To Reach Net Zero, the Renewable Energy Supply Chain Must Evolve

Smart Export Guarantee

The U.K. signed the Paris Agreement five years ago, signifying its climate change prevention efforts. The goal revolves around greenhouse gas emission reductions. It adopted various renewable energy sources to limit atmospheric pollution and generate a zero-carbon economy.

When conducting life cycle assessments and energy audits, researchers discovered ecological issues with clean electricity sources. Low efficiency levels and emission-generating production practices decrease the sustainability of renewable energy. Fortunately, we can restructure the supply chain and increase the industry’s eco-consciousness.

Issues in Production

Various production aspects decrease the sustainability of renewable energy sources. The industry is relatively new and still evolving. Over time, researchers and engineers can target environmentally degrading features and source solutions.

When conducting a life cycle assessment of the production process, one must start by evaluating the materials’ origins. The mining and manufacturing associated with wind turbines generate 80% of their carbon emissions. Additional outputs derive from the transportation of materials and the devices themselves.

The transportation sector produces 27% of all U.K. greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the materials in wind, solar and geothermal systems are rare, decreasing their accessibility. Manufacturers receive the components through air, boat or vehicle transportation, taking on their carbon footprint.

The devices also take on the manufacturing facilities’ emissions. Conventional global energy sources derive from fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas. They pollute the atmosphere during combustion. There are many incentives for manufacturers to convert to sustainable energy, including increasing efficiency and appealing to eco-conscious consumers. Going green pays off in more ways than one.

A significant portion of renewable energy sources’ carbon footprints come from poorly managed facilities. We can increase the sustainability of green devices by restructuring the supply chain. When utilizing an electric grid, we can power production facilities and transportation with zero-emission energy.

COMPARE PRICES FROM LOCAL INSTALLERS

Compare prices from local companies fast & free

Enter your postcode to compare quotes from leading professionals. We promise to keep your information Safe & Secure. Privacy Policy

The Electric Grid

The electric grid is a sustainable alternative to the current energy system. It can eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels by sourcing all power from renewables, helping countries achieve net-zero goals.

Generating a net-zero grid requires renewable support for production. Fuel cell energy is on the rise, offering zero-emission electricity and vehicle power. Conventionally, fossil fuel-driven energy helps produce hydrogen for fuel cells.

Recently, environmental engineers discovered a method of production using wind power. It helps companies access clean energy without any associated emissions. The net-zero results offer the potential for a purely sustainable electricity grid.

Producing the net-zero electric grid also requires technological advancements in storage systems. One company developed an efficient model using industrial lithium-ion batteries. The energy storage facility has a 300-megawatt battery, holding enough renewable power to help fuel northern California homes during peak hours.

The facility also repurposed an old power plant as its storage center. We can transform the energy sector in a sustainable way, recycling materials and generating zero emissions. When powering a region with the electric grid, commercial and residential properties must adopt compatible technology.

Compatible Devices

Supporting the longevity of renewable power requires energy-efficient devices. Electric and zero-emission items can preserve sources by preventing overworking and burnout.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems historically consume high quantities of energy. Building owners may install electric HVAC devices or geothermal heating pumps, lowering the overconsumption of energy. Installing a geothermal system can decrease a resident’s energy utilization by nearly 70% a year. Low power consumption improves the efficiency and output of renewable energy sources.

Additionally, consumers can convert from fossil fuel-reliant vehicles to electric versions. You can power electric cars with clean energy, generating a net-zero transportation method. Fortunately, the current devices on the market are compatible, decreasing the need for additional production.

The Initial Steps

Meeting the Paris Agreement’s objective requires a complete restructuring of the energy industry. Before developing an electric grid, professionals may convert current production practices away from their fossil fuel reliance. Society may adopt compatible devices after creating a net-zero supply chain.

Various commercial and residential building owners are jumping the gun and installing electric, zero-emission devices today. Even without an electric grid, the devices significantly shrink one’s carbon footprint. They also increase the value of a property, catering to eco-consumer demands.

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co.

UK Ranked 6th for Share of Power Generated by Wind and Solar Energy

Wind Turbine

The energy and climate think tank Ember ranked the UK 6th for their share of power generated by renewable energy. Denmark held the number one spot. In 2019, wind accounted for 47% of their power usage.

The Rise of Wind and Solar Energy Consumption 

The UK falls not too far behind, with 24.2% of its electricity powered by wind turbines in 2020. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims that offshore wind turbines can create enough energy to power every home in the UK within a decade. He plans to upgrade ports and factories for building turbines. The plan also will invest money into manufacturing sites in Teeside Humber located in Northern England.

Along with the growth of wind power, solar power has also increased in popularity. It made up 6% of the total renewable energy generated in 2019. In 2020, there was a significant increase in ground-mounted solar systems. These were mainly driven by large-scale utility projects. There was also a slight increase in rooftop installations.

The partnership between Solar Energy UK and Solar Media Ltd. helped to provide market insights on these projects.

COMPARE PRICES FROM LOCAL INSTALLERS

Compare prices from local companies fast & free

Enter your postcode to compare quotes from leading professionals. We promise to keep your information Safe & Secure. Privacy Policy

The Decline in Fossil Fuel and Coal Usage

The UK has also decreased its production of coal over the past few years. The amount of coal consumption dropped from 54 million metric tons in 2012 to 2.9 million metric tons in 2019. In fact, the UK only accounts for 3.6% of the world’s total coal consumption. The UK imports most of its coal from Russia.

The UK also saw a decline in its generation of fossil fuels. The pandemic was one major cause of the shift. With the lockdowns, there was lower demand for electricity. This led to the shutdown of many coal-fired plants. Also, during the pandemic, fewer people needed gas. 

The UK’s growing wind industry also impacts the decrease of fossil fuel production. With more wind power available, the less need to rely on nonrenewable sources. The UK is also home to the largest single wind farm in Yorkshire. The plant generates 5% of the country’s total electricity.

The Demand for Electricity Has Declined

The electricity demand has been declining in the UK for the past few years. In 2020, the need for electricity fell to 331,4488 gigawatts per hour. Part of this was due to COVID-19, but other factors include energy-efficient regulations and more eco-friendly consumers.

Since more people understand the benefits of using renewable energy, there’s a lowered demand for other sources.

Why Renewable Energy Is Playing a Larger Role

The UK’s stricter government regulations are causing an increase in renewable energy sources.

In 2015, there was a Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MESS) put in place for Whales and England.

This standard set an energy efficiency level for all domestic private rented properties. If the residence has an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of F or G landlords need to make changes to improve their property. These changes may have to do with lighting or heating.

For example, you could add a solar water heater or solar panels to your home. The MESS regulations were put in place to help the UK reach its carbon reduction targets.

More energy-efficient homes also lower energy bills for consumers. This is why buying energy-efficient appliances are attractive to many people. Residents aren’t the only ones thinking about energy-efficient options. Some power plants use compressed air storage to save energy. This can help to increase the supply during peak energy hours.

There Is Still More to Be Done

While the UK and other countries, such as the U.S. and China, are moving towards renewable energy use. There is still more that needs to be done. To help curb climate emissions, we need to work towards 100% clean energy by 2050. This will help to try and limit the global temperature rise to 1.5℃.

With the UK’s increase in renewable energy and reduction of fossil fuels, they’re helping steer us towards a cleaner future.

Top 5 Solar Land Requirements

A solar land lease is an excellent way to generate an additional revenue stream—with little to no effort on the part of the landowner. In 2021, solar developers across the United States are seeking suitable land for the development of solar farm projects. However, not every parcel of land is suitable for a solar farm and, although the specifics can vary on a project-by-project basis, there are some key requirements common to a successful solar farm.

Below, we have explored the five key areas which determine whether or not land is suitable for the development of a solar project. Of course, each piece of land is unique and the best way to determine the viability of a solar farm is to speak directly with an experienced solar developer. Nonetheless, the following points will give a general idea of whether or not land is suitable for a solar farm.

#1. Parcel Size

If the parcel of land isn’t large enough to house a solar farm, then the project won’t go ahead. Generally speaking, solar developers will require a minimum of 10 acres of usable land—or 200 acres for a utility-scale project. A good rule of thumb is that 1 kilowatt (kW) of solar panels requires an area of 100 square feet. It’s also important to note that local towns and authorities usually do not permit full coverage of the entire parcel. YSG’s experience is that instead, they will likely allow somewhere in the vicinity of 60% of the total acreage to be covered with the solar PV project. So, if we take our 10 acre minimum as an example, only 6 of those acres will be utilized after setbacks and zoning restrictions. This will be equal to a 1 MWdc solar facility based on YSG’s 5 acres per 1 MW rule of thumb.

COMPARE PRICES FROM LOCAL INSTALLERS

Compare prices from local companies fast & free

Enter your postcode to compare quotes from leading professionals. We promise to keep your information Safe & Secure. Privacy Policy

#2. Land Condition

As with a traditional agricultural farm, the quality of the terrain will play a significant role in determining the viability and success of the project. Solar developers are seeking clear, flat land, with little to no wetlands, and minimal incline (5 degrees maximum). YSG has noticed a trend towards single-axis tracker units. This is a racking system that will move in a single direction (east/west) to maximize the generation of each solar panel. This can increase power generation by 15%. According to Kenneth DeCiccio at YSG Solar, the land must not exceed a 5 degree incline in order to utilize a tracker system. The land should receive plenty of sunlight annually and be stable enough to house all necessary solar equipment. Smaller obstructions like bushes, shrubs, and other vegetation can be removed—though this could increase overall project costs—but major obstructions which prohibit construction or cause significant shading may prove too big of a stumbling block for developers.

#3. Infrastructure Proximity

Alongside the size and quality of the land, its location will play a key role in determining the viability of a solar farm. YSG’s rule of thumb is to make sure that the parcel is within 1,000 feet of three-phase power, and 2 miles of a substation. The further away a location is from the grid, the higher the cost of interconnection for the developer. As the distance and the cost increase, the land becomes less desirable for prospective developers. Even infrastructure like road access is an important component, as easy access to main roads keeps transport costs low, thus reducing the overall cost of the project. Proximity to a big town/city may offer greater access to the infrastructure necessary for the operations and maintenance of a solar farm project. YSG’s project developer, Kenneth DeCiccio, says, “We avoid connecting solar facilities at the end of the circuit, and the closer proximity to the substation does impact our interconnection upgrade costs.” Items like primary metering, reclosures, and upgrading fuses at the substation are standard upgrade costs, while reconductoring can also be an expensive item. How much does it cost to run three-phase power to a solar farm? On average, in the Northeast of the U.S, the cost is $500,000 per mile of electrical feeder. The typical voltage that a solar farm is seeking will be 12 kV – 32.4 kV.

#4. Local Policy

Regardless of the size or quality of a parcel of land, if local laws and regulations prohibit the construction of a solar farm, then the project will not be able to proceed. For a developer and landowner to work together and develop a solar farm, they need a clear path to construction and interconnection, with local policy allowing for the development of a solar PV project on the land. If there are immediate issues with construction permits or land limits then, unfortunately, the solar farm simply won’t be viable. These issues are more common in areas with fewer renewable energy projects, where the regulations and laws surrounding projects like solar farms are prohibitive or underdeveloped. YSG Solar has worked with various local governments to help rewrite zoning laws or other land use regulations to allow for solar farm development. Typically, items such as screening and visual buffers are of great importance to the community. In areas such as the Hudson Valley region in upstate New York, most of the towns require solar farm ‘screening’ per the local town code. Additionally, certain areas must be left undeveloped for environmental/conservation reasons. For example, the land may be home to a protected species of plant/animal.

#5. Flooding Potential

Before construction begins on a solar farm project, a flood risk assessment must be carried out to ensure that the land is not under threat from future flooding. If the risk assessment indicates a high risk of flooding then the project is unlikely to move ahead. However, even if the land is located on a floodplain, it doesn’t necessarily rule out a solar farm completely. In New York, for example, information regarding flood stage levels is available for most rivers in the state. So, even if the parcel is located on a floodplain, it may be possible to proceed with a solar project—it just requires a little extra planning to ensure that the solar equipment is both strong enough and elevated enough to withstand any potential flooding. It is important to note, however, that these additional measures could lead to additional project costs.

YSG Solar is a project development company responsible for commoditizing energy infrastructure projects. We work with long-term owners and operators to provide clean energy assets with stable, predictable cash flows. YSG’s market focus is distributed generation and utility-scale projects located within North America.

Calls For A ‘Fair Heat Deal’ To Kickstart the Market for Low Carbon Heating

UK Government

More than 20 organisations representing builders and construction businesses, energy companies and civil society groups and including the UK Green Building Council and Federation of Master Builders have signed an open letter calling for a “fair heat deal” to incentivise households to install heat pumps and to ensure people on low incomes can gain access to heat pumps.

Other signatories include Energy UK, Friends of the Earth, thinktank E3G and the CPRE countryside charity.

Experts from these organisations have told the government that households on low incomes should be supplied with free heat pumps in order to drive the uptake of alternatives to traditional gas boilers and kickstart the market for low carbon heating.

Though heat pumps are a core part of the government’s net zero goals, they can currently cost thousands of pounds to install, with ground source heat pumps costing up to £35,000 each. However, the more heat pumps that are installed, the faster the cost is likely to come down. They are widely thought to be the best way to replace the UK’s gas boilers and to play an important part in helping the UK meet its climate targets.

COMPARE PRICES FROM LOCAL INSTALLERS

Compare prices from local companies fast & free

Enter your postcode to compare quotes from leading professionals. We promise to keep your information Safe & Secure. Privacy Policy

Around 14% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions come from heating the UK’s poor housing stock, most of which is draughty and energy inefficient. UK homes are ranked among the least energy efficient in Europe. The letter also calls for insulation to be made available to people on low incomes.

In September 2020, the government launched a programme to install insulation and low-carbon heating, called the Green Homes Grant, but abandoned it after just 6 months. Only a fraction of the homes targeted were insulated and sadly there were widespread complaints of poor service.

At the end of last year, the government had said that it wanted to install 600,000 heat pumps each year by 2028 in the 24.5 million homes that needed them, so the scrapping of the Green Homes Grant was disappointing for both renewable energy installers and homeowners.

Ministers are currently working on a new heat and buildings strategy, which has not yet been published. The government’s statutory advisers, the Climate Change Committee, have warned that reducing emissions from the domestic housing sector will be essential to reaching the UK’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.

A spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

“We are already leading the way to ensure affordability and fairness are at the heart of clean heating reforms, and more detail on our approach will be provided in the upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy. We are supporting lower income households and vulnerable people to make homes greener and cut energy bills and will continue to do so through schemes such as the Home Upgrade Grant and the new Clean Heat Grant from April next year.”

Juliet Phillips, a senior policy adviser at the E3G thinktank, one of the organisations behind the letter, said:

“Moving from a gas boiler to a heat pump is one of the biggest carbon savings a household can make. But it must be affordable, and we urge the government to support our fair heat deal to ensure no one is left behind in the green industrial revolution. If done right, the UK can lead the world in reducing carbon emissions from heat while slashing energy bills, boosting the economy and protecting the fuel poor.”

The letter also called on ministers to do away with environmental levies on energy bills, to ensure it is always cheaper to run a heat pump than a boiler and for grants to be available to all households not on low incomes. Ministers want to make sure the cost of a new heat pump is competitive with the cost of installing a new gas boiler.

Signatories of the letter also asked for the removal of VAT on green home products and installation and for changes to stamp duty to reduce the cost of homes that have been equipped with low carbon technology.

Mike Thornton, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said:

“For the UK to reach its net zero targets, we need real pace and scale in rolling out heat pumps. A fair heat deal will provide the confidence, clarity and certainty which will unlock the investment required for this.”

The letter also said that a ‘warm homes agency’ should be set up to train installers, create green jobs across the UK and maintain high standards.

Joe Tetlow, senior political advisor at Green Alliance, one of the letter’s signatories, said that instead of outlining how homes will be made greener it is “leaking like a draughty house, with briefing and speculation filling the void where published policy and positive progress should be”.

He added:

“The government needs to seize back the agenda, be bullish about its commitment to decarbonising homes and crucially, its intention to protect consumers.”

Despite the urgent need to tackle heating in the domestic housing sector the government admits that there are major challenges in convincing homeowners to install heat pumps. Last month they conceded that it was “uncertain” how mass uptake could be achieved.

An industry event held recently, outlined the problems facing the government. Some heat pumps are noisy and could breach permitted development regulations if placed too close to a neighbour’s window. This could be difficult to avoid in many buildings. Installation can also take several weeks in some cases and could cause significant disruption, while many homes would not have enough space for the kit required. The kit includes either an outdoor unit or ground array, added piping, a control unit, a hot water tank and a buffer tank.

Perhaps an even more serious barrier to the government’s plans is the lack of trained installers. A report by consultant EY published recently found that the UK would need to train almost 10,000 installers within the next four years which is 8 times as many as currently exist.

The report also said officials have not given the industry enough time to get ready for a planned ban on gas boilers in all new homes from 2025.

The BEIS says the government should follow the principles set out by the Climate Assembly UK and ensure fairness underpins the transition to net zero. Meanwhile we all wait for the government to publish their new heat and buildings strategy.

Report Says New Solar and Wind Projects Will Be Cheaper Than Coal

FIT

Nearly two-thirds of wind and solar projects built around the world in 2020 will be able to generate cheaper electricity than even the most competitive fossil fuel option according to a report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The report found that 62% of total renewable power generation added last year could undercut the cost of up to 800 gigawatts (GW) worth of coal plants due to the falling costs of new windfarms and solar panels. This would be almost enough to supply the UK’s electricity needs 10 times over.

According to the report, solar power costs fell by 16% last year, while the cost of onshore wind dropped 13% and offshore wind by 9%.

Amazingly, In less than 10 years, the cost of large-scale solar power has dropped by almost 85% while the cost of onshore wind has fallen by almost 56% and offshore wind has declined by almost 48%.

Francesco La Camera, Irena’s director general, said that the research done by the agency had proved the world was “far beyond the tipping point of coal”.

He said:

“Today renewables are the cheapest source of power. Renewables present countries tied to coal with an economically attractive phase-out agenda that ensures they meet growing energy demand, while saving costs, adding jobs, boosting growth and meeting climate ambition.”

To give a few examples of where renewables are cheaper; the cost of a new coal plant in Europe would be well above the cost of new wind and solar farms including mandatory carbon prices; renewable energy in the US could undercut between three-quarters and 91% of existing coal-fired power plants while in India renewable energy would be less expensive than between 87% and 91% of new coal plants.

COMPARE PRICES FROM LOCAL INSTALLERS

Compare prices from local companies fast & free

Enter your postcode to compare quotes from leading professionals. We promise to keep your information Safe & Secure. Privacy Policy

The report says that if hundreds of existing coal plants were replaced with unsubsidised renewable energy sources, $32.3bn (£22.8bn) could be saved every year in energy system costs and about 3 gigatons of CO2 could be avoided annually.

To give an idea of the magnitude of the changes that will be needed in the future, the carbon saving from phasing out 800GW of coal power capacity would be the equivalent of removing 9% from the world’s energy-related emissions in 2020, or 20% of the carbon savings needed by 2030 to help limit global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The cost of renewable energy is predicted to continue to fall in the coming years. The report says that over the next two years three-quarters of all new solar power projects that have been competitively procured through auctions and tenders will be cheaper than new coal power plants, and onshore wind costs will be a quarter lower than the cheapest new coal-fired option.

The report said:

“The trend confirms that low-cost renewables are not only the backbone of the electricity system, but that they will also enable electrification in end uses like transport, buildings and industry and unlock competitive indirect electrification with renewable hydrogen.”

As a result of the findings of Irena’s report, countries are being urged to power past coal as renewables would bring cost savings of $156bn to emerging economies.

Francesco La Camera, Irena’s director general said:

“We cannot allow having a dual-track for energy transition where some countries rapidly turn green, and others remain trapped in the fossil-based system of the past. Global solidarity will be crucial, from technology diffusion to financial strategies and investment support. We must make sure everybody benefits from the energy transition.”


Wind and solar energy are set to gain cost competitiveness over fossil fuel and nuclear power in 2021. It is looking increasingly likely that it will be cheaper to add new wind and solar capacity in comparison to new fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants.