in vest, shirt, hoodie, coat, thermal socks, and murderer gloves) What a strange time to go for a run.

I had a jolly leisure walk in the snow that all ended well. But it continued to chuck it down, and there were consequences. The night buses were all cancelled, and not long after, taxis were unable to get up the hillier parts of Nottingham. A friend who arrived home from London on the 2am train had to walk back to Sherwood and recounts the Mansfield Road as full of abandoned cars and buses in the wrong position on the road.

Anyway, must dash. It’s raining tonight rather than snowing, but my step count stands at 9,481 and we can easily fix this.