is an essential prerequisite to modern society,
we use energy (in the form of electricity) to
light our homes, refrigerate our food and run
our appliances. It caters for our needs, creating
home comforts and entertainment incomprehensible
to our ancestors even a century ago.
change has taking place in recent times and people
are becoming increasingly aware that our insatiable
demand for energy is compromising our very existence
on this planet. Traditional methods of generating
electricity depend upon the burning of finite
natural resources (coal, oil & gas). These
are unsustainable resources because they will
soon dwindle and eventually run out altogether.
are also realising that many of the worlds global
warming and pollution problems are contributed
partly in the way we choose to exploit energy.
So, what's the solution to this global problem?
What is renewable energy?
energy (solar, wind and water) is called sustainable
energy because it will never run out - it is constantly
occurring flows of the environment such as the
sun's rays the wind or the waves can all be harnessed
to generate electricity. The idea of harnessing
natural energy flows is not a new one, almost
two and a half thousand years ago (500 BC) the
Greeks and Persians were developing the principles
of using passive solar power. Windmills appeared
around the same time and water wheels about a
thousand years later.
technologies for harnessing the same energy flows
are highly developed and work with far greater
efficiency. Sunlight can be converted directly
into electricity using solar photovoltaic (PV)
cells; the type found powering a pocket calculator.
Wind turbines are used to generate electricity
from the wind and modern turbine design is cost-effective
and very efficient.
wave power and tidal power all make use of the
natural flows of water. Biomass uses the burning
of biological materiel (plants, wood, rubbish
and waste) to create energy. Geothermal involves
extracting heat energy from deep below the earth's
surface. And very recently a new form of renewable
energy called fuel cell technology has started
to emerge and is still under developed by scientists.
What does renewable energy offer?
energy offers a diverse and flexible range of
technologies, which can be far easier to deploy
than traditional methods of generating electricity.
A nuclear power station, for example, can take
up to 10 years to plan and build and will produce
radioactive pollution once up and running. Whereas
small renewable schemes serving local communities
can provide quick, clean harmonious solutions.
The electricity can be generated close to where
it's required reducing the transportation costs
and transmission losses often associated with
traditional power stations.
with curbing climate change, the diversity and
sustainability renewable energy provides means
an inexhaustible and flexible source of energy
for the future.
Can it work in the UK?
most certainly can, each day enough renewable
energy to meet our national energy requirements
(without depleting our coal, oil or gas reserves)
goes untapped and unused! Renewable energy has
an enormous potential and capacity to become a
sustainable and dominant technology in the UK.
We have considerable potential for harnessing
the waves and tides as well as wind and solar
challenge now is to ensure further development
and deployment of the technology to harness this
vast quantity of clean, unused energy.