Here’s something we can all agree on: renewable energy sources are essential for the continued equilibrium of our economy, society, climate and environment. Green energy is no new thing however; the first experiments with solar energy were conducted in the late 19th century as a potential alternative to coal was sought. So why has it taken us so long to go green, and what can we expect from renewable energy in the years to come? Are green technologies powerful enough to work in conjunction with heating oil?
Wave and tide power
Wave and tide energy seem to be ideal solutions to the energy crisis. Their ingresses on our shores are ceaseless and relentless, the energy they produce immense and their occurrence natural and harmless. So why is it that these power sources are still so underexploited? The first obstacle is the relative difficulty in harnessing the power of waves and tides. Scientists and engineers have struggled to produce machines that can capture the vast amounts of energy they create, without being destroyed by them. The best current systems can only harness some 20% of the energy generated by these forces, making them fairly inefficient. There are also environmental concerns regarding wave and tide generators, with many people unsure as to what effect, if any, the vast offshore generators will have on the fragile ecosystems beneath them. However, the UK’s unbroken coastline and in particular the rough waters of Northern Scotland provide incredible scope for these energy sources, and if we can harness them effectively, the UK is sitting on a potential energy goldmine. We’d welcome the extra energy that could work in conjunction with home heating oil.
As we mentioned before, solar power is no new thing. So why is it only recently that we’re beginning to see more and more cells on people’s homes? Why isn’t our entire country being powered by safe, renewable solar power? Solar power has taken a long time to become popular primarily because of the numerous technological barriers it posed to its progenitors. Early solar cells were grossly inefficient, with the scale required to generate anything like a useful amount of electricity making them hugely impractical for domestic use. Now though, solar cells and rechargeable storage batteries work very well, and the cost of the initial outlay is more than made up for in long-term savings generated through producing your own energy. However, solar is an intermittent energy source, and thanks to our rather miserable climate, it is effectively useless for long periods of the year in the UK. Many people find that solar cells work brilliantly in conjunction with heating oil boilers, with the more traditional technology able to provide heat and energy during high-demand times.
Wind power is becoming more and more popular worldwide, both domestically and industrially, thanks to the clean renewable energy it produces. So can we expect to see a proliferation of wind farms springing up across the UK? Well, wind power has its detractors too. The enormous turbines used to harness this natural resource are expensive to maintain, harmful to birds, bats and other wildlife, noisy and often consigned to remote areas of natural beauty, where they are considered to be an eyesore. Furthermore, wind power is another intermittent energy source that, like solar, is useless if weather conditions don’t co-operate. That said, a domestic wind turbine is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and when combined with an oil heating system, is a genuinely workable, practical solution.
Over the next decade or so, we’re likely to see renewable energies becoming more and more common on our shores as technologies develop, fossil fuels become scarcer and carbon emissions are more stringently monitored. For now though, you can fit your home with domestic solar cells or a small wind turbine for a small initial outlay. Coupling these technologies with your existing oil boiler, while requiring an initial outlay, will pay dividends in the long run as you can save money by producing your own energy, and help the environment to boot.