Renewable Energy Studies

What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy often referred to as clean energy, comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished without human intervention. For example, sunlight keeps shining, and the wind keeps blowing, even though their availability depends on time and weather.

Renewable energy is often mistakenly thought of as a new technology, whereas in fact, harnessing nature’s power to provide heating, lighting and transportation has been used for thousands of years. Wind has powered boats to sail the seas and windmills to grind grain. The sun has provided warmth during the day and helped kindle fires to last into the night. However, over the past 500 years or so, humans have increasingly turned to cheaper, dirtier energy sources such as oil, coal, and gas.

Now that we have increasingly innovative and more affordable ways to capture and retain wind and solar energy, renewables are becoming a much more important power source, accounting for more than 40% of the UK’s electricity generation.

What We Do

Our team collaborates with clients and design team members to develop comprehensive and tailored solutions embracing the full spectrum of applicable renewable energy technologies and equipment within any building type. We give clear and quantifiable advice on the renewable energy technology that is best suitable for incorporation in the design and one that will deliver the largest carbon reduction for the building or development.

When potential renewable energy technologies are considered for a development, we will assess the viability, capital cost, environmental impact, operating cost and predicted carbon emission reduction with viable options assessed on a whole life cycle basis.  Providing this level of information enables our client to make an informed decision when investing in renewable energy technologies, with a clear understanding of the likely costs and benefits.

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

The 7 recognised sources of renewable energy are:

  1. Solar
    • Photovoltaic cells to generate electricity
    • Solar thermal hot water generation
  2. Wind Energy
  3. Hydroelectric
  4. Biomass Energy
  5. Geothermal Energy
  6. Ocean – tidal and wave energy
  7. Hydrogen

Solar Energy

Humans have been harnessing solar energy for thousands of years—to grow crops, stay warm, and dry foods. According to modern research, “more energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year. Solar energy is derived by capturing radiant energy from sunlight and converting it into heat, electricity, or hot water. Photovoltaic (PV) systems can convert direct sunlight into electricity through the use of solar cells. Solar energy systems don’t produce air pollutants or greenhouse gases, and as long as they are responsibly sited, most solar panels have few environmental impacts beyond the manufacturing process.

Wind Energy

We’ve come a long way from old-fashioned windmills. Today, turbines as tall as skyscrapers—with turbines nearly as wide in diameter—stand at attention around the world. Wind energy turns a turbine’s blades, which feeds an electric generator and produces electricity. Wind energy is a clean energy source, which means that it doesn’t pollute the air like other forms of energy. Wind energy does not produce carbon dioxide or release any harmful by-products that can cause environmental degradation or negatively affect human health, like smog, acid rain, or other heat-trapping gases.

Hydroelectric Power

Dams are what people most associate when it comes to hydroelectric power. Water flows through the dam’s turbines to produce electricity, known as pumped-storage hydropower. Run-of-river hydropower uses a channel to funnel water through rather than powering it through a dam. Hydroelectric power is very versatile and can be generated using both large scale projects, like the Dinorwig Power Station, and small scale projects like underwater turbines and lower dams on small rivers and streams. Hydroelectric power does not generate pollution, and therefore is a much more environmentally-friendly energy option for our environment.

Biomass Energy 

Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals and includes crops, waste wood, and trees. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy is released as heat and can also be used to generate electricity with a steam turbine. Biomass is often mistakenly described as a clean, renewable fuel and a greener alternative to coal and other fossil fuels for producing electricity. However, recent science shows that many forms of biomass—especially from forests—produce higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels. There are also negative consequences for biodiversity. Still, some forms of biomass energy could serve as a low-carbon option under the right circumstances. For example, sawdust and chips from sawmills that would otherwise quickly decompose and release carbon can be a low-carbon energy source.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal heat is heat that is trapped beneath the earth’s crust from the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago. The earth’s core is about as hot as the sun’s surface due to the slow decay of radioactive particles in rocks at the centre of the planet. Drilling deep wells brings boiling underground water to the surface as a hydrothermal resource, which is then pumped through a turbine to create electricity. Geothermal plants typically have low emissions if they pump the steam and water they use back into the reservoir. Geothermal energy is not as common as other types of renewable energy sources, but it has a significant potential for energy supply. Since it can be built underground, it leaves minimal footprint on land. Geothermal energy is naturally replenished and therefore does not run a risk of depleting (on a human timescale).

Ocean

The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal and mechanical. Ocean thermal energy relies on warm water surface temperatures to generate energy through a variety of different systems. Ocean mechanical energy uses the ebbs and flows of the tides to generate energy, which is created by the earth’s rotation and gravity from the moon. Unlike other forms of renewable energy, wave energy is predictable, and it’s easy to estimate the amount of energy that will be produced. Instead of relying on varying factors, such as sun and wind, wave energy is much more consistent. The potential of wave energy is an astounding and as yet largely untapped energy resource with an estimated ability to produce over 2,600 TWh/yr.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen needs to be combined with other elements, such as oxygen, to make water as it does not occur naturally as a gas on its own. When hydrogen is separated from another element, it can be used for both fuel and electricity. Hydrogen can be used as a clean-burning fuel, which leads to less pollution and a cleaner environment. It can also be used for fuel cells which are similar to batteries, and can be used for powering an electric motor. Since hydrogen needs energy to be produced, it is inefficient when it comes to preventing pollution.