Basically, the ‘Green Energy’ idea is how our everyday needs are supplied by natural resources such as wind, tides and even geothermal heat. Collectively they are thought to be ‘Green’ because they are ecologically sound and easy to replace. The older energy skill sets have had value for years, especially when we think of wind power and windmills. But in the main, this is the process of utilising modern technology to provide eco-efficient and planet-friendly alternatives.
The range of renewable energy technologies utilised within the home environment includes both Solar Thermal, and Solar Water Heating Collectors. For electricity created through roof-installed panels, you would need Photovoltaic Panels or PV’s. Another key element is that of Biomass Energy, which relates to Stoves and Boilers burning Wood, Fuel and Pellets. Then there are the Ground Source Heat Pumps, which is simply the ground heat created by the Sun. When we think about Wind Power and Hydropower we have two of the more common forms of energy generation.
Thermal Solar Energy Systems: This technology is based around two core types of system. Making hot water from solar energy is the first stage – and is known as Solar Water Heating Collection. Additionally, there is the method of converting solar radiation into electricity known as Photovoltaic – or simply Solar Electrical panels. Obviously situated away from blockages such as chimneys etc., these Solar Panels need to be mounted on south facing roofs at an angle of 30 degrees from the horizontal.
With Solar Power being so common within the UK, it’s Solar Water Power that is most often used. With the ability to provide almost half the annual need for hot water in the house, Solar Water heating systems are very important. Typically, to fit this type of equipment will cost between 500 and 1500 pounds for a DIY kit – all the way up to 2-5k for a full professional fitting.
Biomass Energy and ‘Energy Crops’ – Historically, this has come from plants and animals, though nowadays this also includes new genetcially engineered ‘energy crops’. As such, this is a very versatile material and can be engineered to produce heat, electricity and a combination of heat and power in the form of electricity. It is interesting to note that the UK has some of the largest quantities of Biomass material to generate electricity within Europe. One of the main factors of this style of energy is the result without the impact on C02. Much of the UK wood crop is sustainable, in order to ensure that C02 produced during any heating process is absorbed.
Within this field is the need for the use of ‘Energy Crops’, such as fast growing trees, e.g. Willow and Poplar or other entities grown on a Short Rotation Coppice (SRC). Of equal importance is the ability to produce dry matter – and perennial grasses are very good for this. Whilst Agricultural and Municipal waste may be lesser known, they are essential to the whole process. One natural offshoot of agricultural work is Agricultural Waste. Of equal importance is Municipal Waste, which comes from recycyled wood and food.
Geo-Thermal Energy Systems… Used in the generation of both warm water and electricity, this energy mainly comes from the Sun and heats the Earth. In the UK, we are lucky that we can both heat and cool buildings from the ground source temperature of around 12 degrees. Heat pumps are recognised as a very good form of power generation, generally giving back four units of energy for every one used. By using energy from solar electrical panels or wind turbines to power them, heat source pumps can be almost 100 percent renewable in energy production.
Wind Energy Based Systems – Without a doubt, wind energy has to be one of the oldest forms of energy production known to man. More recently, there has been the desire to deliver the energy created to the home – or to a local power grid. In fact, the UK has the largest wind resource within Europe. It is interesting to note that whilst we can produce 10 percent of our entire power requirement from wind power, at present we only produce 1 percent. Although electricity is still being produced from between 2-10 p per kWh, it could be generated from as little as 2p per kWh. From this, the estimation of the cost recovery period is around 6-9 months overall.
Finally, we have Hydropower; an area in which the UK does well within Europe. The field of using moving water to release energy is a very old technique – albeit we now do this in new ways. That said, this type of energy can generate around 2 percent of the total electrical demand for the UK.
By using a turbine, a Hydropower system can transfer the kinetic energy of moving water into another form. The important thing is that, without having to rely on water storage, the turbines can generate electricity. A ‘Micro-Hydro’ system creates energy through the use of dams and sluices (that are no longer a part of the national distribution system.) This process alone could meet 200mW of the UK requirement. The expected cost of installing a system such as this would be between 200 pounds and 3k per kW of output.
Due to the energy requirements worldwide, ‘Green Energy’ is naturally growing at a fast rate. That said, the UK is well placed – especially in the domestic sector – to take full advantage of the items above.
Once again, it is the Electrician and Plumbing trades that are set to capitalise on the domestic installation process. A range of grants are available to support the growth of renewable energy ideas within the European market. It is important to gain the correct qualifications to install these items. To that end, it may be worth thinking about combined training. You can then get plumbing or electrical training along with green knowledge.