Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and we’re becoming increasingly aware of the importance of looking after our planet. Changes are being made on both a small and large scale; from finding biodegradable alternatives to plastic packaging, to using sustainable building materials or eating less meat.
Renewable energy is one of the most exciting developments in recent years and this ‘green’ energy has many benefits for the planet. In the past, we’ve relied heavily on non-renewable energy sources like coal and oil, but the use of these fossil fuels has a significant negative impact on our planet. As a result, tit he use of renewable energy is becoming increasingly popular in both domestic and commercial settings, so if you want to know more, read on for our complete guide to renewable energy sources.
What is renewable energy?
Also known as clean or green energy, renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly replenished. Fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil are burnt to produce energy but they can only be used once, and they produce a lot of pollution. By contrast, renewable energy comes from sustainable sources like the sun, wind or waves, which will never ‘run out’.
Increasingly sophisticated technology allows us to harness these renewable energy sources and convert them into electricity, heat or light. This can be achieved in several different ways and we will discuss different renewable energy sources in more detail later on.
Why is renewable energy so important?
Making the switch to renewable energy is important for many reasons, but the most important one is arguably to protect the environment. Burning fossil fuels creates large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and this pollution has a significant negative effect on climate change. Choosing renewable energy over fossil fuels significantly reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced and this is much better for the overall health of our planet.
Fossil fuels are also non-renewable and it’s been predicted that the world will run out of all fossil fuels by 2050. Therefore, it’s essential that we find alternative sources of energy before this point. Choosing renewable energy sources can also increase energy security, as it removes the need to import resources like oil from abroad. Domestic sources of renewable energy allows countries to remain more independent and it ensures long term energy stability.
Renewable energy sources
There are five main forms of renewable green energy and they can be used in a variety of different ways, in both domestic and commercial settings. From solar panels to wind power, see below to find out more about the most common renewable energy sources.
1. Solar power
Solar power is the most abundant source of clean energy on the planet and it’s becoming increasingly accessible as technology evolves. The most common way of harnessing solar power is through the use of solar panels. These are placed on a building’s roof in order to capture energy from the sun and convert it into electricity.
Solar panels use photovoltaic cells made up of a positive and negative layer (like a battery) to create an electric field. The panels allow particles of light known as photons to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels are highly efficient and they can even store excess energy for use on cloudy days or at nighttime.
Solar panels are especially beneficial in remote areas which don’t have access to the main electrical grid, but solar power is becoming increasingly popular in urban towns and cities too.
2. Wind energy
This type of energy is one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the world, and the UK government recently unveiled a bold new plan to power every home with offshore wind energy by 2030. Wind energy is generated using large turbines which come in two different types; horizontal-axis and vertical-axis.
Turbines harness the kinetic energy of the wind which is then used to drive generators which convert the energy into electricity. This electricity is stored in the National Grid, so wind energy can be used to power entire towns and cities in some cases. Wind energy is completely ‘clean’ and produces zero emissions, however large areas of land are required to install the turbines. It can also be unreliable and areas can suffer from electricity issues if there isn’t enough wind.
This is the name given to the process of harnessing energy from water, which is achieved using turbines and generators. Hydropower has actually been around since the 19th century and it’s the most widely used renewable power source across the globe.
Hydropower functions in a similar way to wind energy, by harnessing the kinetic energy of water using large turbines. Hydroelectric plants are built with a large dam or barrier; this allows for a controlled flow of water from a reservoir, which is used to drive a turbine and generate electricity. Hydropower is popular as it can generate a flexible amount of energy depending on demand, although concerns have been raised about the effect of hydroelectric plants on the surrounding water and fish populations.
Like wind power, hydropower can also be unreliable if there’s an unexpected drought in the area, but technology is continuing to evolve to ensure that hydropower is as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. These include innovations like harnessing the power of waves and fish ladders, which allow vulnerable species to swim upstream past the dam.
4. Biomass fuels
This is the process of converting organic waste matter from plants or animals into energy, usually by burning the material directly to create heat. A range of organic matter can be used to create biomass energy, including leftover food waste, forest residue, leftover crops and even human waste from sewage plants. A common method of biofuel production involves burning the material with fire, which then produces steam. This steam powers a generator through the use of a turbine, which then creates electricity.
Biomass production is carbon neutral, however it does still produce some pollution. Burning animal waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas which has a significant impact on climate change. This pollution is still not as potent as the amount produced from burning fossil fuels, but it’s important to be aware of the side effects of biomass fuel production. Deforestation is another issue, as many biomass plants rely on wood to generate their energy.
5. Geothermal energy
Geothermal energy works by extracting steam from geothermal reservoirs buried beneath the earth’s surface. It’s common in countries that have a lot of natural geothermal heat available, like Iceland.
First, a hole is drilled into the earth’s surface to tap water or steam, which then carries heat from underneath the earth to the surface. This is then used to power generators which create electricity or heat for homes.
Geothermal energy has a low environmental impact as the majority of the work takes place underground. However, concerns have been raised about surface stability, as the earth’s crust is constantly moving. Geothermal energy plants also require a lot of water and the process can be expensive.
T.B Mackay Energy Services – specialist suppliers
of renewable energy products
If you’re looking for a renewable energy equipment supplier in Edinburgh, get in touch with the experts at T.B Mackay Energy Services. We fit and maintain a wide range of renewable energy equipment, designed to reduce your energy bills and lower your carbon footprint. We specialise in biomass heating and solar thermal equipment and our knowledgeable and experienced team are on hand to help you with any specific requirements you may have. Whether you’re considering a new renewable energy system, or if you need some maintenance or repairs for your existing products, we’ve got everything you need.
In addition to our renewable energy services, we’re also on hand to offer a range of gas engineer services and repairs, plumbing, electrician services, building and joinery, boiler servicing and much more.
For more information about any of our energy services or to discuss your requirements, please feel free to contact us today. You can find us at Granton House, 219 Granton Road, Edinburgh EH5 1AB. Alternatively, call us on 0131 552 6103 or email us at email@example.com.