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What Forms of Renewable Energy Are Out There


Although the scare of Global Warming has calmed down in the past decade, reducing your carbon footprint is still as important now as ever. With smart phones, tablets and bigger and better games consoles paving the way for a new, technology heavy generation, it is important to think about where all our energy comes from and whether or not we can find an alternate way to generate that energy.

As a result of the technological age, we no longer print everything out in order to read it, we use far less paper and most things are accessible online. However there is an electrical cost for running this equipment and primarily we use coal or oil to fuel the technology we easily take for granted. Fossil fuels are a limited energy source and they will eventually run out, so it is important to start switching over to renewable forms of energy.

There are a number of different forms of energy and it is important to understand how these energy systems generate energy, how effective they are and what the costs will be of running them.

Nuclear
By using exothermic nuclear processes we can generate useful heat and electrical energy. Although it is widely argued that nuclear energy is a safe, sustainable energy source with reduced carbon emissions, in the event of a nuclear accident, the effects are disastrously devastating.

The side effects of a nuclear accident, such as the ones at Chernobyl or Fukushima, can severely affect the surrounding area and all human, animal and plant life within that area. In certain cases the area surrounding these nuclear plants must be shut down and considered uninhabitable for a number of months and even years before it is considered safe to re-enter.

Solar
Solar energy is one of the more generally accepted forms of renewable energy as by using the energy of the sun you can power a number of things, from a small lamp to your own home in the winter. Arguments have been made that solar panels are often not that effective as most people do not receive enough sun for the panels to do their work, however they are surprisingly adept at transforming the energy they can into usable electrical and heat energy.

Solar panels can be expensive to start with, however in the long run they provide substantial benefits and throughout the UK there are even a few schemes offering you the use of solar panels if your home fits certain criteria. Unfortunately they can be fairly large and are treated as somewhat of an eyesore when compared to the tiled roofs we are used to looking at.

Bio thermal
Energy derived by composting biological material. By composting this material, heat and methane is produced. Currently bio thermal energy is normally used to promote the growth of plants, but it may be used as an alternative of burning natural gas to create energy. Bio thermal energy is a relatively new form of renewable energy and so in order for any progress to be made, more research into bio thermal energy needs to be done.

Hydroelectric
In short, electricity generated by hydropower; using the gravitational force of flowing water or falling water. Often hydroelectric power is used in manmade dams and waterfalls. Currently it is the most widely used form of renewable energy and is responsible for 16% of the electricity generated globally. It is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years.

The cost is low and the amount of energy generated can be changed up or down to meet with current demands. Hydroelectric power is currently used in 150 countries with China being the largest hydroelectric producer. It produces no waste however the creation of dams for hydroelectric purposes can displace wildlife and can be damaging to various ecosystems because of their size.

Wind Farms
The conversion of wind energy into useful energy is normally done by using wind turbines and windmills which make up large wind farms. Often there are 100’s of individual turbines, which are connected to the electric power transmission network.

Onshore wind farms are inexpensive and even cheaper than fossil fuel plants, however they are visually offensive, whereas offshore farms are more visually appealing, but their installation and maintenance costs are higher. Wind power makes up 2.5% of the current global electricity usage, but continues to grow at a steady rate of 25% each year.

Whether you live in the centre of a busy city or you have a rustic country home, it is important to remember your limitations when considering a renewable energy system. For example, ground source heat pumps can be extremely useful but are better for country houses, whereas solar panels are ideal for city dwellers or those living in towns.

Mike James is proactive in the quest to increase awareness about the benefits of greener and sustainable living. He also writes on behalf of ISO Energy, sustainable energy systems.

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