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Renewable Energy Options For The Home – Part 1 – Biomass-Wood Pellet – Hydropower- Wind Power
Energy consumption is indispensable in our homes, providing heating and electricity to the home. Traditionally, we have relied on fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil to meet our energy needs. Fossil fuels are a finite resource by nature and will run out over time. Apart from this, they are harming the environment by contributing heavily to the generation of greenhouse gases. The most significant of these greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2) – almost half of the energy associated with CO2 emissions comes from energy use in buildings.
There are many ways to reduce energy needs in the home without including warmth, comfort and general living conditions. Renewable energy sources can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are also good for the economy due to issues surrounding the long-term availability of fossil fuels.
Renewable energy options for the homeowner include solar energy (solar), heat beneath the earth’s surface (geothermal), and wood and energy crops (biomass). In Ireland, many of these resources are in good supply. Homeowners can do their bit for the environment by choosing a renewable heating system that meets their needs in terms of heat demand, budget and environmental considerations.
Biomass is all plant and animal matter on Earth’s surface. Bioenergy is the term given to extracting biomass from crops, trees etc. to generate energy.
Indeed, biomass was the first fuel that mankind learned to use when the first primitive fire occurred. Biomass has gained a significant share of the continent’s energy market. Ireland has the lowest consumption of biomass in Europe but one of the largest resources. Biomass supplies about 1% of the country’s energy needs in the form of domestic and industrial wood heating. Wood is a ‘carbon neutral’ fuel because it absorbs as much CO2 as it burns.
The main types of wood fuel are chips and pellets. Wood chips are a clean, low moisture fuel made from wood in its natural state. They are high energy, low smoke fuels. They are bulky fuels which means they are generally unsuitable for domestic purposes due to storage issues. They are used in large buildings or for heating clusters of domestic properties through a heating scheme. Wood pellets are a clean, dry fuel made from a mixture of sawdust and wood shavings. Wood pellets are 6-12 mm in diameter and 6-20 mm in length. It is easy to ignite the pellets and leave some ash. A feeding mechanism such as a hopper can be used to feed the pellet burner.
Just like a traditional oil or gas burner, a wood pellet boiler will provide complete central heating and hot water. Wood pellet stoves heat a single room. They create a small fire that is concentrated in the center of the unit, heating it up.
Just like a traditional oil or gas burner, a pellet boiler will provide complete central heating and hot water. Pellet stoves heat a single room. They create a small fire that is concentrated in the center of the unit, heating it up.
An important consideration when choosing a pellet burner is storage. Pellets are a larger fuel which means that oil requires more storage space than that. The store should also be kept completely dry and free from moisture.
Hydropower is the capture of the energy of moving water for some useful purpose. Moving water energy has been used for centuries but was first used to generate electricity in the 1870s. The power generated by a hydroelectric scheme depends on the height of the water fall and the amount of water available. From a given point on the river the water is diverted to a turbine house where the turbine converts the kinetic energy of the falling water into mechanical energy. The generator then converts the mechanical energy in the turbine into electrical energy.
Given its nature, the resource is very site specific (even more so than solar) but if you’re lucky enough to have a stream nearby and have enough head (the height between your source and your hydro turbine) and enough flow, it’s one. viable options. Capital requirements for civil engineering works such as weirs and aqueducts are points to consider. Designing diversions and intakes that will effectively drain debris and handle high seasonal flows can be challenging.
Ireland has abundant wind energy. More and more large scale wind turbines can be seen across the country to meet the nation’s electricity needs. Wind energy is clean, free and of course infinite.
For remote locations with no connection to the energy grid, wind turbine-based power supply will generate much cheaper electricity than the cost of running power lines. A turbine large enough to supply a significant portion of the energy needs of an average household would require at least half an acre of land. Factors that determine the feasibility of a turbine for a home include wind speed and direction. Wind speed increases with altitude so turbines placed at higher altitudes will produce more output. The site must also have a good ‘aspect’ to the prevailing wind.
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