Renewable energy refers to energy that occurs naturally and repeatedly in the environment. This can be energy from waves, wind, the sun and geothermal heat from the ground. Renewable energy can also be produced from plant sources such as wood or crops grown specifically as a fuel.
The term wind power describes the process by which the energy from the wind is used to generate electricity. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of the blowing wind into mechanical power, which in turn is converted to electricity.
Building-mounted wind turbines (BUWT) are usually situated on the roof of a building. These turbines are an emerging technology and, while the market is now beginning to develop, they are still not currently widely deployed.
The natural weather patterns of the UK and its positioning off the North West coast of mainland Europe give the UK access to 30% of the EU’s total wind capacity making it ideal for the generation of power from the wind.
For more information on wind energy, from wind statistics to wind myths, visit the British Wind Energy Association at www.bwea.com.
Small-scale hydro-electric power
Small-scale hydro-electric generation is the conversion of the kinetic energy in running water to electricity via the use of water turbines or a water wheel. Schemes in the UK vary from old mill sites to harnessing the power of fast flowing water in steep gorges.
Solar electricity can be generated from photovoltaic (PV) panel arrays, which capture daylight and turn it into electrical power. PV can deliver clean, silent electricity at point of use, and has the potential to meet a significant proportion of our electricity needs in the future.
There is a real world market for this technology with PV integrated into, or attached to, houses and other buildings.
Ocean waves are created by the interaction of winds with the surface of the ocean. The energy stored in these waves travels for thousands of Kilometres with little loss. It offers a huge opportunity for the production of Renewable Energy. Because of the direction of the prevailing winds and the size of the Atlantic Ocean, the UK has wave power levels that are among the highest in the world.
Wave power is the technical process of extracting the energy from waves and converting it to electricity. Currently wave power is not economically viable compared to other renewable technologies. A large number of development projects are underway to overcome the technical challenges that hinder this competitiveness.
An example of offshore wave power generation in the UK is 'Pelamis', developed by Ocean Power Delivery Ltd. Following successful North Sea trials, Pelamis delivered its first electricity generation into the national grid in late August 2004.