Generate your Own Energy
With UK energy bills rocketing, generating your own energy is becoming an increasingly realistic option for businesses concerned about their rising fuel costs.
Saving Money and the EnvironmentOnce a quaint energy alternative for the quirky green leftist, renewable energy has since become a very real option for businesses faced with mounting energy bills and a growing conscience about their impact on the environment.
Two options are now available to organisations seeking to switch to renewable energy sources.
The first is to ask your provider to supply you with electricity from renewable sources. However, many businesses are realising that these so-called ‘green tariffs’ are not as good at increasing the use of renewables as previously thought and so have moved on to the second option - installing and operating their own sustainable power and heat generation facilities –such as solar panels, wind turbines and biomass heaters.
Renewable EnergyGenerating your own renewable power will help your organisation meet its own energy requirements whilst reducing its carbon emissions. Research by the Energy Saving Trust suggests that, with enough converts, ‘micro generation’ could produce 30% to 40% of the UK’s electricity output.
Generating your energy requires planning, substantial capital investment and the right power generation. Therefore the first step of any business eager to make the switch should be to gather up information concerning its energy requirements and what are the most suitable and economical options available.
The best way to do this is to have an audit carried out by a specialist consultant. For help with assessment advice it is worth contacting either the Energy Saving Trust or the Renewable Energy Association. It is also worth talking other similar sized businesses that have made the switch to self energy generation and to potential suppliers from the renewables industry.
The options now available to businesses for consideration include wind power, solar power, geothermal and biomass.
Considering Wind PowerWind power generation requires specialist advice on the construction and location of the turbine. Considerations would, for example, include:
- What is the best site for the turbine?
- What is the most cost-effective turbine for your requirements?
- Are there any legal or planning factors that need to be first addressed?
- Is the local area windy enough for a turbine generate enough power?
Solar PowerIf wind power is not appropriate to the needs of your business then another option is solar energy. Organisations can use solar energy in two different ways – firstly in heating water for central heating systems and secondly in converting sunlight directly into electricity by using photovoltaic panels.
Such panels are positioned to catch as many rays of sunlight as possible. Typically this is a pitched rooftop.
Converting to solar power or supplementing your existing energy supply is dependent on a few different factors:
- Sufficient space to install the solar panels.
- Permission to install solar panels – you may need planning permission from your local authority and if you rent you property you will have to consult the landlord.
- Is there sufficient daylight? The UK is not blessed with a great deal of sunshine and so solar power will probably only be able to reduce rather than eradicate traditional energy consumption.
- What type of organisation you run and what its heating demands are.
Biomass EnergyBy burning organic ‘biomass’ materials such as wood and household and industrial waste, businesses can source biomass energy. This energy can either be directly used to generate heat or indirectly used to heat water and create central heating or electricity.
Burning biomass materials is significantly cleaner than oil and coal because it produces less sulphur and approximately 20% of the carbon dioxide of oil. Its green credentials are improved further because it also reduced the volume of waste being sent to landfill.
The Logpile website offers advice about using biomass energy and details about wood fuel suppliers local to your business.
Geothermal EnergyIn the British Isles the earth a few metres below our feet, maintains a temperature of about 11-12°C throughout the year. The thermal mass of the ground means that it stores heat soaked up from the sun. Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) tap into this reserve and can transfer the heat into your company building for use in space heating and pre-heating hot water.
This method of sourcing energy is very environmentally clean but the money required for installation and the space required make it a less popular option. Also it is not entirely renewable because traditionally sourced electricity is required to power the pump.
Companies can obtain further information about the potential of geothermal energy for their business by visiting the UK Heat Pump Network and Heat Pump Association websites.