Green Energy has never been so high on the agenda, with the government’s green policies, or its reluctance to commit to one, constantly in the media. However, Doug Stewart, CEO at Green Energy UK, claims the need for education and investment in the latest technologies for harvesting energy goes way beyond politics
There are daily headlines concerning the green energy debate, with recent controversy about legislative stipulations around energy prices, and party politics focused on wind farms. Wind, solar and hydro power are all well known and viable ways of energy generation, but what of the newer and emerging technologies?
As the political debates around energy rumble on, so does confusion and a continued lack of awareness around new technologies for obtaining green energy. Frustratingly, while time is spent arguing amongst ourselves, one fact remains the same – our finite supply of fossil fuels is quickly depleting. The growing demand on fuel imports means our energy security is at risk and investing in new methods of generating energy is no longer an alternative option, but a necessity.
Due to the varying attitudes towards wind farms and turbines, wind power does tend to hog the limelight in the media. However, there are so many other innovative solutions, such as harvesting power from waste, that also have a double benefit to the environment. Take anaerobic digestion for instance. It is a process where micro-organisms break down organic material without any oxygen, producing a methane and carbon dioxide rich biogas.
Not only can this be burned to produce energy but it reduces fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. The organic material can come from animal (such as pigs or cows) waste – probably not the first thing you think of when you switch on your lights or power up your PC. The great thing about this method is that the nutrient rich solids left after digestion can be used as a fertiliser.
Biomass is also a method of generating energy from burning organic material. This can again be animal waste, or plant-based waste products from industrial, agricultural or even domestic sources and biodegradable food products such as cooking oil.
Both biomass and anaerobic digestion offer the added benefit of disposing of the waste that would ordinarily sit in landfill emitting methane – a gas 20 times more potent than CO2. Using it to generate power negates this, creating a double benefit to the environment. A huge problem with being environmentally friendly is the perception that it is time consuming and not cost effective – when actually it doesn’t involve a significant effort or expense to switch to green energy. There’s a long way to go in terms of educating the public on this.
The public are probably entirely unaware of the fact that an incredible amount of heat created in a standard coal fired power plant goes to waste, which is why CHP (combined heat and power) is such a great method to combat this. The simultaneous generation of heat and power in a single process means CHP plants can actually be up to 95% more efficient than a standard power plant. CHP plants harness this ‘waste’ heat for a useful purpose.
Enabling a green revolution
There’s endless talk about costs involved in making green energy types mainstream – but if we look at the revolution over the last century in transportation, it is clear that focused investment and support for green energy projects can create a new green revolution.
Green energy can be produced on a smaller scale as opposed to the major infrastructure projects that typify major power generation sites. It can provide an effective output for waste streams that are an integral part of modern lifestyles, and it is those modern lifestyles that increasingly rely on power.
Generating energy by harnessing the power of wind, or any other natural resource such as the sun and fast flowing water, is scientifically viable. However, the investment needed to create the infrastructure for this to become a reliable method of energy generation on a vast scale is huge. Perhaps investment in new technologies to ensure that the sources of sustainable energy are truly diverse is a better route to a successful future in renewable energy.
Green Energy UK
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