Renewable energy is all around us; we just need to figure out how to use it in our daily lives. We’ve all heard about renewable energy and the numerous benefits of switching from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas to wind power, solar power, biofuels, hydroelectricity, and hydrogen fuel cells. But what is renewable energy? And where does it come from?
Well, not only can you harness renewable energy through wind turbines and solar panels on your own home or business, but you can also benefit from the fact that companies are required to generate a certain amount of their electricity by using clean sources of power.
Even if your utility company doesn’t offer a “green” program yet, you might be surprised at how easy it is to reduce your carbon footprint by simply changing what type of light bulbs or appliances you use. The first step in understanding renewable energy is learning about how it works. So, here is our guide on renewable energy for beginners.
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is a type of energy that can be replenished easily, unlike fossil fuels. Renewable sources include sun, wind, geothermal heat and water. Non-renewable sources include coal, oil and natural gas.
Renewable sources of energy
- Solar Energy: the conversion of sunlight into electricity by photovoltaic cells or thermal radiation collectors (solar panels) used in solar heating systems.
- Wind Power: generation of electricity by harnessing wind power through wind turbines.
- Hydroelectricity: the production of electricity from falling water or moving water used as an energy source.
- Biomass Energy: biomass includes plant matter such as agricultural crops and trees used to generate energy by burning them for their chemical components like ethanol.
How To Use Renewable Energy At Home or Work
You can make use of solar photovoltaic panels that you have installed on your roof to generate electricity for your home or office. These panels work by harnessing the sun’s rays and converting them into electricity, which can then be used for heating or powering lights and appliances.
Solar panels generate electricity during the day, even if it is an overcast day – although they do generate more power on sunny days. You can then store this electricity in batteries, which means you will still be able to use the power generated during the day at night.
You can save an estimated £700 a year by making use of solar panels and being less reliant on the national grid.
Solar heating also makes use of solar panels which have been adapted to generate heat in water stored in a hot water cylinder above the solar panel. You will require a few hours of direct sunlight to get really warm water, which can then be used to heat your building or for hot water in the faucets.
Air source heat pumps use heat from the outside air to provide homes and businesses with heating and hot water. Heat pumps work in all temperatures – kind of like a reverse fridge.
Air source heat pumps are much more sustainable than traditional heating systems and can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and make your home much more energy-efficient.
Despite high initial installation costs, this type of heat pump can save you more than £1000 a year on heating.
Small wind turbines are available for homes and offices and can either be installed on a standing pole or on the roof of a building. When the blades turn, an internal turbine is activated, which generates electricity.
Biofuel systems burn organic material to generate heat and provide hot water. Burning biomass (like wood chips or pellets) has a much lower carbon footprint than burning fossil fuels – it is estimated that burning wood in this manner only releases as much carbon as the tree absorbed during its life, making it a carbon-neutral heating solution.
If your home or office is located near a flowing stream, you can use a small-scale hydroelectricity plant to generate power for your building.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy
- Clean source of energy.
- Sustainable energy solution.
- More affordable than fossil fuels.
- Not as cost-effective at producing electricity as fossil fuels.
- Can be unreliable – for example, on many subsequent rainy days or days without wind, your solar panels and wind turbines will not be effective.
We hope this overview has given you a good background on renewable energy. Utilising renewable energy is a great step to reducing your carbon footprint and harnessing the power provided by nature.