Basically, the ‘Green Energy’ idea is how our everyday needs are supplied by natural resources such as wind, tides and even geothermal heat. ‘Green’ basically means that all the energy is renewable. Often, by going back in time, we can see the value of wind power and windmills as modern energy sources. Overall, this is the method of using modern techniques to provide eco-efficiency and planet friendly options.
Solar Thermal and Solar Water Heating Collectors are examples of what can be used in your house as part of renewable energy technologies. Moving on from this there are the Photovoltaic Panels (PV’s) which can generate electricity from your roof. Following on from this is a process known as Biomass Energy – which includes Boilers burning wood and other fuels. There is also the ground heat from the Sun – now known as Ground Source Heat Pumps. Lastly, there are two of the more historical forms of energy production – namely Wind Turbines and Hydropower.
Thermal Energy Systems: Typically referred to as Solar Energy this is mainly made up of two types of Solar Panels – each using different methods to achieve similar results. Initially, there is the process of obtaining hot water from the Sun via Solar Water Heating Collectors. Solar Electrical panels or Photovoltaic heat collectors transfer solar radiation into electricity. 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.
Within this discipline, Solar Water Power is often regarded as the most popular form of Solar Energy within the UK. Solar Water heating systems can provide over 50 percent of a household’s hot water requirement during the year. 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 Based Systems: This is a general term for all forms of plant and animal material e.g. wood, straw, poultry litter and ‘energy crops’. Considering its ability to produce energy in the form of heat and electricity, this type of energy is extremely flexible. It is a useful point to make that the UK is one of the major producers of Biomass fuels within Europe. Added to all this, is the lack of C02 produced as a by-product of the whole process. 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). Of equal importance is the production of perennial grasses – because of their yield of dry matter. Within this process also sits the lesser known Agricultural and Municipal Wastes. Agricultural Waste is naturally formed as a by-product of conventional agricultural activity. Municipal Waste such as food or wood can also be utilised as a biomass product.
Geo-Thermal Energy Systems… This is primarily the heating of the Earth (mainly from the sun) and can be utilised in electricity and warm water production. Having a consistent ground temperature of around 12 degrees centigrade is fortunate for the UK – as it allows both the heating and cooling of buildings. Whilst these heat pumps require energy to operate, their rate of return is excellent – being four units produced for every one unit used. A greater return of energy (sometimes almost 100 percent) is produced – because heat source pumps can operate in-line with wind turbines and solar electrical panels.
Wind Energy Based Systems – The use of wind as a source of energy has been going on for thousands of years, especially in milling grain and pumping water. More recently, there has been the desire to deliver the energy created to the home – or to a local power grid. With regard to wind generation, it is the UK that has the highest production within Europe. Although we only utilise 1 percent of the current electricity capability from wind – we do have the ability to create 10 percent. Rather than electricity production running at 2-10 p per kWh, it could be run at 2p per kWh. Therefore, recovery of cost takes approximately 6-9 months overall.
Last of all there is Hydropower – an area of especial importance to the UK. The field of using moving water to release energy is a very old technique – albeit we now do this in new ways. 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. No water reservoirs are required – as the turbines either run through a water drop-off system or the natural power of the river. Alternatively, ‘Micro-Hydro’ systems use hitherto outdated sluices and dams to generate electricity. Having been reviewed recently, this form of electricity supply could provide 200mW of the UK capacity. 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. To be fair, the UK domestic market is actually leading the resurgence, with a variety of schemes.
With the rise in demand for domestic installations, both Electricians and Plumbers are well placed to take advantage of this technology. Not only in the EEC, but also in the UK, ‘Green Energy’ is rapidly gaining ground as the way forward – and a range of financial incentives are in place to support this. Getting the right qualifications can often provide job security in a new field such as this. Electrical or plumbing training that incorporates green technology could be very useful for the future.