In a nutshell, ‘Green Energy’ utilises natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat to provide our daily energy requirement. They are considered ‘Green’ because they are environmentally friendly. It is easy to think that we may be travelling back in time when we think of items such as wind power and windmills. However, it is the result of eco-efficient and planet friendly options that this process is maintained.
The home can use a range of new ideas to help with energy usage – including Solar Thermal and Solar Water Heating Collectors. Equally there is electricity that is generated through roof-installed panels. A further factor revolves around stoves and boilers – which are known as Biomass Energy. There is also the ground heat from the Sun – now known as Ground Source Heat Pumps. Considering items such as Wind Power and Hydro Turbines, we are finally getting to very old forms of energy production.
Thermal Energy Systems: This technology is based around two core types of system. Firstly, there are elements that absorb energy from the sun and create hot water – known as Solar Water Heating Collectors. Added to this is the generation of electricity from solar radiation – known as Photovoltaism, or more commonly Solar Electrical panels. To get the best results these panels need to be south facing at an angle of around 30 degrees from horizontal, and away from blockages.
For the UK, this is often considered the most popular form of ‘Green Energy’. Solar Water heating systems can meet the need for more than half of all hot water needs in the domestic market. Getting a professional fitting will cost around 2-5k, however, doing the job yourself could make it as low as 500 to 1500 pounds in total.
Biomass Energy Systems – Including all natural energy forms derived from plant and animal products – such as wood, straw, poultry litter and ‘energy crops’. It is extremely useful – in that it can produce a range of power sources, including heat and electricity. Indeed, within the European Markets, the UK has some of the leading levels of Biomass material at hand. Considering all this, and the relative lack of C02 produced, makes the whole process highly green overall. Because the system often involves one tree being planted as another is felled, many wood crops are deemed to be sustainable sources.
‘Energy Crops’ trees such as Willow and Poplar play a major part in the process – under the banner of Short Rotation Coppice (SRC). Perennial grasses also produce a high yield of dry matter. Within this process also sits the lesser known Agricultural and Municipal Wastes. Agricultural Waste is commonly formed as a by-product of traditional agricultural work. Another biomass source is that of municipal waste – and this comes from recycled wood or food.
Systems Based On Geo-Thermal Energy: By naturally heating the Earth, the Sun has the potential to generate both warm water and electricity. Using the ground temperature of around 12 degrees in the UK – we can both heat and cool buildings. These heat pumps do need some power to operate; but for every one unit of energy they use, they generate four units of energy in return. This system can go even further – if energy efficient items such as wind turbines or solar electrical panels are used.
Wind Energy: As an energy source, wind energy has to be one of the oldest forms of energy creation in history. That aside, the ability to generate energy and both transfer this into the home or the local grid has been a relatively new option. With regard to wind generation, it is the UK that has the highest production within Europe. For the fact remains that, within the UK, we have the ability to generate 10 percent of our requirement from Wind Production – as opposed to the current value of only 1 percent. Electricity can be produced from as little as 2p per kWh, but generally comes in somewhere between 2-10p per kWh. The financial recovery process takes around 6-9 months.
Last of all there is Hydropower – an area of especial importance to the UK. Having said that, the art of using energy from moving water (just like wind power) is very traditional. Within the UK, this form of energy production is responsible for somewhere in the region of 2 percent of all electrical needs.
The Hydropower process uses a turbine that can convert the energy from one form into another. It is by either water ‘drop-offs’, or Natural River runs, that turbines can work through this process. ‘Micro-Hydro’ utilises a chunk of the outdated sluices and dam systems that have been killed off by the large national distribution methods. Whilst considered a smaller form of electrical output, this system is thought to be able to give some 200mW of capacity to the UK. Between 200 pounds and 3k per KW of energy output, is a good estimate of the overall cost of a project such as this.
It can be seen that the route to ‘Green Energy’ is growing considerably, especially in light of the need for increasing energy outputs throughout the Western World. The UK domestic market appears to be one of the core beneficiaries of this technology.
It is the drive for installations in the domestic sector that looks to favour jobs such as plumbers and electricians. With EEC and UK recognition of renewable energy getting ever-higher on the political agenda, the grants and financial aid for introduction of these systems can only increase. It is by gaining the right certificates that will provide opportunities and job security for the long term. Look for combined electrical and plumbing training, with a key emphasis on practical green systems and installation.