Monday, July 19, 2010

Thinking About Environmental Training Courses - An A-Z

By Jason Kendall

It is the use of tides or wind to deliver our daily energy needs that form 'Green Energy'. They are considered 'Green' because they are environmentally friendly. If we think of some of the older energy skills e.g. Wind Power, then in many ways we are going back in time. Overall, this is the method of using modern techniques to provide eco-efficiency and planet friendly options.

The range of renewable energy technologies utilised within the home environment includes both Solar Thermal, and Solar Water Heating Collectors. It is equipment such as Photovoltaic Panels (PV's) that develop electricity through suitable roof-panels. A further factor revolves around stoves and boilers - which are known as Biomass Energy. Of course, then there is the heating from the Sun - often just called Ground Source Heat Pumps. Considering items such as Wind Power and Hydro Turbines, we are finally getting to very old forms of energy production.

Thermal Solar Energy - This technology is based around two core types of system. As a first strategy, we have Solar Water Heating Collectors - which basically creates hot water from solar energy. Then we have the work of the Photovoltaic Heat Collectors, often called Solar Electrical Panels - which transform solar radiation into electricity. To get best results these panels need to be situated 30 degrees from the horizontal, on a south facing roof and obviously free from blockages such as trees and buildings.

As a result, Solar Water Power is often considered the most common form of Solar Energy in the UK. Solar Water heating systems are extremely important - and can provide over half of the hot water needs for houses within the UK. The typical cost for installation ranges from 500-1500 pounds for a DIY system, all the way through to 2-5k for a professional fit.

Biomass Energy and 'Energy Crops' - Historically, this has come from plants and animals, though nowadays this also includes new genetically engineered 'energy crops'. It is by using these materials in new ways to create energy that makes it so exciting. It is interesting to note that the UK has some of the largest quantities of Biomass material to generate electricity within Europe. Added to all this, is the lack of C02 produced as a by-product of the whole process. To that end, many wood crops come from sustainable sources (as one tree is felled, another is planted in its place; thus the new tree absorbs the CO2 produced during the heating process.)

Fast growing trees such as Willow and Poplar (under the banner of Short Rotation Coppice 'SRC') help to meet the need for 'Energy Crops' within the UK. Perennial grasses are also responsible for large quantities of dry matter. Whilst Agricultural and Municipal waste may be lesser known, they are essential to the whole process. Agricultural Waste is naturally formed as a by-product of conventional agricultural activity. Municipal Waste such as food or wood can also be utilised as a biomass product.

Geo-Thermal Energy Based Systems - Used in the generation of both warm water and electricity, this energy mainly comes from the Sun and heats the Earth. Using the ground temperature of around 12 degrees in the UK - we can both heat and cool buildings. Although heat pumps require energy to function, their rate of return is superb - being a four-fold benefit over the energy put in. This system can go even further - if energy efficient items such as wind turbines or solar electrical panels are used.

Wind Energy Programs: As an energy source, wind energy has to be one of the oldest forms of energy creation in history. Recently though, there has been the trend to generate energy and deliver this onto the local grid. To be fair, the UK has the highest level of wind generation within Europe. The fact remains that in the UK, there exists the ability to realise 10 percent of our electricity requirement from wind power - as opposed to the current value of just 1 percent. Although electricity is still being produced from between 2-10 p per kWh, it could be generated from as little as 2p per kWh. From this, the estimation of the cost recovery period is around 6-9 months overall.

Last of all there is Hydropower - an area of especial importance to the UK. Having said that, the art of using energy from moving water (just like wind power) is very traditional. Within the UK, this form of energy production is responsible for somewhere in the region of 2 percent of all electrical needs.

A hydropower system transforms the kinetic energy of the moving water into another type of energy by means of a turbine. Turbines use either a water drop (e.g. through a dam) or by a natural 'run of the river' - thereby having no water storage reservoir. A 'Micro-Hydro' system creates energy through the use of dams and sluices (that are no longer a part of the national distribution system.) Although a lesser known form of electricity output, this process could supply 200mW of UK demand. Installing systems like this could cost between 200 pounds and 3k per kW of energy created.

'Green Energy' is growing - mainly due to the demands of the Western World. The UK domestic market appears to be one of the core beneficiaries of this technology.

With the rise in demand for domestic installations, both Electricians and Plumbers are well placed to take advantage of this technology. With 'Green Energy' rising up the political agenda in Europe, a range of financial aids and grants are becoming available. Getting the right qualifications can often provide job security in a new field such as this. You could consider either plumbing or electrical training programs that highlight green installation.

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