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Renewable Energies
We are finally coming to terms with the fact that the world’s climate is changing. It is generally accepted that man is playing no small part in this change due to so-called greenhouse gases being emitted from a variety of different sources.

One of the main culprits is the use of fossil fuels both in the way we heat and light our homes, and on a larger scale through industry. It is time to look more seriously at renewable energies as the next industrial revolution, and at least attempt to slow down the process, even if it is too late to halt it completely or reverse the effects.

Fortunately, the DTI funded renewable energy grant scheme for homeowners and communities in partnership with the £10 million Clear Skies initiative has meant that homeowners and communities have the opportunity to become more familiar with renewable energy. Homeowners can obtain grants between £500 and £5000, while community organisations can receive up to £100,000.

The technologies supported under this initiative are:
Solar Water Heating
Ground Source Heat Pumps
Automated Wood Pellet Stoves
Wood fuel boilers

How do these technologies work?
Solar power is generated through solar panels, usually fitted on a building’s roof. They use the heat from the sun to heat water or another liquid, which passes through the panel. This liquid is then fed to a heat source like a hot water tank from where it helps to provide hot water or central heating to a building. Modern panels are very sensitive and rely on light from the sun as well as heat, so even on a cloudy day, as long as there is daylight, the panels will work.

Wind Power is generated through a wind turbine, which converts the energy from the wind directly into electricity. This electricity can either link to the national grid or be used to charge batteries.

Hydro power is created in a similar way to wind power, except that instead of the wind driving the turbine, water does. In order to do so, it needs to be flowing quite rapidly, so for this reason, most hydro power is produced in hilly or mountainous areas. Of all renewable energy technologies, it is the most consistent at providing electricity.

Ground source heat pumps draw heat from the ground and can be used to heat a house. As a pump and a compressor are needed to remove heat from one side of the circuit and deliver it to the other, and the pump obviously needs electricity to run, users of this system could subscribe to a green tariff scheme, which promotes the use of renewable energies by power generators.

Automated wood pellet stoves were first introduced in the United States in the 1980s, where over half a million have been installed. They are now available in the UK. Pellet stoves have many of the advantages of fossil fuel heating systems but without the associated environmental damage.

These include:
Temperature and timer controls
Fans that distribute warm air around the room
Automatic ignition
High efficiencies (up to 90%)

In addition, pellet stoves feature a hopper to hold enough fuel for 1 to 3 days and an ash pan that only needs to be emptied between once a month and once a year (depending on the model and the frequency of use) so they are much more convenient to use than a traditional open fire or stove.

Wood fuelled boiler systems must comprise the main heating system of the house. They can be run on logs, wood chips or wood pellets, but log burning stoves, even those used for heating, such as AGAs are excluded.

For more information on this initiative, visit the Clear Skies website at www.clear-skies.org

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