Energy that can be obtained from natural resources such as wave, tidal, rain water, wind, geothermal heat and solar is defined as renewable energy. Globally, around 16% of total energy consumption is obtained from renewable resources, with 3.4% from hydroelectricity and 10% from biomass used for heating. New renewables such as biofuels, geothermal, wind, solar and modern biomass account for another 3% which is further increasing rapidly.
Due to rising energy costs and climatic changes, many people now generate their own energy. Generating renewable energy can benefit people in a number of ways with the newly available small-scale technologies such as, energy from sunlight, hydro power, plants grown for fuel, waste and heat from water sources.
Benefits of Using Renewable Energy
The key benefits of using renewable energy include the following:
- It expands energy supply and reduces the country’s dependence on imported fuels.
- It generates energy without releasing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants.
- It creates economic development and jobs in installation and manufacturing.
- It is not subjected to the same increase of price as many fossil fuels.
Solar Panel installation is becoming more common. Image Credits: Photos.com
Renewable Energy Generation Technologies
The renewable energy system for generating electricity in the home can meet all electricity needs using the following technologies:
- Small wind electric systems - Also known as small wind turbines, they are suitable in locations with consistent windflow. Multiple wind turbines can be wired in to increase power generation. They can also be used for other purposes like pumping water in ranches and farms.
- Microhydropower systems – Water turbines are connected to a water wheel placed under constant, free-flowing water such as stream, spring and river to continuously produce electricity. These systems can generate energy up to 100 kW. Although a large home, hobby farm or a small resort can benefit from a 10 kW system. In most cases, houses and buildings are powered using a system of less than 5 kW. Small-scale hydro systems are best suited for rural regions having streams and waterways.
- Small solar electric systems – Solar photovoltaic systems convert solar energy into electricity and produce more energy when the sun is shining. They are most commonly engineered with a battery bank to store electricity. Typical solar photovoltaic systems consist of a number of arrayed panels. The switch is wired to a charge controller that is connected to a battery bank. The battery bank is in turn connected to a system meter for monitoring the input and output of the system. The inverter is connected to an AC breaker panel which distributes power to the home. Domestic solar electric systems can generate energy in the range of 1 to 3 kW.
- Small hybrid solar and wind electric systems – With peak operating times of solar and wind electric systems occuring at different times, hybrid systems can be used to produce power when required.
Grid connected systems, on the other hand, can help generate electricity without the need of a battery bank. During the times when micro-generation does not meet the energy requirements, the grid can provide a back-up, serving as a battery. These systems can use one or more small-scale renewable energy generation technologies.
In cases where grid connected systems are expensive, a stand-alone power system can be an economic alternative. It combines a battery bank, a smart controller/inverter and a back-up diesel generator.
Could our homes look like this in the future? Image Credit: Photos.com
Generating Income from Renewable Energy
The following are the potential sources of income from small-scale renewable energy generation technology:
Excess electricity generated can be sold to the electricity company. The payments received for selling electricity are called export tariff.
Feed-in Tariffs for Low Carbon Electricity
Feed-in tariffs, also known as clean energy cash back can provide financial assistance for projects generating low carbon energy up to 5 MW. The government pays for every kWh of electricity generated by renewables. Payments obtained from feed-in tariffs is additional to the export tariff payments received from electricity companies. However, the amount of money received per kilo watt hour is based on the renewable energy generated. The following are some of the renewable technologies that can benefit from the feed-in tariff scheme:
- Micro-combined heat pump
- Anaerobic digestion plant
- Hydroelectric plant
- Solar photovoltaic cells
- Wind turbines
Green Energy Certificates
Green energy certificates include renewable energy guarantee of origin, levy exemption certificates and renewable obligation certificates. These certificates can be used for certain environmental tax exemptions such as climate change levy.
As awareness of the damage fossil fuels are making to the environment increases, a growing number of people across the globe are turning to environmentally friendly energy solutions. This significant progress is due to the fact that renewable energy is clean, harmless and requires less cost for operation and maintenance. Although, the drawbacks include inconsistent energy generation rates for example, due to unpredictable weather, hydro, solar and wind power may not produce at a consistent rate.
Some of these systems cannot be installed in every local region with certain areas being more suitable for setting renewable energy systems. For instance, wave-based hydroenergy can be generated only in places where the oceanic waves reach 16 ft. Renewable energy systems can be successfully implemented due to the multitude of renewable energy sources. Alternative renewable energy forms can be used when conditions are not consistent.
Sources and Further Reading