The use of renewable energy is certainly on the rise, however with two thirds of the electricity we use in the UK still coming from ‘brown’ sources (such as nuclear energy or burning fossil fuels), could it ever be possible for the UK to generate 100% of its energy from renewable sources?
There are examples of countries which are doing exactly that. Norway, Iceland, Uruguay, Paraguay and Costa Rica have already managed to go 100% renewable, using combinations of wind, hydro and geothermal methods of generation. And that’s not all; Denmark have already demonstrated that they can rely on nothing more than wind power to supply a day’s worth of energy and in Germany, 78% of the country’s energy supply came from renewable sources on a single day in June 2016.
However, like most things in life that are worth doing, it’s not as straightforward as you might think.
Creating methods of renewable energy generation is expensive. For example, a single wind turbine generating 1.5MW of energy can cost over two million pounds to install. To put this into context, on average this would produce the same amount of electric energy as that used by almost 332 households over a year. However, wind power isn’t constant, so a turbine produces power at or above its annual average rate only 40% of the time.
With an estimated 25 million homes in the UK, that’s a lot of turbines and a lot of investment.
Because we’re an island, we have a lot of coastline, which is a great place to generate wind energy. One of the drawbacks of wind power – as we’ve already said – is that it isn’t constant, so there are periods of high and low generation. This means that if we were to rely on 100% wind power, we could find that at certain points of the year the power generated would not meet demand.
Reliable energy sources are therefore really important. Some of the countries who are already 100% renewable are fortunate to live in areas where renewable energy sources are plentiful, such as Iceland, where 85% of homes are powered by geothermal energy, generated its volcanic location.
Two thirds of the electricity used to power homes and businesses in the UK still comes from ‘brown’ energy sources and there are a few reasons for this. Customers are not always aware of the source of their energy, so they’re not making informed choices when deciding what to buy, or in some cases, suppliers sell green energy at a premium, which makes customers more reluctant to buy it. Whatever the reason, the more people who opt for green energy, the more need there will be to supply it and in turn, the more investment will be put into its generation.
So, is 100% renewable energy impossible?
It’s not impossible, but we’ve some way to go before we get there.
Technology in energy generation and storage is constantly advancing, making it cheaper and more efficient and there are already some great things happening in renewable energy to get us closer to that 100% target:
- Wind turbines are getting bigger. The world’s most powerful wind turbine has been built off the coast of Aberdeen. The first of 11 to be built on the site, it’s expected that they will generate 70% of Aberdeen's domestic electricity demand. A single propeller rotation can power an average home for a whole day.
- Advances in solar energy generation will make the technology more commonplace. Solar skin technology will allow solar panels to be easily applied to homes and buildings and solar roads are already being built in the US, which generate energy to not only power streetlights but also melt snow during winter weather.
- Hydro generation is also advancing quickly, with significant steps taken in harnessing power from tidal, wave and marine current sources. In the US, the Department of the Interior have estimated that just 1% of the Gulf Stream’s energy could meet 35% of Florida’s annual electricity needs.
At Gulf Gas & Power, we’re happy to be doing our bit by offering our customers 100% renewable electricity for their homes and businesses 100% of the time and we don’t charge our customers a premium for going green either. To find out how you can make the switch click on the link below…