Critics of renewables are often given powerful platforms to voice their opinions. This vocal minority skew the debate, especially when polls suggest the majority of the public is in favour. But, as Emma Websdale outlines, the story of clean, renewable, domestic energy is far greater than just wind and solar.
There is always going to be wind. We are always going to have tides. The sun is always going to shine. This is the case for every continent on Earth.
Renewables undoubtedly have a place in our society and the majority of the UK public is behind them. And in terms of a concerted push towards a clean energy supply, you get the feeling it’s about when, not if.
For those familiar with renewables, it is more than likely that an image of a solar panel perched on top of a house or a wind turbine stretching its large blades across the countryside pop into mind. However, the renewable energy industry is much more dynamic than these two common sights.
There are other renewables that don’t make the headlines as often. Most of these can be harnessed on a similarly large-scale, while some have been designed specifically to fit small off-grid applications, even in remote and rural areas.
Here are just three examples.
Geothermal energy involves creating electricity from hot water that has been trapped underground. When hot magma rises close to the Earth’s surface, it heats up underground water supplies, trapping it in between porous rock and creating reservoirs and streams of very hot water.
Deep wells can tap into this heat and harness its steam to power turbines used for creating electricity, heating and cooling.
In 2010, the Geothermal Energy Association estimated that 10,715MW of geothermal technology was installed across the world – a 20% increase since 2005.
It does come at a cost, though. Geothermal development could impact the environment negatively; creating threats to local groundwater and increasing seismicity caused from drilling activity. Most developers therefore undertake the highest level of environmental protection possible, and manage toxic waste to prevent water contamination and ground damage.
In recent years, a much safer way of utilising geothermal energy on a smaller scale has been developed. By using geothermal heat pumps designed to tap into heat resources, buildings can become heated and cooled.
Currently, the range and size of viable resources is continuing to grow, with the largest group of geothermal power plants located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California, US.
The US Department of Energy estimated that enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) could produce at least 100,000MW of electricity over the next 50 years.
Geothermal power requires no fuel, and is therefore immune to fluctuations in fuel costs.
Tidal power is the only form of energy that produces energy directly from the naturally occurring motions of the Earth-moon system. The tidal forces produced by the moon and sun, in combinations with the Earth’s rotation, are responsible for generating tides that can be harnessed for electricity.
Capturing tidal energy is generally environmentally friendly, and the predictability of tidal forces makes it much more efficient than wind and solar. Tidal farms operate similarly to offshore wind turbines, with many tidal stream generators being rotated underwater by the water’s movement.
The UK acts as a great ambassador in harnessing electricity from tidal energy. Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay Ltd recently announced its plans to build the first tidal farm of its kind within the UK – a 250MW development at Swansea Bay. Providing clean power to 100,000 homes, chief executive of the project, Mark Shorrock, predicts that over time, tidal lagoons could contribute up to 10% of the UK’s energy.
Using energy from organic matter has been a way of generating energy for thousands of years, ever since people started burning wood for energy and heat. Biomass works from burning the sun’s energy captured by plants.
Today, wood still stands as the largest source of biomass, but residues from agriculture of forestry, plants and industrial waste are also used to generate electricity.
Using biomass has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although it generates around the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, the system of planting new trees and plants means that carbon dioxide is taken back up, making the system carbon neutral.
Biomass is a very versatile form of renewable energy, and it’s expected that nearly half of Europe’s renewables in 2020. If crops and plants for biomass are grown ethically and responsibly, it can be done in a way to create better soil, water and air quality.
Unlike burning coal, biomass produces non harmful emissions such as sulphur and mercury and has significantly lower nitrogen, resulting in less toxic air pollutants and acid rain.
Unfortunately, much of the biomass used commercially today is from unsustainable sources. However, switchgrass, a native, prairie grass of the US, is far easier to grow responsibly than most food crops, making it a promising resource for bioenergy.
These are just three examples of technologies thriving in the renewable energy industry. Others include anaerobic digestion, ocean thermal and plants generating hydrogen, as well as wind and solar. And the list will keep on growing.
Writing in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2012, Andrew Morton, account director of footprint renewables, said, “Perhaps the best way to achieve economic growth is by fully exploiting our range of renewable energy resources in and around the UK.”
Thankfully, the UK is becoming rich in renewables and by further exploring our options, we really can become true ambassadors, showing that the renewable industry is flourishing and really is here to stay.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.