Renewable energy sources including biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar provide 8% of the energy used in countries such as Germany, the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom. Most renewable energy goes to producing electricity.

The use of renewable energy is not new. More than 150 years ago, wood, which is one form of biomass, supplied up to 90% of our energy needs. As the use of coal, petroleum, and natural gas expanded, we became less reliant on wood as an energy source. Today, we are looking again at renewable sources to find new ways to use them to help meet our energy needs.

Demand for renewable energy is driven largely by the price of the alternatives, namely coal and natural gas (for electricity generation) and oil (for liquid fuel). All the factors that drive rising oil prices or fears of peak oil , therefore also drive demand for renewable energy. On the demand side of the equation, clearly rising worldwide energy demand also plays a large role.

In the past, renewable energy has generally been more expensive to produce and use than fossil fuels. Renewable resources are often located in remote areas, and it is expensive to build power lines to the cities where the electricity they produce is needed. The use of renewable sources is also limited by the fact that they are not always available cloudy days reduce solar power; calm days reduce wind power; and droughts reduce the water available for hydropower.

The main types of renewable energy are hydroelectricity, biomass (organic matter), geothermal, solar, wind and biofuels. The most used form of renewable energy is traditional biomass like burning wood. The market is growing for many forms of renewable energy with conservation of water and energy the main reasons for using these technologies.

Understanding Solar Solar thermal, or solar hot water, uses energy from the sun to heat your domestic hot water supply whereas solar electric systems, or photovoltaics (PV for short) allow you to power your household items – such as your your dishwasher or TV by converting sunlight into electricity.

The cost to put in a solar water heater is not much different than installing PV. Solar thermal panels cost about the same as PV panels per unit, and the balance of the system plus labor is usually comparable in price.

The difference is in efficiency. Thermal panels average about 40 sq. ft., vs. 15 for the PV collector. That means you’ll get almost 2 ½ tomes the solar energy coming in. Plus, the thermal panel converts over 50% of that energy into heat, while a good PV panel won’t get much more than 15%.

The only issue with solar PV is that the photovoltaic cells become less efficient as they get hotter, a decline that can be substantial on hot sunny days. Furthermore, solar PV is inefficient and some energy is ‘lost to the surrounding environment.

The financial benefits are so good people are choosing to install Photovoltaic (PV) systems as an alternative to investing their money with a bank or building society (which are taxable). .

Advice provided courtesy of Patrick Richardson of GreenTech Energy – an expert in providing a range of renewable energy solutions including solar, biomass and wind to countless domestic, commercial and public sector clients with the speciality of domestic solar panels for the homeowner.

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