Solar Panels For Your Home - Why?
Renewable or sustainable energy means energy derived from limitless sources. Most energy produced worldwide is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, which are a finite source. Renewable energy is typically generated by wind, water or the sun, of which there is an endless supply.
Sustainable energy sources release no emissions into the atmosphere, unlike fossil fuels, the burning of which produces air pollution and millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases.
The link between high levels of Carbon Dioxide CO2 in the atmosphere and climate change is now widely recognised. The depletion in reserves of fossil fuels worldwide is a cause for concern, with exploration and production companies having to take greater risks and spend larger amounts of money to extract what is left. This, combined with the fact that existing reserves are located in politically unstable areas of the World, simply means that that the cost of domestic energy is becoming increasingly unmanageable for most of us.
In order to address this urgent problem, the UK has signed up to the EU Renewable Energy Directive; this includes a UK target of 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. This target is equivalent to a sevenfold increase in UK renewable energy consumption from 2008 levels: the most challenging of any EU Member State.
At the start of 2010, we were producing only about 2% of our energy from renewable sources. While off-shore wind farms and other big energy generating projects will make a significant contribution, it will not be enough, without UK householders’ contribution also.
In order to meet this commitment, the government has introduced the following incentives.
Feed in Tariffs. The Feed-in Tariff scheme offers tax free revenue to consumers for generating electricity from renewable sources; primarily solar, wind or hydro (water). Since wind turbines work best in open rural areas and hydro power relies on a nearby source of running water, solar is the most widely adopted energy source. Solar panels for your home are easy to install, generally taking one day to fit and are dependent on nothing but the sun. Almost anyone with a south facing or near south facing roof which is unencumbered by shade can attach solar panels to their roof. However, despite the attractive prospect of making money from installing these systems, the high initial cost and long pay back period is prohibitive for many people.
Renewable Heat Incentives. This particular scheme offers money to install renewable heating systems, such as solar thermal, air source heat pumps, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps. Incentivises alternative ways of heating spaces inside buildings. Since 40% of domestic energy is used for heating, including water heating, this is a worthwhile incentive. However, installing systems of these types can be a complex and time consuming process, requiring significant alterations to the home.
The Green Deal offers a loan to make alterations to your home, such as installing insulation, in order to make it more energy efficient. In theory, this is a highly effective initiative, since it maximises the heat energy you already generate and contains it within your home. In a recent speech to the House of Commons, Chris Huhne, energy and climate change secretary, announced that poor insulation and inefficient systems waste up to three billion pounds’ worth of energy every year. Many of the details of this deal are still unclear.
The term “global warming”, which has been used since the 1970s to describe the shift in worldwide weather conditions, is somewhat misleading. In more recent years, scientists have adopted the term “climate change”. That is not to say that there is not an overall warming of the Earth but this warming affects different parts of the planet in different ways and can actually cause periods of cooling and atmospheric upheaval, creating storms, tornadoes and floods.
Sceptics argue that the currently occurring change in weather patterns is part of a natural cycle, which has existed since the Earth was formed and has taken the planet through periods of extreme heat and extreme cold, including long droughts and ice ages. While these cycles most certainly occur, the simple science behind the manmade effect on the climate cannot be ignored.
Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb infrared radiation (heat), which occurs when sunlight striking the Earth’s surface is reflected back towards space. What this means is that the more greenhouse gases there are present in the atmosphere, the more heat is absorbed by the gases. Simply put, this results in a warming of the planet. While the rise in temperature which has occurred since the 19th century may not be felt by us, the consequences of this rise are already being observed in many parts of the world, with increasing droughts, melting of Arctic ice caps and rising sea levels.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is the primary contributor to greenhouse gases, is largely formed by the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy for requirements such as heating, lighting and travel. Currently, energy supply is responsible for 35% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and scientists report that the level of C02 in the atmosphere has increased by almost 40% since the industrial revolution.
The answer to this is simple. It takes one day to make a significant change, at no cost to you.
The most effective way to decrease the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels to produce electricity. The contribution of individual households is essential to the UK’s ability to meet its commitments to replace “dirty” energy sources with renewable energy.
This is the only green incentive that can be offered free of charge. Solar panels are easily fixed onto your roof, with minimum upheaval to you or your household. Apart from attaching a meter to your electricity supply, there are no alterations required; no engineering, no plumbing, no digging or knocking out walls.
By installing solar panels on your roof, you can reduce the carbon emissions generated from your home’s electricity by up to a half.
Therefore, while you sit back and enjoy your reduced energy bills, you can also rest assured that you, personally, are making a welcome change to the world in which we live.