‘Green Energy’ is the use of resources such as wind, tides and geothermal heating to provide us with our everyday energy requirement. ‘Green’ basically means that all the energy is renewable. It’s interesting to note that in some instances we’re actually travelling back in time to utilise some of the older energy skill sets e.g. Wind Power (Windmills etc.) But in the main, this is the process of utilising modern technology to provide eco-efficient and planet-friendly alternatives.
The home can use a range of new ideas to help with energy usage – including Solar Thermal and Solar Water Heating Collectors. To gain electricity from roof panels you would need solar electrical panels (PV’s). Biomass Energy is the next phase, and this involves Fuel, Pellets, Stoves and Boilers burning Wood. Then we have the ancient energy of the Sun and the heat that comes from it – now called Ground Source Heat Pumps. Considering items such as Wind Power and Hydro Turbines, we are finally getting to very old forms of energy production.
Solar Thermal Energy – 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. Then we have the work of the Photovoltaic Heat Collectors, often called Solar Electrical Panels – which transform solar radiation into electricity. 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.
Within this discipline, Solar Water Power is often regarded as the most popular form of Solar Energy within the UK. These systems are very efficient – and can deliver 50 percent of a household’s hot water requirement annually. 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.
Systems Utilising Biomass Energy: In the modern world this now includes genetically engineered ‘Energy Crops’ – but it also takes in natural plant and animal substances. 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 a useful point to make that the UK is one of the major producers of Biomass fuels within Europe. It is the minimal C02 produced, alongside the actual energy production, that makes this attractive to the markets. As each tree felled, it is replaced by another. This helps to reduce the overall effect on C02.
Fast growing trees such as Willow and Poplar (under the banner of Short Rotation Coppice ‘SRC’) help to meet the need for ‘Energy Crops’ within the UK. 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. Under normal agricultural activity, agricultural waste is a natural by-product. Because it comes from food or wood, Municipal Waste is also considered a useful biomass product.
Geo-Thermal Energy Systems… The constant energy of the Sun heating the Earth results in both warm water and electricity being produced. 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. 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. 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 Programs: Wind Energy as a sustainable source of energy has been going on for millennia. More recently, there has been the desire to deliver the energy created to the home – or to a local power grid. The ability to utilise wind generation is considered to be greatest in the UK. 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. Therefore, recovery of cost takes approximately 6-9 months overall.
Last of all there is Hydropower – an area of especial importance to the UK. Just like a thousand years ago, we are utilising the energy from water. Within the UK, this form of energy production is responsible for somewhere in the region of 2 percent of all electrical needs.
A hydropower system transforms the kinetic energy of the moving water into another type of energy by means of a turbine. Utilising natural river runs, or water drop-offs (through dams,) the turbines can work without a reservoir of water. Alternatively, ‘Micro-Hydro’ systems use hitherto outdated sluices and dams to generate electricity. Having said that, this process could still generate 200mW of the National Capacity. Installing systems like this could cost between 200 pounds and 3k per kW of energy created.
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.
With the rise in demand for domestic installations, both Electricians and Plumbers are well placed to take advantage of this technology. Grants and financial aid is also set to increase within the EEC and the UK – as ‘Green Energy’ gets ever higher status. This is a new industry – but getting the right certification can only improve job security and opportunities for the future. You could consider either plumbing or electrical training programs that highlight green installation.
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