The Search of Renewable Energy Whether mass flooding in the UK, bushfires in Australia and the US or melting ice sheets in our polar regions, the one irrefutable takeaway from our current plethora of environmental disasters is that climate change is here and is happening. Even the most adamant apologists of the fossil fuel industry can no longer ignore or explain away this reality and some experts warn that the planet could reach the point of no return much sooner than even the most pessimistic reports predict. The search for clean, renewable energy, then, has become the greatest challenge of our age. With natural supplies of oil, coal and gas quickly running out, the race to find more efficient and sustainable forms of energy has been ongoing for decades. But it is the effect of climate change and global warming, the causative effects of centuries of burning fossil fuels that has given this search renewed urgency. CHP and Power Plants Traditional power stations (that is to say, non-nuclear ones) are a particular contributor to greenhouse emissions due to the highly inefficient way in which they function. These ageing power plants produce electricity by burning fossil fuels (usually coal or natural gas) to heat water which, in turn, is converted to steam. This then powers the turbines that generate our electricity. This process is still used to generate 80-90 percent of the world's electricity. Yet, it is highly wasteful because the steam generated (and so the heat) is then simply dispersed into the atmosphere using giant cooling towers. But what if that heat could be harnessed and reused? This is precisely where Combined Heat and Power (CHP) comes in. Also known as Cogeneration, CHP essentially means that both electricity and heat are produced in the same process, with the latter being a bi-product of the former. In its simplest usage, CHP captures heat that would otherwise be wasted and redistributes it via insulated pipe networks to provide useful thermal energy for local buildings. Although CHP is not a completely renewable solution (fossil fuel is still required in the initial process), it nonetheless means that the efficiency of a traditional power station can be improved by up to 80%. This is of critical importance going forward, since we are likely to be dependent on these old power stations for at least the forseeable future.. To start saving energy, money (and the planet!), browse through our list of top rated CHP suppliers.
Flush lavatories, wash the car and even fill the washing machine In the UK, rainwater has had something of a bad press lately. With news reports now annually showing apocalyptic scenes of flooded towns and villages, sand-bagged doorways and dispossessed homeowners, it is easy to forget the life-giving importance of water in our everyday lives. Moreover, such plentiful rainfall (due mostly to global warming and climate change) makes many of us take water for granted. Instead of harvesting it and, in so doing, help to reduce our energy usage and water bills, we instead allow it to drain away via our drains and gutters. Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting Rainwater harvesting is a term given to the collection and usage of rain that has fallen onto rooftops and garages, etc. with a view to reusing it (usually) for non-drinking purposes. Gardeners and allotmenteers have been harvesting rainwater for generations and, in its simplest form, this consists of a simple downpipe system that redirects falling rainwater into a water barrel/butt for later use in dry periods. However, what many of us don’t realise is that new technological innovations now make it possible to connect rainwater harvesting systems directly to our home’s existing plumbing. Meaning that, as well as watering your garden, rainwater can now be used to flush lavatories, wash the car and even fill a washing machine. And although using captured rainwater for drinking purposes is still controversial (even with bacteria-killing water treatments), utilising rainwater for some non-drinking purposes has been shown to cut our water consumption (and our water bills) by up to 40% according to the Rainwater Harvesting Association. To start saving energy, money (and the planet!), browse through our list of top rated Rainwater Harvesting suppliers and services below.
A free, clean and sustainable energy source for the future Wind turbines first started to appear in the UK in the early 1990s and, as is often the case with new technologies, caused immediate controversy and debate. For some, they were noisy, structural abominations that scarred unspoiled landscapes. For others they were unsettling steel sentinels that would not have looked out of place in an H.G. Wells novel! Yet, the wind turbine has a longer history than most of us know. It was invented during the Victorian age (ironically, the very era that has contributed most to global warming) by Scottish electrical engineer, James Blyth who, in 1887 installed the world’s first electricity-generating turbine at his home in Marykirk, Scotland. Wind turbines now stride across more than half of all the countries of the world. Farming the Wind Wind turbines work much in the same way as traditional windmills: their large blades, when caught by the wind, are blown round, causing rotational energy that can then be harnessed. In the past, this simple system was mostly used to grind flour or pump water, but with modern turbines, generated electricity is the end product. Today wind turbines are often forested into "wind farms", usually in offshore locations. Walney Wind Farm off the coast of Cumbria is the world's largest wind farm, while the UK as a whole is considered one of the best locations in the world for wind generated power, with 18% of its electricity being produced via wind turbine technology. Globally, wind power is seen as one of the most practical and reliable alternatives to fossil fuels, since the electricity generated is both renewable and cheap compared to that produced in traditional fossil fuelled power plants. Domestic Wind Turbines Wind power is a sustainable and renewable energy source which produces no carbon emissions. As such, it is set to produce an increasing share of the world's electrical power, which should significantly help to reduce CO2 levels, the chief cause of global warming and climate change. Moreover, domestic wind turbines are now becoming more available and practical for energy conscious homeowners, with a lower carbon footprint and realistic energy savings being just two of the benefits of investing in this clean, renewable, environmentally-friendly energy source. To start saving energy, money (and the planet!), browse through our list of top rated Wind Power suppliers and services.
What Energy Consultants do And how they can save your business money An energy consultant (sometimes called a renewable energy consultant) is a specialist energy expert who advises businesses, large and small, on how to more efficiently manage their energy consumption. Energy consultants are highly qualified in the fields of both sustainability and energy efficiency and, using specialist analysis, knowledge of current technologies that produce renewable and sustainable energies, can often reduce a business’s energy usage and costs exponentially. With so much emphasis on global warming these days and its concomitant impact on our planet, as well as ever more stringent environmental regulations on carbon emissions, businesses can no longer ignore the need to save energy and thus help lower our carbon footprint. The demand for renewable energies, then, has never been greater and this has seen energy consultancy grow into a new and global industry. The ultimate goal of an energy consultant is, of course, to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency, both of which can save your business money. Yet, reduced utility energy usage isn’t the only way in which an energy consultant can save you money, as he/she will also be up to speed on tax incentives and other governmental schemes that reward greener businesses with green certifications, all of which can be of significant financial benefit to your bottom line. To start saving energy, money (and the planet!), browse through our list of top rated Energy Consultants below.
How Biomass can be used for Energy Biomass is the collective term for any organic material that can be used as fuel, such as wood, plant or animal matter. Wood is arguably the oldest biofuel and probably the first to be utilised by humans following our discovery of fire. But biofuels extracted from plant oils and animal fats also came into common usage as hunter-gathering gradually gave way to crop and animal farming in 10000-12000 BCE. For millennia, people utilised these simple biofuels to cook their food and heat their homes, growing and managing the resources that produced them as required. Not until the Industrial Revolution and the widespread use of much dirtier fossil fuels, did this sustainable way of life start to decline. Fossil Fuels vs Biofuels Fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) are formed over millions of years from the decayed remains of prehistoric plants and animals. They are non-renewable and, when burned, emit high levels of carbon dioxide, a dangerous greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. The mining of these ancient resources is equally damaging to the environment. Coal extraction leaches toxic substances into the soil and groundwater and often requires major deforestation to accommodate its industries. The extraction of natural gas can likewise harm local ecosystems and landscapes, with land erosion, sinkholes and even earthquakes being just some of the environmental dangers now attributed to this industry. However, perhaps the greatest damage to our planet is occasioned by the drilling and transportation of oil. In 1988, the North Sea Piper Alpha explosion and fire caused widespread marine contamination and released five tons of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. The Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 likewise impacted on marine life and has gone down as the most destructive oil spill in the industry’s checkered history. War has also played its part. During the Persian Gulf War (1990-91) hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells, set ablaze by retreating Iraqi troops, burned uncontrollably for eight months. In the same conflict, Iraq deliberately pumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, causing a nine-mile-long oil slick that devastated bird and marine populations and permanently contaminated the region’s ocean floor. Given our reckless use and over-dependence on fossil fuels, perhaps it is just as well that the world’s natural reserves of them are fast running out. History clearly shows we cannot be trusted to use them responsibly, nor are they a sustainable solution for our future energy needs. But what is to replace them if modern society is not to grind to a halt? One renewable alternative could be biofuels. Biofuels are derived from plant or animal-based materials (biomass), including managed forestry, oil producing crops and surplus animal fats from the meat industry. Though not without carbon emissions, biofuels produce far fewer greenhouse gasses than fossil fuels and are both renewable and sustainable, since the organic matter required to produce them can be grown year on year. Ethanol and biodiesel (known as liquid biofuels) are the most common biomass fuels currently produced, but solid biofuels, such as wood, sawdust, agricultural and domestic waste and even manure can also be sustainable fuel sources, particularly for biomass boilers. Biofuel is one of the fastest growing sectors in energy production as nations strive to find alternative sustainable energy solutions that will minimise and even reverse the damage caused by two centuries of fossil fuel use. Animal fat is, perhaps, the most abundant biomass we have at our disposal, since it is already a surplus bi-product of our global meat industry and fuel derived from it is thus cheaper to produce than plant-based biofuels. However, some critics have disputed this sustainability and have even accused the meat industry of being a contributor to our global warming problems, citing apparent high levels of greenhouse gas produced by livestock and major deforestation of land needed for grazing. Oil producing crops, such as oil seed rape, corn and soya are a less controversial solution, since such crops can be grown sustainably like any other foodstuff. Yet even this proposal is not without challenge. The effect of biofuel monocrops on habitats has raised serious questions about animal and plant diversity. Food production may also be threatened, as biocrops offer infinitely more profit to farmers than traditional food crops. The threat of deforestation, as more greenbelt is sacrificed for the production of biofuel crops, is likewise a concern among environmentalists. Yet, despite such objections, biomass fuels have been shown to be realistic alternatives to fossil fuels in both domestic homes and some industries. Moreover, they are infinitely cleaner, as the CO2 released when biofuels are burned is no more than the carbon absorbed by the plants and animals during their lifetime. This makes biomass fuels a carbon neutral energy source that can be cheaply produced, quickly replenished and, above all, sustainably managed. To start saving energy, money (and the planet!), browse through our list of top rated Biomass suppliers and services.