There are many reasons why alternative energy supplies to coal, oil and gas are being looked at; in fact, with each passing day, it becomes a more urgent and pressing need for our traditional, and much relied upon sources of energy – natural gas, oil and coal – are running out. And so, what are the domestic energy solutions available today… and which one is right for you?
Dotted across the country and out at sea, you will see rising from the landscape, tall, white three-bladed turbines. Turning gently, they generate electricity when the wind blows. Windmills, of course, are nothing new; wind turning blades have turned the cogs of heavy machinery to mill grain and so on, thus it seems an obvious solution to have turbines generating power. In terms of domestic properties, most councils allow the erection of one domestic turbine as a permitted development BUT, always check!
Back in 2005, wind power generated less than 1% of the energy supply needed but, with no pollutants or chemicals needed, wind turbines are a great addition to any property but, on its own, is unlikely to generate enough power for your household, and wind power is intermittent too.
dotted = to be spread over an area
a three-bladed turbine =
to mill grain =
pollutants = a substance that pollutes something, especially air and water
intermittent = stopping and starting often over a period of time, but not regularly
The use of solar panels has been prominent for many years now and this alternative form of power supply is garnering favour. With the increase in sophistication of panels, more of the sun’s energy is now harvested every moment of daylight hours.
Investing in panels can be an expensive outlay – the roof needs to be in good repair and strong enough to hold their weight; likewise, you home needs to be in tip-top condition when it comes to energy efficiency too so in terms of solar panels, it isn’t just a case of sticking a few panels on the roof.
That said, however, it is an incredibly efficient form of generating your own power. Panels can harvest so much energy that you can end up selling any surplus to the national grid, making you money although, in the first instance, this ‘profit’ will be paying back your initial investment in the system. Solar power is a long term investment, not a get-rich-quick scheme as it has sometimes been portrayed.
prominent = important or well known
to garner = to obtain or collect something such as information, support, etc.
to harvest = to gather
outlay = the money that you have to spend in order to start a new project
surplus = an amount that is extra or more than you need
the national grid = the electricity supply in a country
Countries that are tectonically active – volcanoes and so forth, such as Iceland and New Zealand – have long harnessed the heat that spews forth from the ground. Heating homes, outdoor swimming pools and so on, the use of geothermal energy is common place.
However, many people assume that because here in the UK we lack active volcanoes, and don’t have steam or boiling water rising from the ground that geothermal energy is a no-no. The earth has heat in it everywhere on the planet, including here and in your back garden.
It does require digging with heavy machinery, as pipes need to be laid that penetrate deep in to the earth; these pipes are filled with a mixture of anti-freeze and water and, as the mixture passes through and around the warm earth, it picks up this heat which is then used within your home.
Rather than power lights, energy from geothermal systems are about providing heat, but if you are thinking of the same level of heat from a roaring fire, then you are in for disappointment. The heat supplied by this type of system is a far lower, back ground kind of heat, perfect for under floor heating.
Again, as with other forms of alternative energy, your home needs to be at the top end of the scale when it comes to energy efficiency so that it holds on to as much of the heat generated by your ground source energy system as possible.
Small in size and with minimal impact on the environment, this type of system is easy to run and maintain.
to spew = to flow out quickly, or to make something flow out quickly, in large amounts
to penetrate = to go into or through something
This is not something that an individual household can create themselves, unless you have a gushing river nearby that you can create your own dam etc. However, it is something that the larger energy companies are beginning to take more seriously, and invest in.
Tidal power, harnessed the raw energy of the sea as the tide comes in twice a day, is one way of generating a bulk of power. Turbine are lowered in to the sea on a barrier than restricts the width of the tide, thereby creating a rushing, funnelling effect. The hydro power plant at Llanberis in North Wales, can also produce a glut of power when needed by allowing tons of water to effectively freefall down the inside of a mountain in a myriad of tubes and tunnels, driving turbines at the bottom. When the top lake is empty, these turbines are put in reverse to pump the water back up, ready for the next call on power.
Every source of alternative power supply needs to be researched so that we can carry on living the way we choose, surrounded by technology that needs electrical power to run.
gushing river =
a funnel =
a glut = a situation in which there is more of something than is needed or can be used