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Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group

A Quick Trip through the Story of Light

27th January 2017

Early human group with fire

An early human group with fire

A Quick Trip through the Story of Light

          Members and friends at Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group's January meeting were met by an impressive display of objects that Philip Wathen had brought along to illustrate his talk entitled 'Keeping the Lights On'.

          He started by giving a very quick tour through the evolutionary timeline of our ancestors. He stated that Homo erectus had used fire most probably for warmth, light and protection. It was, however, later that it started to be used to cook food. Once food was being cooked, animal fat would be available to use as fuel along with wood.

          With the coming of Homo sapiens ways of using fire to light dwellings developed. Philip showed us the 'Sooty Flame' that came from the oil lamps used by Greeks and Romans as lighting. These ceramic and metal lamps used olive oil as fuel. Having lit the lamp he had brought along he covered it with a bowl and then showed us the large amount of soot deposited inside the bowl in a very short length of time.

          Over time olive oil was replaced by beeswax, sesame seed oil, tallow, fish oil and whale oil and candles replaced the lamps. These were used for lighting in the home.

          As early as 1792 William Murdoch used coal gas to light his home before using it to light the Solo Foundry in Birmingham in 1802. Gas lighting appeared in London in 1807.

          Philip had brought along a Tilley Lamp to explain the way that the mantle worked. This used paraffin (kerosene) produced from Scottish shale gas. The mantle gave more light which was more consistent although it still produced a great deal of heat. This was the first way of producing light that was not 'Sooty'.

          The development of electricity from C18 onwards was then covered. Many important people were mentioned some well known household names to some not so well known. Each contributed to the understanding and progress of this supply of energy. The first power station was built by Edison in London in 1892, lighting street lamps and a few private houses. It was 110 Volt D. C. system and couldn't supply a customer more than 1 mile away.

          The world's first A.C. Hydro-electric power station was built by Tesla and Westinghouse in Niagra in 1895.

          Philip then discussed the development of nuclear power. He explained how the understanding of the way that atoms were made up gradually increased with the discovery of the nucleus, protons and electrons. This led on to nuclear fission and the atomic bomb and nuclear power.

          One of the practical highlights of the evening was when Philip used a geiger counter which he had made himself - to show how various ornaments had been made including uranium. He had a Vaseline Glass vase that is made with uranium content to give a pale yellow green colour similar to that of petroleum jelly. Uranium glass glows bright green under UV light. Most Vaseline glass was produced during the Victorian era. This gave a very high reading whilst another vase and pot showed a lower reading as they had been produced using used depleted uranium.

          We then saw the range of light bulbs from the early carbon filament ones which were very fragile to the incandescent ones which still produced a great deal of heat. Fluorescent tubes and later energy saving bulbs no longer produced heat. Now however Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) use minimal electricity and give out light and not heat. They produce large savings in the use of electricity and will become the new norm as prices decrease.

          Philip was warmly thanked by the Chair for such an interesting and engaging talk. Whilst enjoying a cup of tea/coffee members and friends continued the discussion with questions and answers and 'hands-on' experience of some of the items on display.


Past Articles
23rd September 2016The Legacy of Past Energy Decisions: A talk by Tim Deere-Jones
29th July 2016Dirty Oil: A film about the extraction of oil from the tar sands of Alberta
27th May 2016The Truth About Climate Change: A film by David Attenborough
25th March 2016European Union Funding Support for Pembrokeshire: A talk by Steven Bradley from PLANED
29th January 2016What Lessons We Can Learn About Fracking?: Thoughts after watching the film 'Gasland'
27th November 2015Resilient Communities in an Emergency: A talk by Pauline Louchart, Emergency Planning Officer, PCC
25th September 2015Cyd Cymru (Wales Together) collective energy switching scheme: A talk prepared by Lisa Davies, PCC
24th July 2015Skomer Marine Reserve - and much more: An illustrated talk by Blaise Bullimore
26th June 2015A visit to Stackpole Walled Garden: with Ian Wilshaw, Treasurer, Mencap Pembs, and Mike Evans, SDF Project Manager
29th May 2015Protecting Pembrokeshire's Coastline: A talk by Emyr Williams, PCC Coast Protection Engineer
10th April 2015Your Parliamentary Candidates' Answers to the PSEEG Questionnaire
3rd April 2015A visit to the RWE Pembroke Power Station, arranged by Marten Lewis from the Darwin Centre
27th March 2015Present and Future Flood Risks Explained: A talk by Richard Wicks & Phill Pickersgill from NRW
23rd January 2015Our Home Planet: The showing of the film 'Home' by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
28th November 2014Marine Energy in Pembrokeshire: A talk by Louise Rigby, co-ordinator for Marine Energy Pembrokeshire (MEP)
24th October 2014Extreme Weather Events: A talk on changing weather patterns by Janet Roberts, secretary of PSEEG
26th September 2014Renew Wales - Supporting Groups Across Wales: A talk on the work of this important organisation
25th July 2014How Green is our Wales?: A talk by Rhodri Asby, Deputy Director for Climate Change and Natural Resource Policy
27th June 2014Ty Solar at Rhosygilwen: A visit by members and friends of PSEEG
23rd May 2014Global Warming & Climate Change: A talk by Janet Roberts, secretary, PSEEG
28th March 2014The Swansea Bay Tidal Energy Lagoon: A talk by Owain Morris, Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) plc
24th January 2014P.C.N.P. supports Sustainable Development: A talk by Emma Taylor, SDF Administrator
29th November 2013To Frack or Not to Frack: A talk by John Childs from Safe Energy Wales
11th October 2013Quiet Revolution at Pembroke Dock: A visit with Marten Lewis to the Quiet Revolution factory
27th September 2013Keeping the lights and heating on: A talk by Graham Goodeve
28th June 2013Pembroke 21C Community Association: A talk by Elizabeth Gossage, Pembroke 21C Development Officer
24th May 2013Life beneath the waves; the beauties and the beasts: A talk by Blaise Bullimore, European Marine Site Officer
29th March 2013The National Trust in Wales - Energy Neutral by 2015: A talk by Paul Southall, NT Environment Advisor
1st March 2013Climate Change and a Sustainable Future: A talk by Peter Davies, Sustainable Futures Commissioner for Wales
25th January 2013Waste Not Want Not: A talk by Hywel Gibbs, Pembrokeshire County Council Waste Awareness Officer
30th November 2012Array of Hope: A talk by Paul Carter & Kim Daye from RWE Renewables on The Atlantic Array
26th October 2012The Green Deal: A talk by William Silverstone of Silverstone Green Energy
28th September 2012A Fair Wind?: A talk by Steve Hack of Seren Energy on PSEEG's renewable energy project
14th September 2012Not a Waste of Time: a visit to Withyhedges Landfill and recycling centre
29th June 2012The Need for a More Sustainable Future: A talk by Geraldine Leach of Transition Narberth
1st June 2012Know your Flood Risk: A talk by Andy Irving, Flood Risk Management Team Leader
11th May 2012The Power of the Sun: A visit to the Solar Farm at Rhosygilwen
23rd March 2012Planting Green Thoughts: A talk by Jo Horsley, Environment Wales Development Officer
24th February 2012The Atlantic Array offshore wind farm: A talk by Robert Thornhill, Development Manager
2nd December 2011Pathfinder Progress: A talk by Peter Willis from the Welsh Government's Pathfinder Programme
4th November 2011The DeltaStream project: A talk by Chris Williams, Development Director of Tidal Energy Ltd.
30th September 2011How Green is my Valley?: A talk by Grenville Ham, Manager of The Green Valleys Project
23rd September 2011PSEEG's visit to Carew Mill with Marten Lewis of the Darwin Centre
5th August 2011The Manner of the Message: A talk by Neil Sefton on communication skills
24th June 2011The Work of the Darwin Centre: A talk by Marten Lewis, manager of the Darwin Centre
27th May 2011Electric Cars The Road Ahead?: The talk by John Lilly of Dragon Electric Vehicles
13th May 2011Are electric cars the way forward?: A talk by John Lilly of Dragon Electric Vehicles
22nd April 2011Sustainability in Action: A visit to the Science & Technology Park (Technium) in Pembroke Dock
1st April 2011A Revolution in Wind Energy?: A talk by Vaughan Griffiths from Quietrevolution, Pembroke Dock
25th February 2011Preparing for Floods: A talk by Richard Wickes of the Environment Agency
14th January 2011The Way Forward for Wind?: A talk by Steve Hack of Seren Energy
12th November 2010How Green is your Castle?: The National Trust & Global Warming
15th October 2010Challenge of the Rising Sea: The effects on the Pembrokeshire coastline
10th August 2010The beautiful Welsh coastline: Response to possible rising sea levels
18th June 2010Visit to Costain at Canaston Bridge: Not Costing the Earth
16th April 2010Feed in Tariffs: Power to the People
12th March 2010Heat Pumps & Photo Voltaic Panels: Prepare for the Goodlife
12th February 2010Parliamentary Candiates at Green Question Time in Saundersfoot
15th January 2010Weather & Climate: A Question of Energy
4th December 2009Sustainable Community Ventures: Regeneration in Pembrokeshire
13th November 2009Community Initiatives: Sustainable Wales leads by example
16th October 2009Climate Change Challenge for Candidates & Micro-generation with wind turbines
2nd October 2009A Visit to Castle Pill Wind Farm: Quiet blows the wind
11th September 2009Renewable Sustainable Energy: An Energy Survey for South East Pembrokeshire
10th July 2009A talk by Lorraine Dallmeier of Infinergy: Wind Power - Pembrokeshire's Potential
12th June 2009St. Oswald's, Jeffreyston - Pembrokeshire's Beacon of Sustainability
24th April 2009Solar Panels: Three Cheers for Sunny Pembrokeshire
13th March 2009Ashton Hayes Community Energy Reduction & Hot Water From the Sun
13th February 2009Could Pembrokeshire go carbon neutral?
14th November 2008Environment Wales to provide 'Start-Up' Funding for PSEEG
17th October 2008PSEEG to become a Registered Charity

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