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Chapter One: Introduction
Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources that are renewable, constantly replenished by nature such as sunlight, wind, rain and geothermal heat. All of these forms of renewable energy can be used as a cleaner source of energy in houses. As these forms of renewable energy can be harnessed to generate sufficient electricity even for the most demanding of houses and then some, the electricity generated from renewable resource would be clean, safe, environmentally friendly, cost effective and efficient.
“Our present happy progressive condition is a thing of limited duration”
William Stanley Jevons 1865
This quotation shows that as far back as the mid 1800s civilisation knew the that worlds resources were not infinite and that one day they could run out, so for the past 150 years or so civilisation could have been planning for this and looking for alternative types of energy such as renewable energy.
“Traditional Fossil fuels are running out, they are getting harder and more expensive to obtain, and their emissions are polluting our planet. Newer, greener, alternative, renewable, energy solutions are available today. Emerging technologies are making them more efficient, and more affordable, with shorter payback times. This makes them a viable alternative to traditional energy sources.
Energy costs have snowballed in recent years. U.K energy wholesale prices have risen by 100% for electricity, and 230% for Gas since February 2007. Coal has seen a, massive jump with a 400% increase in the last 10 years, from just £23 a ton in 1999 to £100 a ton in 2008. Oil prices have increased dramatically recently and are always prone to fluctuation. Oil has reached peak supply and increasing demand from developing nations is likely to keep prices high”. (line.3,4,5. par 2 from home page of www.renewable alternative.co.uk website for Caron alternative energy systems.)
The Author found this quote to be very incisive as it not only shows that traditional fuels are no longer going to be an option in the future but with current demand for energy the price is going to sky rocket. This quotation also looks at how promoting and using renewable energy systems can help you to create a cleaner and more environmentally friendly environment, the quote also looks at how renewable systems can be more cost effective not only in the overall life span but also in the installation aswell as many governments of countries are now giving out grants to homeowners in order to promote renewable energy. The author will go into the details of the grants in greater detail later in the dissertation.
In this dissertation the author aims to show that installing renewable energy systems in domestic houses is not only encouraging green energy but also cost-effective and as productive as traditional heating systems in homes. Throughout the dissertation the author plans to name and describe the different types of renewable energy systems that are available to a dwelling to make it more energy efficient.
- To establish an appropriate research methodology to support the research needs of the dissertation.
- To analyse and assess the different types of renewable energy systems.
- Conduct a survey of consumers who have purchased/installed a renewable energy system in their house.
- To investigate the advantages and disadvantages between renewable energy systems and traditional heating systems.
- Formulate conclusions and make recommendations on the basis of my findings.
Is Renewable energy in domestic houses more beneficial than traditional heating systems?
Structure of Dissertation
Chapter one introduces the reader to the dissertation. It provides a brief overture to the topics that will be discussed in the dissertation. It also discusses the aims, objectives and the structure of the dissertation.
In chapter two the author discusses the research methodologies used to research information and this includes the research process, primary and secondary literature sources.
List of renewable energy systems
In chapter three the author makes a list of the different types of renewable energy systems available to the consumer.
List of traditional heating systems
In chapter four the author makes a list of the traditional heating systems available to the consumer.
Detailed description of renewable energy systems
In chapter five the author gives a detailed description of the different types of renewable energy systems and lists the advantages and disadvantages.
Detailed description of traditional heating systems
In chapter six the author gives a detailed description of the different types of traditional heating systems and lists the advantages and disadvantages.
Analysis of questionnaires
This chapter analyses the opinions of the home owners who have installed renewable energy systems in their homes. In this chapter the author has made up a customer survey and given it to home owners (who have installed renewable energy systems in there house) to complete. The author will compile and analyse the results of this survey.
In this chapter the author looks at different examples of similar research.
Conclusion and recommendations
This chapter provides the conclusions and recommendations of the dissertation.
Bibliography and References
The bibliography and references is a list of all the books, articles and websites used to research the dissertation
Chapter Two Research Methodologies
In this chapter the author outlines the various methods used to produce this dissertation. It identifies the different sources used and illustrates how with comprehensive research the information was collated. The author also discusses the limitations encountered in researching for this dissertation.
The research process begins by the author preparing a preliminary literature review. This enables the author to acquire a sufficient grasp of the theories and methods of analysis in renewable energy systems.
The preliminary literature review help the author develop his knowledge of the planning system and legislation. The preliminary literature study also helps expand an overview of the primary sources of information available. The preliminary literature study in the initial stages in the research process presents a large amount of the material needed for the dissertation. The author uses this information to narrow his research. This focused his intentions on specific areas. The author then had to decide on what format the dissertation would take and how to go about producing it. By studying past dissertations on similar subjects it will assist in the expansion of the initial idea and will demonstrate the correct method to execute a dissertation.
Throughout the research process different information is collected. This information can be broken up into different headings primary and secondary sources.
Sources: Primary and Secondary
Primary Literature Sources:
“Primary literature is the most accurate source of information as it publishes original research” (Naoum, 2007).
The lists of primary sources included in this dissertation were academic research journals, dissertations, government publications and reports on the subject matter. Discussion was carried out with the librarians in both Robert Gordon University and Carlow Institute of Technology this broadened the research avenues. The main sources of information included:
- Documents from the European Union
- Documents from the Irish government
- Sustainable Energy without the hot air by David JC Mackay
- Renewable Energy Policy by Paul Komor
Secondary Literature sources:
Secondary literature sources are those that cite primary sources such as textbooks, trade journals, newspaper articles etc. The secondary sources were mainly conducted during the author’s research period. The author used many different sources such as the internet and the library amenities available. The uses of search engines specifically orientated to renewable energy were of great significance to the author. The internet was a very good source for up to date material. The author concentrated on the local sustainability websites, Departments of Environment in Austria, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom European Parliament, and the national newspaper websites to source information for this information.
During the research for this dissertation there were various limitations. One of the greatest limitations the author encountered was the time restriction. Accumulating the information needed time it takes time to process the information and assemble the dissertation.
A problem the author encountered was there were very few books that discussed the issues of the “the performance of renewable technology in domestic houses”. One other difficulty was the response rate was very poor to the author’s emails and letters. The response rate was very poor and thus effected the author’s overall objective view on this dissertation.
The author undertook a literature review to source the relevant research interests.
The literature review provided the background information for the rationale. In researching for this dissertation the author used textbooks, newspapers, legislation and published reports as the principal sources.
Past dissertations in the Robert Gordon University provided a valuable source of information. The past dissertations were a considerable help with the layout and format of the dissertation and also helped with developing the content.
The use of questionnaires was a significant help in receiving feedback from the people who are most influenced by the renewable energy systems (the people who have had them installed in there houses) on their opinions and experiences.
Chapter 3 List of Renewable Energy Systems
The list of renewable energy systems falls under certain different criteria for example solar, wind power, biomass etc. these are some of the systems that the author will be looking at in greater detail later on in the dissertation.
- Solar panels.
- Photovoltaic cells.
- Evacuated tube collectors.
- Geothermal heat pumps.
- Wind turbines
- Wood Chip or Pellet Boilers
- Rainwater harvesting
Chapter 4 List of Traditional Energy Systems
The list of traditional energy systems that the author has decided to research falls under the following criteria Gas, Oil and Coal the author will be looking at these systems in greater detail later on in the dissertation.
Traditional heating systems
Chapter 5 Detailed Description of Renewable Energy Systems
Solar thermal (heat) energy is often used for heating water used in homes and for heating the insides of buildings (“space heating”). Solar space heating systems can be classified as passive or active.
Passive space heating is what happens to your car on a hot summer day. The sun’s rays heat up the inside of your car. In buildings, the air is circulated past a solar heat surface and through the building by convection (meaning that less dense warm air tends to rise while denser cool air moves downward). No mechanical equipment is needed for passive solar heating.
An active solar thermal system relies on solar collectors to transform sunlight into heat that can be used for space heating or more commonly to produce hot water. Active systems often include some type of energy storage system. Information taken from: (http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyexplained/renewable/flatplate.html)
Solar Energy & the Environment
Using solar energy produces no air or water pollution and no greenhouse gases, but does have some indirect impacts on the environment.
In addition, large solar thermal power plants can harm desert ecosystems if not properly managed. Birds and insects can be killed if they fly into a concentrated beam of sunlight, such as that created by a “solar power tower.” Some solar thermal systems use potentially hazardous fluids (to transfer heat) that require proper handling and disposal.
Concentrating solar systems may require water for regular cleaning of the concentrators and receivers and for cooling the turbine-generator. Using water from underground wells may affect the ecosystem in some arid locations.
What are Photovoltaic Cells and how do they work?
Photovoltaic Panels are usually situated on a roof and use semi conductors to convert sunlight to produce electricity for your home. Unlike Solar Panels which use the energy of the Sun to heat water, Solar PV (photovoltaic) converts the suns energy into electricity. The panels are made up of an array of cells which are made of materials such as silicon. The Solar PV’s are made up of a negative and positive field similar to a battery.
The photovoltaic panels do not require sunlight to be effective as they operate from daylight rather than sunlight specifically, although they do supply more electricity in sunnier climates. The more sun, the more electricity produced.
The photovoltaic cell is activated by light. Electricity is created by the creation of an electric field across layers of semi-conductors in the cell.
Advantages of Solar PV
- Photovoltaic cells are low maintenance, but do require checking of the wiring and ensuring the Photovoltaic panels are kept clean and debris free.
- For new build or renovations, photovoltaic installation costs will be lower as they can be incorporated with other works.
- Photovoltaic reduces your carbon footprint.
- Alternative energy systems can improve overall scoring for ‘Energy Performance Certificates’ which form a compulsory constituent of the Home Information Packs ‘HIPS’ which house sellers now have to compile.
- Alternative, renewable energy systems increase the value and saleability of your property.
- Photovoltaic panels are low noise.
- Photovoltaic panels can be used to supplement wind energy.
Photovoltaic panels should be placed so that they are South or mainly South facing to gain most benefit from them, on an area where they will not obstructed or overshadowed by buildings or trees. If they are in the shade for part of the time their output will be less.
Whilst traditionally these have been available in panels, Photovoltaic is now also available in a form which mimics traditional tiles, and also as units which can be used in the construction of conservatories where they can also provide shade.
For larger Photovoltaic installations you may require planning permission.
A individual system design will provide you with the best options for your individual needs. We are able to design and supply ‘off grid options’ which can allow you to be self sufficient for electricity, heating and hot water.
Photovoltaics (pvs) which convert sunlight directly into electricity, have many attractive features. They are quiet, dependable, have no moving parts, can be installed very quickly, and can be sized to power anything from a single light to an entire community. However they are quite expensive, with current costs of 20 per to 40 us cents per kWh for grid connected systems (compared to 3 to 5 cents per kWh for coal or natural gas systems). Although costs have come down considerably in recent years and will continue to drop ,PVs are currently nowhere near cost competitive with fossil fuels. (l.3,4,5 par.2 pg 39 Renewable Energy Policy by Paul Komor)
Evacuated Tube Collectors
Evacuated cellular tubes are made up of a series of modular tubes mounted in parallel .these tubes can be added to or taken away in accordance to hot water demands. These collectors consist of rows of parallel see through glass tubes in which each contain an absorber tube. In an evacuated tube collector the sunlight passes through the glass tube and heats up the absorber tube by means of a heat exchanger. The thickened fluid then flows back into the bottom of the heat pipe. The pipes must be placed at a certain angle so that the method of vaporization and compaction will work to the best of it’s capability.
Advantages of Evacuated Tube Collectors
- The tubes can be individually replaced easily without special tools and the water does not have to be drained from the solar hot water system.
- The E.C.T (evacuated tube collectors) work like a thermos and keep up to 93% of the suns heat in and lose between only 3-5% of the heat gained.
- The E.C.T will work in cold weather up to -40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Geothermal Heat Pumps
A geothermal heat pump is a central heating and/or cooling system that pumps heat to or from the ground. The geothermal heat pump uses the heat from the ground as a source of heat (in the colder months) or a heat storage (in the warmer months). This design takes advantage of the reasonable temperatures in the ground to improve efficiency and reduce the costs of operating heating and cooling systems.
The systems work a lot like a refrigerator or an air conditioner. Heat pumps can transfer heat from cold areas to warm areas, against the natural direction of run, or the systems can improve the natural surge of heat from a warm area to a cool one. But unlike air-source heat pumps, which predominantly transfers heat to or from the colder outside air, a ground source heat pump takes its heat from the ground. The fact that underground temperatures are much more constant means that geothermal heat pumps are much more energy efficient than air source heat pumps. What a ground source heat pump does is it extracts the heat from the ground in the colder months (for heating) and transfers the heat back into the ground in the warmer months (for cooling).
During the summer months, the procedure can be changed so that the heat pump takes the heat from the building and channels it to the ground.
In order for a ground source heat pump to work it must have a heat exchanger connected with the ground to remove or disperse heat. Direct exchange systems move refrigerant underground, closed loop systems use a combination of anti-freeze and water, where as natural groundwater is used in open loop systems.
“Geothermal electricity has one compelling advantage over wind and solar. It’s not limited by the whims of the wind or the sun and can therefore provide base load electricity. Typical geothermal plants operate at capacity factors of 90 percent, compared to wind’s 25 to 30 percent. This means that a geothermal power plant is delivering close to its maximum output most of the time. This makes it a much more valuable and dependable source of electricity”.
What are wind turbines and how do they work?
Wind turbines are the most common of the alternative energies, they are effectively the modern equivalent of the old fashioned windmill.
The rotors or blades of the wind turbines are placed on a pole high up, where they need relatively little wind to turn them. The spinning blades of the turbines create electricity by rotating a permanent magnet to generate electricity, which can be used for a variety of purposes.
The more electricity required the bigger the wind turbines required. When most people think of wind turbines they think of the very large commercial wind farms, with very high, very large wind turbines. Wind turbines are now available on a much smaller scale for domestic dwellings, and are capable of generating sufficient electricity for the household, and dependent upon size, there is also the possibility of selling excess electricity to the grid.
Advantages of Wind Turbines
- Wind turbines are environmentally friendly.
- Once installed wind turbines provide free electricity.
- Wind turbines are a more established technology, they are a cheaper option and have a lower payback period.
- During periods of good wind, electricity produced by Wind turbines and not used or stored can be sold to electricity companies.
- Our new generation wind turbines not only look different, they are quieter and more efficient. Their light-weight and compact design allows them to be located on building roofs.
In the main, wind turbines are used for supplementing an existing electricity supply.
You will need a suitable environment to be able to locate the turbine, as far away as possible from trees and buildings.
You will need a suitable base or plinth on which to mount the wind turbine.
Wind turbines only generate electricity while there is sufficient wind so a continuous supply of electricity cannot be achieved.
If there is no existing supply of electricity, electricity will either need to be stored for unproductive periods, and/or used in conjunction with another source of renewable energy.
Not all locations are suitable for wind turbines, the positioning of the turbine and the surrounding environment are critical for optimum performance.
Any local planning restrictions need to be taken account of in England and Wales planning permission is necessary to install a small wind turbine.
Wind turbines are best suited for rural properties, farms, community buildings, industrial estates, schools etc.
The fundamental idea behind wind power is appealingly simple: the wind turns the blades, the blades turn the generator, and the generator makes electricity. The reality of course is much more complex. Today’s wind turbines are technically sophisticated and finely engineered, incorporating the latest advances in materials, microprocessor controls, and computational fluid dynamics (for blade design) (line 5, par 2, pg 34 Renewable Energy Policy by Paul Komor)
“Most common process of biomass combustion is burning of wood. In developed countries replacing oil or coal-fired central heating boiler with a wood burning one can save between 20 and 60% on heating bills, because wood costs less than oil or coal. At the same time wood burning units are eco-friendly. They only emit the same amount of the greenhouse gas CO2 as the tree absorbed when it was growing. So burning wood does not contribute to global warming. Since wood contains less sulphur than oil does, less sulphate is discharged into the atmosphere. This means less acid rain and less acid in the environment”. (This is the opinion of the manufactures of the frohling company who manufacture biomass boilers.)
Biomass can be converted to different forms of energy including heat, power, combined heat and power or liquid bio fuels.
- Direct combustion of biomass material. Some processing of biomass may be carried out prior to combustion e.g. sorting, chipping, pelleting or drying.
- The chemical processes-where solid biomass is upgraded to a liquid or a gas by pyrolisis and gasification.
- Decomposition of solid biomass to liquid or gaseous fuels by processes such as anaerobic and fermentation.
Whilst the author was researching biomass energy he came across a very interesting article on the importance of biomass energy in Germany this is what it states “Biomass is one of the most important and most diverse renewable energy sources in Germany”. Quote taken from (http://www.bmu.de/english/renewable_energy/doc/42722.php).As Germany is one of the leading countries in sustainability in the European Union the author thought that this would be quite beneficial to the dissertation. Biomass can be used in solid, gas and liquid form to create electricity and heat and to produce bio-fuels. It is estimated that of the total final energy created from renewable sources in the year ending 2007 biomass contributed 69% this is a staggering figure when you take that more than two thirds of renewable energy came from biomass. According to the final energy consumption bio energy is responsible for almost 4 percent of total electricity use, just over 6 percent of total heat required and 7.6 percent of total fuel needed.
“The use of bio-energy is to be further expanded. The technical potential required for this is available in Germany. In the agricultural and forestry sector, part of the 17 million hectares of agricultural land (approx. 12 million hectares of arable land and approx. 5 million hectares of grassland) and of the 11 million hectares of woodland are available for biomass production.
By far the most important source of bioenergy in Germany is wood. About one quarter of Germany’s wood production (lower quality line of production) is used for generating energy, approximately three quarters are used as material. Waste wood and used wood are also used for energy production. Model calculations by the Federal Research Centre for Forestry and Forest Products have shown that there are reserves to expand the use of wood without impairing sustainable forestry.” quote taken from (http://www.bmu.de/english/renewable_energy/doc/42722.php) this quote shows how the German people are using there natural resources to further enhance the solution to fossil fuel problems.
Economically biomass energy has become quite significant in Germany with almost 100,000 jobs being created in the bio energy sector, specifically in the agricultural and forestry sections, where they are manufacturing materials such as pellets, wood chips or biogas from biomass. The total earnings from the bio-energy sector came to 10.23 billion euro in 2007.
(Information was taken from the website of the Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of the German Government)
Rainwater harvesting is the collecting and keeping of rainwater. It can provide water for drinking, for farm animals, for watering land and for water to refill acquifies in the process known as groundwater recharge. In some cases rainwater is the only sensible or available water source. The systems are very suitable in areas where the rainfall is greater than 200mm per year. There are two types of harvesting ground water harvesting and roof harvesting.
Ground water harvesting systems feed water from a prepared catchment area into a storage area. They are usually only considered in areas where rainwater is extremely limited and additional supplies of water are lacking or not available at all.
They are very suitable for small communities. If well designed, ground catchments systems can collect large amounts of rainwater.
Roof harvesting systems feed rainwater that falls onto a roof into storage through a system of gutters and pipes. The initial flurry of rainwater after a dry spell should not be stored as it could be polluted with dirt, bird droppings etc. Roof gutters must have sufficient slope to avoid any chance of a back log of water. The gutters must be strong enough, and big enough to carry maximum flows. In order to reduce the risk of contamination and fungus growth the storage tanks should be covered. In order for the Rainwater harvesting systems to be kept hygienic and clean they require regular cleaning and maintenance this will prolong the good working order of the systems.
Rainwater harvesting in towns or cities can be very useful for many reasons. One of the main reasons rainwater harvesting can be implemented in cities is to supply extra water for the city’s requirements, to replenish vegetation to improve the scenic beauty of a town/city, to increase the ground water table through artificial recharge, to alleviate urban flooding and to improve the quality of groundwater. Another reason that rainwater harvesting can be useful for is in households the water can be used to flush toilets and for washing clothes, sometimes it can be more beneficial to use rainwater to do laundry as some area the mains water may have traces of lime which could effect the washing machine over time. It can also be used for showering or bathing. It will require ultra violet treatment prior to use for drinking.
Chapter 6 Detailed Description of Traditional Energy Systems
In this chapter the author decided to look at the materials used to heat the traditional types of heating systems.
How Was Natural Gas Formed?
“The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a gas (or compound) composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Millions of years ago, the remains of plants and animals (diatoms) decayed and built up in thick layers. This decayed matter from plants and animals is called organic material – it was once alive. Over time, the sand and silt changed to rock, covered the organic material, and trapped it beneath the rock. Pressure and heat changed some of this organic material into coal, some into oil (petroleum), and some into natural gas – tiny bubbles of odourless gas.”
Advantages of Natural Gas
The process of burning natural gas is cleaner than burning other fossil fuels. It releases fewer emissions of sulphur, carbon, and nitrogen than oil or coal. As natural gas is one of the cleaner fuels it has become much more popular in recent years.
Disadvantages of Natural Gas
Natural gas may be cleaner than other fossil fuels but like other fossil fuel, the burning of natural gas will produce carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the second biggest greenhouse gas contributing to the greenhouse effect. Natural gas also has a negative effect on the environment while it is being manufactured, refining and transporting.
- Oil was created from the remains of plants and animals that existed millions of years ago in a maritime environment.
- Heating oil is a liquid with gluey features, it is a combustible liquid petroleum product used as a fuel for heating systems or boilers in buildings
- Heating oil is very similar to diesel fuel, and both are classified as distillates. It consists of a mixture of petroleum and hydrocarbons
Disadvantages of Oil
Oil products help us achieve many things. We use them oil products to fuel many of our transport systems such as automobiles, planes trains etc to heat our homes, and to develop products such as medicines and plastics. Even though oil products make life easier – discovering, manufacturing, transporting, and the use of them can harm the environment through water and air pollution.
Harmful gases and emissions are produced from burning Oil products.
Some of these harmful emissions include:
- Particulate matter (PM)
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
Nearly all of these by-products of burning oil have a negative effect on peoples health and the environment:
- Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which is of course a source of global warming.
- SO2 is known to causes cause
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