What is renewable energy and where does it come from?

In a time of global power reconstruction, the future of energy generation is extremely uncertain. Fossil fuels have already been given their last rites and far too much reliance has already been placed on uranium stores. Our hope as a planet is to invest more time and effort into generating gas and electricity through renewable means, which has been done in recent years to a degree. Using a number of methods, countries worldwide have set green targets that they are required to hit in order to protect the environmental integrity of their nations. In this article you’ll find the most popular forms of renewable energy and how they are being used in the United Kingdom today.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is the number one form of renewable electricity in the UK. It currently makes up around 9.5% of all electricity generated. Without a doubt you will have seen the giant fan-type-turbines that are now peppered around our landscape, but however you feel about their aesthetic appearance, they are a vital part of 21th century Britain. Wind turbines use naturally occurring winds to turn their generators and convert kinetic energy into useable electricity.

As a nation, the United Kingdom is a perfect match for wind energy. There are a number of spots dotted around the country that are absolutely perfect for optimal wind performance, which is part of the reason why wind is our number one source for renewable electricity. Although this is the case here, it is not in other countries around the world. Certain countries are definitely more suited to specific renewable types, and in areas around the world that aren’t ‘blessed’ with high wind levels, wind energy just isn’t viable.

The average 2 – 3 MW commercial wind turbine costs around £3.1 million to construct and erect, which not only means that this kind of energy generation can only be undertaken by those countries with strong economical backing, but it can also be an offputting idea for profit margins considering how much more cheaply electricity can be generated through unsustainable sources.

Solar Energy

Likely the second thing you think of when asked about renewable energy, solar panels contribute a surprisingly low figure to the UK’s energy mix. This minute contribution, however, does not include the sheer amount of individual households that are using their own initiative to harness the power of solar panels, eliminating their electricity bills and doing their bit for the environment. Solar panels work by converting the sun’s rays into usable electricity. At any one time, the earth receives around 173,000 terawatts of energy from the sun, which is 10,000 times more than the entire world uses. Of course, we don’t even harness a single percent of this potential. If we were to just harness 0.01% of this, we would be able to power the entire world on solar.

Having a solar panel system on your home can be quite costly to begin with; however, the benefits thereafter are 100% worth it. For the average home, a 4 kW system is enough to cover all electrical usage. You would, in addition need a solar battery to store extra electricity for times of low light, which would result in an additional cost. So, for this whole setup, you’d be looking at around £9000, which would take around 18 years to see a ROI on.

100% renewable energy tariffs

Moving on to what you can do yourself. Although we haven’t spoken about hydropower, geothermal or any of the other renewable energy types, we think it would be perhaps more beneficial to state what you can do to make a difference.

As mentioned above, energy companies are now being placed under the microscope as renewable targets are demanded from the various worldwide environmental organisations. As such, many have decided to offer green tariffs that’s supplies are generated wholly from renewable sources. Some suppliers, such as ‘SmartestEnergy’, have even given customers the option to choose exactly which source they would like their energy to come from.

This may sound like an absolutely fantastic breakthrough for renewable energy, which it is, but there is one slight caveat: when you sign up for a green energy tariff, you don’t physically receive a new electricity supply. Your electricity is still coming from the same distribution network that is not operated by your supplier. What changes is the electricity that is put into the grid. Instead of you, essentially, ordering 3,000 kWh of electricity from fossil fuel generation each year, you are order that amount from renewables, which will then be pumped into the grid to be distributed accordingly.

Many of the big six companies are still yet to provide a 100% renewable energy tariff. This is perhaps because they are focusing more on their overall energy mix, which is going in the right direction. The key thing, though, is to not be off-put by the smaller names. Each supply is exactly the same; the only thing that changes is the name on your bill and the price, which is generally cheaper coming from the independent companies.

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