Turbines Tree

Power by the People

The UK government has in recent years adopted an ambitious 80 per cent reduction target in CO2 emissions by the year 2050 in an effort to combat climate change. These emissions are mainly associated with the domestic sector and produced by electricity and heat generation in people’s homes.These account for 27 per cent of all of the UK’s emissions.

Whilst incentives such as government based insulation schemes for older homes and also legislation to have future built properties more heavily insulated help, it isn’t enough. More severe action has to be taken and soon. Low carbon energies are essential to achieving these targets and these include a decarbonised grid system as well as microgeneration.
Domestic Microgeneration

The term ‘microgeneration’ is used to describe the electricity generation equipment of the smallest capacity and this covers generation right up to 50 kWe. At the lower end of the generation process microgenerators are used for domestic properties and relatively small commercial properties and can include solar panels and micro wind turbines.

Previously there were restrictions involved in obtaining the planning permission for homes in the UK to have such technologies installed but these have since been restricted in line with the UK governments pledge to reducing carbon emissions.

Solar or Wind?

Solar as the name suggests uses the suns energy to create electricity in order to run appliances and lighting. Whilst it doesn’t require sunlight to generate constantly it does require daylight in order to run efficiently. The system uses semi conducting materials creates an electric field is created when the sun shines upon the layers of cells, causing electricity to flow. The stronger the sun, the more electricity produced.

No greenhouses gases are released and are extremely low in carbon dioxide emissions. Solar panels also are very useful when it comes to storing them; they can be easily attached to the roof which means they aren’t an eyesore within the confines of a garden and 1 panel which covers 10 sq m can produce approximately 33 per cent of the average family’s electricity.

Installing solar panels can be costly and can sometimes cost as much as £18,000 but there are now grants available and schemes including the Feed in Tariff (FIT) are available. The FIT scheme was introduced in order to encourage people to start using renewable energy. The government effectively pays households for every unit of electric that is generated through solar installation. People can see how much they will earn by using a FIT calculator.

Most people are familiar with wind farms and will see them scattered about but in microgeneration they are becoming more popular. A wind turbine is installed on the roof of your house and generates electricity when the wind turns the blades and then turns the rotor. Currently getting a wind turbine in an urban area isn’t possible as they need to be placed higher up to make the most of the wind speed and also to avoid obstructions such as trees, other buildings etc.

Prices for a wind turbine also vary, typically for a system generating between 2.5 and 6 kilowatts will cost approximately £4 – £18,000 which, again, is very expensive but does provide a constant supply of electricity.

Biomass and Geothermal

Biomass fuels are produced when organic materials are burned to create energy and heat. It is a clean way of producing energy and is more widespread in homes out with the city. There are different materials that can be used such as wood pellets, logs and wood chips.

Biomass boilers are available which heat up the water so that people can have showers and heat the home up. It can also be done on a smaller scale as well by having wood burning stoves which put out about 6 kw of power. This type of generation requires all the correct health and safety measures. Flues need to be fitted to the correct specifications and also this type is only recommended to be fitted in areas that don’t have a gas supply.

Geothermal method of generation is to use heat pumps which use the natural heat of the earth. A few metres down in the soil there is a natural heat of 11-12 C and by feeding a coil into the earth the heat can be transferred from ground to home. With this, hot water and heating can be produced and with every unit used to pump the heat 3-4 units of heat are created.
The advantage of geothermal is that the only thing that requires purchasing is the pump. Again, this type of microgeneration is most likely more suited to people who have ample space on their property as a trench or borehole is required to fit the ground loop.

Microgeneration is a project that whilst costly in the short term is certainly a step in the right direction in the future. Earning money to generate power that your home can use – what would be more preferable this or paying for energy from companies which make billions each year from escalating price increases. I know what I would rather.

Written by Jennifer Jones

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