It’s been a productive year for renewables in the UK and across the rest of the globe as we all try to do our bit in reducing the global carbon footprint. Back in August 2014 news began to filter through that renewables had provided nearly one fifth of the electricity produced in the UK for the first quarter. The reason? According to many sources it was high winds and heavy rainfall that added a good few kilowatt hours to the grid.
The Guardian reported that “onshore wind generation grew 62%, offshore wind output increased by more than half, and hydropower increased by 78%, reaching a record quarterly level of 2.2TWh.” The UK wasn’t the only country benefiting from bad weather in the first quarter of 2014 with Germany reporting that renewables met 28% of energy demands.
Solar Panels in 2014
They still remain the most obvious symbol of green energy, solar panels continued to provide us with plenty of clean electricity over the last year. A YouGov Poll in November indicated that over half of us are interested in having solar panels installed on our roofs which may be the reason why the industry is doing so well at the moment.
But research is also pushing forward as we try to find more efficient and cleaner ways of producing those panels that fit on our roofs. Earlier in the year Liverpool University reported that it had found a way to use a substance common in bath salts to produce solar PV cells more cheaply and cleanly. And in the future we may well be seeing clear solar cells in our windows rather than the large panels that currently fit onto the roofs of many domestic and business premises.
The one area where solar panels did struggle last year was in the development and production of large scale farms that came under fire from local residents who didn’t want that particular eyesore spoiling their view. There have also been complaints of solar farms affecting food production, taking up valuable grazing areas and land that could be better used for crop production.
Wind Farms in 2014
There’s no doubt that higher winds at the beginning of the year did the popularity of wind farms no end of good. A recent survey also found that many people weren’t so against having them in their back yard as many leading tabloid newspapers would have us believe. In October, whilst the Telegraph railed that wind farms couldn’t guarantee more than 2% energy production, the BBC reported that, for the first time, the UKs wind farms generated more electricity than our nuclear power stations.
Despite this, the future of wind farms in the UK remains uncertain as Prime Minister David Cameron hinted that there were ‘enough’ wind turbines and that generous subsidies for new developments were set to come to an end. This may be due to the Government’s growing focus on setting up fracking developments in the wake of success of the United States where it has helped to bring down energy and fuel prices.
Hydro Electricity on the Increase in 2014
Whilst solar and wind have often taken all the plaudits and get the most news pages devoted to them, getting our energy from water has begun to become more popular with a number of community projects either completing or passing the planning stage during 2014. According to Hi-Electricity almost 12% of the energy production in Scotland comes from hydroelectric power.
From Land’s End to John O’Groats, more and more hydroelectric schemes are beginning to crop up, providing clean energy for the grid and extra finances and investment for local communities. With the Feed in Tariff it means that returns on investment for such projects are much more attractive for individual investors and communities alike.
Other Green Initiatives for 2014
There are plenty of other green initiatives that are under way in the UK and hardly get our attention. Whilst we may be focused on the new tidal barrier being constructed in Swansea, scientists are creating biofuel in a Cornish tin farm that could have far reaching consequences in the future for our sustainability. Using microscopic algae the experiment is designed to clean up harmful waste products from past mining whilst also potentially producing fuel that could be used to power our cars and homes.
There’s no doubt that our attitudes towards climate change and green initiatives are beginning to change more radically. We already recycle our waste as a matter of course but many businesses now incorporate a green energy agenda to help not only save money but improve their individual impact on the environment. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, there’s also the beneficial impact of cutting down on pollution produced by harmful fossil fuels that could save us nearly £500 billion a year in health costs. Not only that there are the number of jobs being created in the renewable energy sector – approaching 7 million by the start of 2014.
Progress in the renewable energy market has faced its obstacles this year with the cutting of subsidies and various governments beginning to review their commitment to green power, but on the ground we are still seeing significant developments with more than 60% of us now sold on the idea of, and need for, renewable technologies to help clean up our environment and provide a more sustainable way to live and do business.