The ‘UK Renewable Energy Roadmap’ sets out the strategy for increasing the amount of power generated from renewable sources over the next decade.
There is widespread acknowledgement that the UK has to move rapidly to increase the amount of power that is being generated from renewable sources. At present the bulk of our electricity is generated by burning gas. Reserves are dwindling and the price is set to rise steadily. The same can be said of oil, with supplies of this commodity proving particularly vulnerable to war and instability. Add to this the international commitments of reducing carbon emissions (which stands in the way of using plentiful, filthy, coal) and the urgency becomes clear.
The roadmap describes a strategic vision as to how every type of green energy industry can be grown in the UK. Each method has its problems and limitations, but it is hoped that in combination they will be able to deliver the targets that have been set for 2020.
Onshore wind farms are the most visible of the alternative power generation methods. There is certainly no shortage of wind in the British isle, and turbines have become a common addition to the landscape. Wind turbines are not popular among those that live near them due to noise, and can be detrimental to bird life.
By putting wind turbines out at sea a lot of problems are reduced. Nobody is around to complain about the noise, and winds are consistent. The disadvantage is the increased cost of placing and maintaining the turbines, which is much more difficult than if they were on land.
It has long been a dream to harness the power of waves and tidal energy, The technologies around this are in their infancy, but Britain is among the world leaders in bringing these projects to practical fruition. There are ecological concerns around constructing barriers in tidal estuaries, but tidal power is very predictable and reliable.
If you stick your hand into the middle of a compost heap to will find that it is very hot in there. This is because when bacteria break down plant matter they generate a lot of heat as a bi-product. By using specially selected and engineered algae and bacteria it is hoped that it will one day be possible to use this principle to generate large amounts of clean power.
Ground source heat pumps
A ground source heat pump transfers heat from the ground. Because in winter the temperature underground is higher than the ambient air temperature, this can be exploited to improve the efficiency of heating systems. It is also possible to generate electricity using geothermal heat. This can only be done economically in certain geologically active places.
One notable technology that is conspicuous by its absence in the road map is solar. Both space and sunlight are at a premium in the UK so that makes a certain amount of sense, however some see micro generation as having a valuable role to play in meeting targets.
Elena Price is a freelance content writer and currently contributes to a number of blogs and websites, including www.fiscal-muses.com