Why You Should Install Renewable Energy In Your Self Build Home In 2021

self build renewable energy

If you are a self-builder planning your own home building project in 2021 sustainability will no doubt be a priority for you. You will need to consider what types of renewable energy systems can power your home but make as low an impact on the environment as possible. There are a number of renewable energy systems available which can considerably reduce your carbon emissions and cut your energy costs. Established carbon neutral technologies have never been more affordable with the greatest results being achieved in new build projects. With renewable energy prices falling and incentives to go green now is the ideal time to build your own home and create an energy efficient space that will have much lower long-term running costs.

It’s an excellent time to get ahead of the game as the UK government has ruled that gas boilers will be banned in all new homes built after 2025. The government’s “future homes standard” will require all new builds to have low-carbon systems, such as electric heat pumps. The ruling is part of the government’s ten-point initiative to help the UK reach its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. From this year all new homes are expected to achieve a 31% reduction in carbon emissions to ensure industry is ready to meet the new standards by 2025.

Although any experienced self-builder will understand that doing it yourself isn’t the easiest path to take, they will also be aware that the cost of a self-build home can be considerably cheaper than if you were to buy from a commercial developer. For many people money will be the biggest incentive to installing renewable energy into their home.

It’s almost always cheaper to merge renewables into a new build rather than trying to retrofit into an older house. You will be able to tap into the best options available rather than having to compromise.

If you build your own home as a DIY ‘self-build’ project or contract a builder to create a ‘custom-built’ home, you will be eligible to apply for the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  With the RHI, you can enjoy financial returns for up to 7 years after the instalment of renewable energy systems, meaning the end cost is far less. In order to be eligible for the RHI your renewable energy systems must be accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. MCS certification is an internationally recognised quality and safety scheme for small-scale renewable energy technologies.

Some of the most common renewable energy technologies available are:

Air Source Heat Pumps

Air source heat pumps are one of the most popular options for self-builds being cheaper to run than traditional heating sources as well as producing significantly less CO2 emissions which will promote a higher Standard Assessment Procedure rating (SAP). SAP calculations are a requirement of the Building Regulations and are required for all newly built dwellings in the UK. An SAP is the official, government approved system for assessing the energy rating for a new home. Air source heat pumps run on electricity and work by converting outside air to warm air, which then acts as your heating system. They are compatible with solar panels which means you can generate your own electricity to power your air source heat pump. Known for being efficient and reliable air source heat pumps are also eligible for the government’s RHI.  

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground Source Heat pumps use the heat energy collected in the ground from solar exposure to provide your heating and hot water needs.

Installing the ground source heat pump system is perfect for new builds as it requires a lot of soil upheaval in your garden or drilling deep down into the earth. Installation isn’t cheap but the end result is a system with a very low running cost. These pumps are an attractive choice for self-builds because after you’ve made the initial outlay, the RHI will give you a good return on your investment by the end of the 7-year term.

Solar PV & Solar Thermal

Solar panels, otherwise known as photovoltaics (PV) are a system for generating electric power via solar cells which convert energy from the sun into a flow of electrons via the photovoltaic effect. Generally better for a south facing property, solar panels are improving all the time with specialist PV cells able to generate power even on a cloudy day.

You can either use this energy directly in your home or store it with a special renewable battery storage system. If you don’t need to use all your stored energy you can sell excess energy back to the grid. Solar PV is far more affordable today and can be paired with air source heat pumps or used as a standalone system to generate all the electricity your household will need. With oil and gas prices rising year on year the sooner you invest in solar the more quickly you will get a return. There are no longer any government subsidies for solar panels, but you can benefit from the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). The SEG pays customers of the big energy companies for renewable electricity they have generated and put into the grid. They have had to participate in the SEG since the beginning of 2020.

The sun is an infinite renewable energy source which can also be used for solar heating water. Solar thermal panels are ideal for a self-build project. They work by transferring the suns heat within special pipes on your roof via copper wires inside. Solar thermal panels are a great option for heating water for a new build home and can be a part of your eco build strategy. They are also eligible for the RHI.

An important benefit to bear in mind when installing renewable energy in your self-build is that your house value will ultimately rise too. Having a super energy efficiency rating will make your home even more attractive to potential buyers knowing that they won’t have to go through a ‘transition’ to clean energy later on as the work is already done. This means that renewable energy is a real investment into your present and future wealth.

Investing in a green self-build project means your home will no longer be a part of the problem causing climate crisis but instead part of the solution. According to the Climate Change Committee (CCC) 40% of the UK’s emissions currently come from households which explains why the government is so keen to see change in the way we use energy in our homes.

Air source heat pumps, solar panels, solar thermal and ground source heat pumps produce a significantly lower amount of CO2 making your home clean and green.

Another factor that should be taken into account is the degree of pollution generated by using fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal which affects the health of many people. When you build your new home using renewable energy you are a making a big difference to your contribution to air pollution. By not burning fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal via home heating and electricity, you are no longer pumping poisonous gases into the atmosphere which benefits you, your whole community, and the future health of our planet.

Ultimately you may be able to go off-grid entirely with renewable energy, no longer subject to energy price increases and self-sufficient. To be completely independent of the national grid, a single renewable technology won’t be enough. A combination of a storage battery, a solar PV system and a heat pump will likely be needed to match the usual energy needs of an average household on grid.

It is clear that the technology is now available and appealing for those thinking about how to start a self-build project.

Using AI for Environmental Disaster Prevention

AI

What comes to mind when you think of artificial intelligence? For most people, it’s things like the Terminator movie franchise or Elon Musk’s incessant and often intelligible fear of the technology. While the machines might not be sentient, AI is quickly becoming one of the most valuable tools we have in our collective arsenals.

From tracking disease spreads to staying one step ahead of poachers, how is AI helping us prevent environmental disasters around the globe?

Tracking Climate Change

Natural disasters are becoming more common every year, largely due to climate change. These disasters are occurring four times more frequently than they did 50 years ago, and experts predict that these numbers will continue to climb as the planet warms. AI systems, with enough data to study, can help to track the impact that climate change will have on the planet, as well as eventually begin to predict these disasters before they have a chance to devastate planetary populations.

The more information an AI system has, the smarter it can become. Add to that the fact that these systems can process information faster and more efficiently than humans, and these systems can even predict the future. It might sound like magic but it’s not fortune telling — it’s just data.

Mobilizing Relief Resources

One of the biggest challenges we face after a disaster is mobilizing relief resources to those that need them most. Currently, we rely on humans to decide when and where to distribute relief supplies and money — and if there are arguments about these facts, it can take a lot longer to determine who needs the most help. You only have to look at the United State’s delayed COVID response for the perfect example of that.

AI removes the guesswork and human bias, determining when and where relief supplies should be distributed based on data alone. They can dispatch emergency services, and even assess damage through the use of satellite photography. Some programmers are even working to create an AI that can analyze social media posts to determine where these services are most needed.

Tracking Pandemic Trends

When COVID-19 started circling the globe, we had no idea how to respond. Do we stay home? Do we wear masks? Do we shut things down or do we try to keep moving forward? There was a lot of conflicting information, and we weren’t sure what to do. People staying home and working remotely increased the need for power but decreased oil demand. The price of oil dropped dramatically in the early months of 2020. While it has recovered during the intervening months, it’s entirely possible that another lockdown, while we wait for full vaccine distribution, could have the same effect.

In these cases, renewable energy and AI go hand in hand. Currently, the electricity generated by sustainable systems is intermittent at best — solar doesn’t work at night, and the wind doesn’t work when the air is still. It’s up to system operators to compensate for this intermittent power generation to keep the grid stable. An AI system can manage that task more efficiently than a human operator in a fraction of the time, keeping things stable without worrying about human error. This sort of AI power grid control could prevent something like the devastating blackouts we saw in Texas during the 2021 Winter Storms.

The Future of AI

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the waves of the future. The technology may have garnered a negative reputation, thanks to pop culture references. Still, in reality, it can do things that would take a human being lifetime to accomplish in the blink of an eye. This is just the beginning.

Low Energy Sustainable Buildings

In this modern age, we are always looking for ways in which to be more sustainable, there is no denying that. Whether that is eating less meat, recycling more, or using renewable energy in our homes. We only have one planet and even the smallest lifestyle changes can have incredible results on its sustainability. While switching to a renewable energy supplier is a fantastic way to become more sustainable, there is also another way in which your home can help the environment, particularly if you are planning your very own self-build project.

Self-Build Homes

Self-building has taken the UK by storm recently with an estimated 7-10% of homes built each year in the UK now being a self-build. There are many reasons for this including: designing and building a home individual to you, creating a home for retirement or constructing a high-quality home at a cost-effective price. Another key reason we have seen a sharp rise in UK self-builds is their undeniably positive impact on sustainability, particularly when built to Passivhaus standards.

Passivhaus (sometimes known as Passive House) building is a voluntary standard of construction where design principles are implemented in such a way that allows for the occupant to have a high level of comfort (heating and cooling) while using little-to-zero energy. This ingenious way of building allows the user to have both a reduction in energy costs and much lower carbon emissions from their home. So, not only does this help the environment, but it can also save you money!

Reduction in Heating Demand

Passivhaus homes often see a huge reduction in heating demand. This is primarily achieved through high levels of insulation using Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF), while also reducing the number of thermal bridges in the home.

ICF is a revolutionary innovation in both walling and foundation systems for self-builds. With the walling systems, hollow polystyrene blocks are used to construct the frame of the home itself. Concrete is then poured into the blocks which gives unrivalled insulating properties over more traditional materials used in other walling systems. ICF foundation slabs are of a similar idea but used in the foundations of a home or basement. These are ground slabs that are usually cast at the project site, then reinforced with a steel mesh or fibre. Again, offering incredible insulation over more traditional foundation methods in homes and ultimately reducing energy consumption.

Thermal bridging is the areas of a home where heat tries to escape. This is typically where there is a break or penetration in the structure as the heat will tend to follow the path where it has the least resistance when escaping.

This usually will be:

  • Where the floor meets a wall
  • Where a wall meets the roof
  • Pipe or cable entrances
  • Around windows and doors

Passivhaus homes are built to be almost free of any thermal bridging, therefore significantly reducing the demand for traditional heating methods.

Passivhaus and Sustainability

There truly is no denying that there is a direct correlation between Passivhaus building and sustainability. Looking at the key benefit to come from building a home to Passivhaus standards: if there is a reduction in the demand for heating, this will certainly limit the requirement for energy usage and ultimately reduce a home’s carbon emissions.

Heat in a Passivhaus home is generated from appliances such as the oven, a computer, refrigerators or even lightbulbs and candles. It is also generated from a home’s occupants utilising good old fashioned body heat.

As we don’t all have the luxury of living in a warmer climate, particularly in the UK, there will sometimes be a requirement for the use of traditional heating methods even in a Passivhaus home. Building a home to the high Passivhaus standards and going through the rigorous certification process central to sustainability, most self-builders will tend to opt for an eco-friendly energy source too. Having solar-powered energy sources installed in your home or using a renewable energy provider is always the best way in which to ensure that your Passivhaus home is truly built with sustainability at its core.

This article was provided by Econekt. They are a UK-wide low-energy construction firm with a focus on Passivhaus and ICF self-building. So good, even Mother Nature would approve.

Amazon’s Latest Venture in Going 100 Percent Renewable by 2025

Amazon

Amazon, the world’s largest retailer, is no stranger to disruptive technology. The brand built its name by revolutionising e-commerce and defined the smart device movement. But its latest tech venture is in sustainable power. Amazon’s renewable energy investments are reaching new heights.

In 2019, Amazon announced that it aims to run entirely on renewables by 2030. By mid-2020, it adjusted that goal, claiming it’s on track to achieve it by 2025. That’s an impressive statement, considering how massive a company Amazon is, with fulfilment centres across the globe.

A company of Amazon’s size consumes a remarkable amount of electricity. As 2025 draws nearer, the e-commerce giant has little time to switch to renewables. Here’s how Amazon is making it happen.

Record-Breaking Renewable Energy Projects

Amazon’s renewable energy goals are lofty, so it’s had to take some significant strides to pursue them. In late 2019, the company launched the largest corporate wind power purchase in the U.K. This project, a wind farm in Kintyre Peninsula, Scotland, will generate 168,000 megawatt-hours of energy annually, enough to power 46,000 homes.

This wind farm isn’t the only record-breaking renewable energy project Amazon has started. In December 2020, Amazon became the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable power after adding 26 utility-scale projects. These solar and wind projects will raise the company’s sustainable power capacity to 6.5 gigawatts, supplying 18 million megawatt-hours annually.

Since Amazon consumes so much power, it can’t generate enough on its own yet. To help reach its goals, the company has partnered with Shell to supplement its renewable energy efforts. Shell will provide power from an offshore wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands, helping both Amazon and the company’s own sustainability goals.

Amazon’s Other Investments in Renewable Energy

Amazon’s renewable energy investments include more than generating clean power for its operations. They also cover funding for other businesses that provide sustainable power services or technologies. Since regulations can make it challenging for energy companies to expand, these funds can be of significant help to smaller renewable energy businesses.

Investing in other renewable technology developers can also help Amazon find new solutions to its energy problems. Supporting research in the area can lead to new technologies and services that would make large-scale renewable energy more viable. Amazon would then have a better chance at meeting its goals in time.

Since deliveries are a central part of Amazon’s business model, the retailer has also pursued zero-emissions vehicles. Its first fleet of electric vans started making deliveries in early 2021, with hopes to have 10,000 in service by 2022. This movement will help ensure Amazon’s vehicles don’t generate enough emissions to counter their renewable energy projects.

How Will This Impact Energy and Technology in the U.K.?

This shift towards sustainability could impact the overall energy and technology sectors in the U.K. Amazon is the world’s leading cloud service provider, accounting for 32% of the global cloud market. Consequently, when its data centres run on green energy, the U.K. companies that rely on them will become more sustainable.

Since so many services rely on Amazon’s data centres, its renewable infrastructure must be reliable. Any disruptions or malfunctions could jeopardize the cloud processes of U.K. businesses. In light of these potential consequences, Amazon has to ensure its wind and solar projects will provide constant, sufficient service.

As Amazon shifts to renewable energy, it could inspire other U.K. companies to do the same. If a business as massive and energy-intensive as Amazon can run on renewables, a smaller business could too. The success of Amazon’s renewable energy projects could start a clean power revolution among U.K. companies.

Amazon’s Renewable Energy Goals Are Bold but Not Impossible

Relying on sustainable energy can seem like an intimidating goal for any company. A business as large as Amazon aiming for 100% renewable power in just a few years is a loftier goal than most. As the retailer increases its green energy projects, though, it seems increasingly likely they’ll reach these high aspirations.

Amazon is proving that, with enough commitment, reaching net-zero emissions is possible, and not just in the future. Any U.K. business could start pursuing renewable energy today and become entirely green before long. It will take work, but it’s not impossible.