A Guide to Renewable Energy and Why You Need to use it
There is hardly a day that goes by without some aspect of Climate Change being in the news. Once-in-a-lifetime weather events, happening for the second time in ten years, melting ice caps, the need for more electric transport, the list goes on. Often, the term ‘renewable’ or ‘clean’ energy is used, but what does that term actually mean? What are the benefits, and which is the best type? How can you use these clean technologies in your own home or business?
What is renewable and clean energy?
Renewable energy is simply the term used for energy which comes from things that are constantly being replenished. Clean energy refers to sources that don’t emit harmful emissions such as high levels of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases. This contrasts with fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, where high levels of pollution and CO2 emissions have contributed to the climate problems we now face. The good news is that most of the renewable energy sources are also clean, with significantly lower, or even zero emissions. They are also easily scalable, as we shall see.
Why is renewable energy a good thing?
What is it about renewable energy that makes it such a good thing? Here are five compelling reasons
1. Good for the environment
Renewable energy means low-to-no emissions of CO2 and other harmful gases. Every Kw of power that comes from renewables is a Kw less that comes from burning harmful fossil fuels.
2. Good for your health
A report by King’s College London, and published by the government estimates that between 28,000 and 36,000 people die as a result of air pollution every year in the UK. Scale this globally and the health benefits of low pollution energy becomes obvious. Renewable energy means cleaner air for everyone to breathe.
3. Energy forever!
Not only are fossil fuels bad for you and the planet, but they are also finite. Renewable energy sources will last as long as our planet, whilst also helping the Earth to recover from man-made climate change. It’s a win-win!
4. Local energy that you control
Renewable technologies are scalable, meaning you can have your own power generation facilities. No longer does your power and heating bill have to be entirely subject to the fluctuations of markets. You could even sell excess energy back to the grid!
5. Lower running costs
Renewable energy technologies don’t rely on huge supply chains to bring the fuel to you, they convert what is nearby and readily available. Whilst there is undoubtedly an initial investment required, the ongoing running costs are tiny, saving you money overall.
Types of renewable energy
There are a few different types of renewable energy options for home and business use. Some are ideal for retrofitting to existing homes and buildings, others work best where their use has been planned in. Here are five common types.
Solar PV and Thermal
Solar panels use the power of the sun, either to generate electricity through photovoltaic (PV) panels, or to heat up water directly (Thermal). Sometimes a hybrid system containing both is used. The panels can be mounted on existing roofs, south facing being the most efficient. Solar farms, where the large-scale panels need to be firmly secured into the ground, are increasingly popular.
Biomass at its simplest level is the efficient burning of easily grown and high calorific plants and trees. Converted into pellet form, the boiler controls the burn rate of the pellets, producing both direct heat, and hot water that can be used for washing or heating. On a larger scale, Biogas plants convert harmful methane produced by things like rotting landfill, and creates a fuel that can be used as an alternative to fossil based gases.
Ground and Air Source Heat Pumps – Ground source heat pumps use underground pipes to take stored solar energy in the ground and convert it into heat. Air source heat pumps do a similar thing, taking energy from the air and working like a fridge in reverse. The heat generated is lower than that of a conventional gas boiler, and as such these systems work best on well-insulated, airtight houses, requiring a much larger surface area of radiators. This is the ideal heating solution for suitably designed new-build homes.
By harnessing the power of the wind to turn huge blades, significant quantities of electricity can be generated. In 2019 wind energy contributed to 20% of all electricity produced in the UK. These wind turbines are subject to very large forces and as such must be extremely well secured to the ground! Due to the scale of the turbines and the noise they can generate, wind turbines are more often seen away from built up areas.
Micro Hydro Power
Although not as common as solar panels or wind turbines, using flowing water to power machinery is perhaps the oldest sustainable power source in the UK! The modern version of a water-wheel uses the flow of water to turn submerged turbine blades. Although many of the hydro-electric power stations in the UK are large scale, it is possible to scale down the generators to take advantage of small or remote areas of moving water.
What is the best type of renewable energy?
The best type of renewable energy is the one that most suits your needs! Solar is increasingly popular, as it is easily scalable and has a relatively low cost of entry. With the advent of battery storage, homes may soon be self-sufficient for electricity, especially during the summer months. Wind power is perhaps the winner at a country level, due to the relatively high level of wind our climate brings.
How can ABC Anchors help your renewable installation?
Renewable energy is a vital part of combating climate change and securing our energy supply, keeping us warm and well lit. At ABC Anchors we specialise in screw piles and installation equipment, ideally suited for solar array and wind farm installations. If we can be of help or provide you with any additional information on our range of products and services, please do not hesitate to get in touch.