In a nutshell, ‘Green Energy’ utilises natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat to provide our daily energy requirement. When ‘Green’, they are all thought to be replenishable and natural. Often, by going back in time, we can see the value of wind power and windmills as modern energy sources. Regardless of this, we are mainly talking about using modern techniques to offer planet friendly and eco-efficient solutions.
The home environment, for example, encompasses a range of energy ideas – including Solar Thermal and Solar Water Heating solutions. Equally there is electricity that is generated through roof-installed panels. Biomass Energy is the next phase, and this involves Fuel, Pellets, Stoves and Boilers burning Wood. What shouldn’t be forgotten is the heat stored in the ground from the Sun – often simply referred to as Ground Source Heat Pumps. Not all ‘Green Energy’ is new – by considering Wind Power and Hydropower we are looking at some of the oldest forms of energy production.
Thermal Energy Systems: By using different technologies, Solar Energy is effectively made up of two types of solar panels. Making hot water from solar energy is the first stage – and is known as Solar Water Heating Collection. Then we have the work of the Photovoltaic Heat Collectors, often called Solar Electrical Panels – which transform solar radiation into electricity. Across the board, Solar Panels should be mounted on a south facing roof, at an angle of 30 degrees away from horizontal – and to some extent away from blocking fruit trees, surrounding buildings and chimneys.
In the UK, Solar Water Power is now one of the most sought after forms of Solar Energy. With the ability to provide almost half the annual need for hot water in the house, Solar Water heating systems are very important. The cost of fitting depends on whether you do it yourself (500 to 1500 pounds) or whether you get a professional fitter – in which case it will cost between 2-5k overall.
Biomass Energy Technology: This term encompasses all forms of natural products – such as plant and animal material. It is extremely useful – in that it can produce a range of power sources, including heat and electricity. It is interesting to note that the UK has some of the largest quantities of Biomass material to generate electricity within Europe. It should be borne in mind that the whole process is designed to produce energy without an impact on CO2. As each tree felled, it is replaced by another. This helps to reduce the overall effect on C02.
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). Also producing high yields of dry matter are the perennial grasses. Equally significant within this practice sit Municipal and Agricultural waste products. To begin with, Agricultural Waste is often produced as part of the agricultural process overall. However, waste derived from food or wood is another biomass entity – called Municipal Waste.
Geo-Thermal Energy Based Systems – This is primarily the heating of the Earth (mainly from the sun) and can be utilised in electricity and warm water production. In the UK, we are lucky that we can both heat and cool buildings from the ground source temperature of around 12 degrees. 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. Heat source pump energy can go one step further (by gaining a 100 percent return) if the energy to power them comes from items such as wind turbines or solar electrical panels.
Wind Energy: The use of wind as a source of energy has been going on for thousands of years, especially in milling grain and pumping water. However, in more recent times there’s been the option to recover the energy for its own sake – and deliver this either to a home unit or to the local power grid. The UK is considered as one of the best sources of wind generation 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. Instead of producing electricity at a rate of 2-10p per kWh, we could be generating at 2p per kWh. From this, the estimation of the cost recovery period is around 6-9 months overall.
Hydropower is a method that suits the UK energy production system. The field of using moving water to release energy is a very old technique – albeit we now do this in new ways. It is this type of energy production that could meet 2 percent of all the UK’s demand.
The Hydropower process uses a turbine that can convert the energy from one form into another. The important thing is that, without having to rely on water storage, the turbines can generate electricity. It is by using the eroded national distribution systems, that allows for outdated sluices and dams to be used by techniques known as ‘Micro-Hydro’. This smaller form of electrical output has been recently reviewed and could allocate some 200MW of capacity to the UK system. The capital cost of installing a micro-hydro system can run between 200 and 3000 pounds per kW of energy output.
The demand on ‘Green Energy’ continues to develop – in light of the energy demands worldwide. The UK remains one of the main beneficiaries of this technology.
Once again, it is the Electrician and Plumbing trades that are set to capitalise on the domestic installation process. Grants and financial aid is also set to increase within the EEC and the UK – as ‘Green Energy’ gets ever higher status. As a new industry, there are a range of new certificates to gain. To cover both ends, you could consider electrical or plumbing training along with green systems.