Principles of Alternative Energy and Its Effect on Our World

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I have been employed by building services engineering company as a consultant, my task is to evaluate how renewable technologies address not only sustainable issues but also environmental issues, but also on a broader level, political targets and initiatives both globally and nationally this will be used to develop an alternative energy strategy for refitting an existing commercial building. I have focused on finding information on 3 different types of renewable energy as well as their working principles plus the advantages and disadvantages involved I have also used multiple figures to show how they work and costs involved with them. I have chosen solar, biomass and wind as my three types of renewable power as they are very useful types of renewable and all work differently. I have also focused on PV solar and key information to do with a current commercial building as well as the costs involved and its uses. I have also researched on the Cop 21 agreement and carbon credits and how they both work and what they help to achieve for the earth and the environment. Finally I have researched sustainability and what it means in terms of alternative energy and reducing CO2 emissions.

There is a need for new types of fuels in our world as there is a decreasing amount of the Fossil fuels we currently use. Coal, Oil and Gas all take Thousands of years to be produced and we will run out before we will be able to get anymore. Due to this we need to find alternative ways to create energy or we will end up living in a world without power. The Fossil Fuels we use aren’t just running out, as we burn them to create energy they pollute the earth which is damaging the ozone layer and causing changes to the climate [1]. A need for a new reliable and cheap energy source is increasing. There are some efficient options such as Wind, Solar, Hydro or Biomass.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC is a global legal agreement adopted in 1992 on the control and management of Greenhouse Gasses yet it wasn’t entered into force until 1994. It now has 189 parties. Annex 1 is countries with obligations to take measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. The overall goal for the UNFCCC is to protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future mankind, and their objectives for the future at to achieve a stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. [2] But Recognising that the provisions of UNFCCC itself was not enough to achieve the goals they were aiming for to limit the climate change effect to harmless levels and so the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in to help change their ways to save the climate. [3]

The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol adopted in 1997 that gets the developed countries that have signed the protocol to commit to try to limit their emission to a specific level compared to the emissions from 1990, The Kyoto Protocol intended to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions to be 5% the 1990 levels by between 2008 and 2012.

The Greenhouse effect is a natural process which warms the surface of the earth, as the suns energy reaches the atmosphere some of it reflected back into space while the rest is absorbed and Re-radiated by the Greenhouse gasses. Water Vapour, CO2, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone and some artificial chemicals are what make up greenhouse gasses. The energy absorbed warms the surface of the earth and the atmosphere this process keep the earth’s temperature set at around 33°C which is warmer than it would be without the greenhouse effect, this is what allows life to exist on earth. [5]

Our current issue is that human activities like burning fossil fuels, clearing of land and agriculture are all causing the concentration of greenhouse gasses to increase and also what is causing the earth’s temperature to increase [6]. This means hotter summers and warmer winters, this is also causing the ice caps to melt and the seas to rise.

Scientists predict that there are many things due to change, global temperatures will start to rise and this will have many consequences on the rest of the earth. Hurricanes and storms will become stronger, more intense and more dangerous, the duration of storms will also increase this will mean the will be much more destructive and reach much further. The Artic is likely to become ice free, this will cause the sea’s to rise and land area to decrease from being submerged by the increase in water, some small islands will disappear under the ocean and other land areas will have floods. [7]

Types Of Alternative Energy

Solar

Solar is a very practical option due to how available it is due to all its energy comes straight from the sun this is useful as there is lots of heat energy radiating from the sun that would otherwise go to waste if we did not use solar panels, the amount of energy produced by the sun in to the earth in one hour is enough to power the earth for a whole year, yet we are only able to absorb 0.001 % of it. [8]

Photovoltaic is a direct conversion of light into electricity at an atomic level. Some of the materials have the ability to absorb photons of light and release electrons, this is known has the photoelectric effect. After these electrons are captured an electronic current is made that can be used as electricity. The photoelectric effect was first founded by the French physicist Edmund Becquerel in 1839. He found that certain materials were able to produce a small amount of electronic current when exposed to light. [9] This is because these materials are semi-conductors this means these materials have the abilities of a conductor like copper yet can also insulate like glass. These semi-conductors make up the PV Cell, when photons strike a PV cell they could either pass through, be reflected or be absorbed by the semi-conductor. Only the photons which are absorbed are able to provide energy to allow the generation of electricity. As more solar energy is absorbed by the semi-conductor electrons are able to become dislodged from the materials atoms, this then allows them to move freely and start to migrate to the front surface of the material which is specifically designed to attract these free electrons. As the electrons each carry a negative charge towards the front face of the cell this starts to create a negative and positive split in the material between the front and back surface causing an imbalance of electrical charge just alike the terminals of a battery. When a conductor is connected from the material in a circuit to an external load it is able to work like a battery, so a flow of electricity is created.

The front and back contact are separate so the free electrons will migrate towards the front face to allow the positive and negative split. And how once this process has happened it can be connected in circuit to allow the transfer of electricity. There are many benefits of using Solar PV Panels as they can greatly cut your electricity bills. Solar power is entirely created by sun light so other than the costs of buying and fitting the Solar it is entirely free to be creating electricity and this will help to reduce your electricity costs, In the UK you can put created energy back into the grid and be paid for not just giving it back but also paid for generating it. For the generation of energy you will be paid by the government’s Feed-in tariff scheme you can be paid if you allow your unused energy to go back into the grid. Using Solar Electricity also allows you to be greener and environmentally friendly and reduce your carbon footprint. Solar energy does not release any harmful gasses or any other types of pollutant. And just a small typical house Solar PV System can help reduce your carbon use by 1.5 to 2 tonnes a year. [12]

Another useful thing is that solar energy created during the day can be stored for use over night when there is no sun light to produce any energy this can be good as this means you can store extra electricity while you can’t create any more. While there are some great benefits of using solar there are also some disadvantages of using Solar. A Big one is the fact that the solar panel needs the sun lights energy to produce electricity and the weather or time of day can greatly effect this, if the sun is not in direct view of the PV Panel there will not be any power produced, the same issue stops power being produced at all over night as there is no sun light to create any energy to the PV Panel. The Cost of buying and fitting PV Panels is also a large disadvantage as it can be very costly and can take quite a few years for it to have saved you enough to cover its own costs. You can save between £91 and £305 per year depending on the size of the panel you have bought, for the 1kW solar system it will take about 15 years to cover the initial costs of paying for the solar panel, while the 4kW panel would take about 20 years, this is not definite as the Tariff costs can change yearly and so will your annual earning depending on how much you give back into the grid.

Solar Cells can be classified as 1st, 2nd or 3rd Generation Cells. The 1st Generation cell can also be known as traditional, conventional or Wafer-Based, this is made up of crystalline silicon, and this is the most used PV Technology. The 2nd Generation cell is made of a thin firm solar cells, this includes amorphous silicon, CIGS and CdTe cells, these are used for PV power stations, and buildings with integrated photovoltaics. Amorphous silicon is a non-crystalline form of silicon. It is a thin film technology and is the most developed of them all. It is what is used in calculators, private homes and remote facilities. As it can be used in small or large quantities and still very efficient. CdTe or Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell is based from the use of cadmium telluride, which is a thin semiconductor designed to convert and absorbs sunlight to electricity. An advantage of this materials is that it’s the only thin film technology with costs lower than the conventional solar panel. CIGS or Copper Indium Selenide Solar Cells are one of the most controversial yet most interesting materials involved with solar. They are also a thin solar technology which a generally use to convert sunlight into electricity. The material is an alloy made up of a range of materials such as copper, indium, gallium and selenide on a glass or plastic backing. The three mainstream thin-film PV technologies are CIGS, CdTe and Amorphous silicon. All of these materials are thin enough to be flexible, this allows them to 3 The 3rd Generation cells consists of a number of thin-film technologies often known as emerging photovoltaics- many of these are yet to be commercially applied and are still in research and development stage. There is a lot of research invested into this tech as there is a promise to achieve a goal of producing highly efficient and low cost solar cells. [14]

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Biomass

Biomass can be directly converted into liquid fuels these are known as biofuels. The 2 most common types of biofuels in use today are biodiesel and ethanol. Biodiesel is made up of combining oils, fats or grease with methanol, this can be used as an additive to help reduce vehicle emissions or just as an alternative renewable fuel for diesel engines. Ethanol is an alcohol, it’s most common process of creation is by fermenting biomass high in carbohydrates through a similar process to brewing. Now days it is mainly made from starches and sugars while scientists are trying to figure new ways to make it from cellulose which is the fibrous materials of which makes up plant matter.

There are 3 Generations of Biomass; The 1st Generation is made up of edible crops of which can be turned into fuels. The oils within the crops are collected through fermentation and turned into biodiesel or used for bioethanol. Wheat and sugar are regularly used for bioethanol whereas rape seed oil is an effective choice of crop for biodiesel. 1st generation biofuels have a range of issues such as there is a debate over the fact whether biofuels are reducing co2 emissions or greenhouse gases at all, as some fuels produce a negative energy gain which means that they can produce more carbon during their production than what they take during their growth, A Big issue with biofuels is the fact that the is an increase in the demand of biofuels and so farming has turned to produce more biofuels which has meant that there is less food crops and more biofuels crops, this is said to also be the reason for the increase in food prices and the is high demand for food yet less is being grown annually. [15]

The 2nd generation of biofuels are produced from non-edible crops such as organic and food crop waste, wood and specific biomass crop. This eliminates the problem with the first generation biofuels being that now more food crops can be made as the farming does not need to produce crops for the fuels. These fuels are also aimed at being more cost competitive compared to fossil fuels. [16]

The 3rd generation of biofuels are able to produce more energy per areas of harvest compared to Generation 1 and 2. It is a low-cost, high-energy and a fully renewable source of energy. The 3rd generation is Algae, algae is able to grow in conditions that 1st and 2nd generation cannot, this is good as it reduces the amount of landed need to farm for the crops as it doesn’t take up much land area nor does it need any clean Water, algae can grow in sewage, wastewater and saltwater, in areas like the ocean or lakes the fact algae can grow in any water means that it doesn’t affect our clean water sources and so doesn’t need to go through any production processes for its growth. There is still a lot of research needed to make third generation biofuels fully effective and financially competitive with other sources of energy. [17] The production of algae is a renewable cycle that is starter by the production of algae from sun energy and CO2, the oil from the algae is then extracted and biodiesel can start to be made with the oil after this there is now a renewable biofuels that can be used to fuel existing technology like cars, bikes, buses etc. from the existing technology more CO2 is produced and so the cycle is back to the start where algae is made by Sun energy and already existing CO2. That I why the third generation of biofuels is very useful as other is creates its self naturally and water or on land.

Wind

Wind power is also a very useful alternative energy but has some disadvantages to it as well. It causes a lot of noise pollution as the wind turbines are very loud as well as that wind farms take a lot of space and unlike solar panels they cannot just be fitted on top of buildings. Wind is caused by the how the atmosphere heats unevenly from the sun, the uneven surface of the earth and the way the earth rotates. Wind patterns are also effected by the earth’s terrain, the areas of water and the plants and trees. [19] All these factors effects the wind speed, to be able to work effectively the wind turbines need to have an average wind speed higher than 5m/s, a wind map can be used to gather an average indication of the wind speed, although a wind map does not take into account of the land scape in a small scale area. [20] The wind speed can be effected by the height or the Rotor head, The rotor heights wind speed can be calculated from the measured wind speed at a height of 10 meters or determined by a direct measurement at the height of the hub, Using a roughness value of Z0 = 0.05m, from the following equation: V1 = V2 x { LN ( H1 / Z0 ) / LN ( H2 / Z0 ) } Where: V1 = The Hub Height wind speed V2 = The Measured 10m height speed H1 = The Hub Height in Meters H2 = 10 Meters LN = The Natural Logarithm to the Base.

This Calculation is used to calculate the wind speed at the height or the turbine, this can be extremely useful to work out how much energy output there will be from the turbine when it is in use. One of the advantages of wind power is that It can be very cost effective, wind is one of the lowest priced renewable energy sources that is currently available this can cost between 2 to 6 cents per kWh. The electricity from wind turbines is sold at a fixed price over the years it is used for. The Wind Energy Sector creates lots of jobs and has employed hundreds of thousands of employees across the US there are jobs for the manufacturing, installation, maintenance and supporting services. Wind energy is a clean fuel source as wind energy doesn’t cause any dangerous pollution to the earth and does not produce and damaging gases. Wind energy is very sustainable and is a form of solar energy, Wind is caused by the heating of the atmosphere from the suns heat and the rotating of the earth so as long as there is sun and wind we will have a sustainable renewable power. [22]

While there are advantages there are also some disadvantages as the fact that it currently more expensive to produce renewable energy than to use fossil fuels to produce energy. I can be expensive to build the power lines that come from the wind farms as they need to be built in remote areas and the energy needs to be transferred from the remote areas all the way to towns and cities, this can take up a large amount of land and is not very nice to look at having wind turbines and power lines through the country side and remote areas, another issue is also that energy is not always available as it is effect by the weather and how windy it is and so the energy production can vary depending on the time of the year. [23]

Design of a PV System on Project OBC.

PV Systems on Barts Square – Phase 2, One Bartholomew Close

The Project has a need for a system with 100m2 of Panasonic hybrid monocrystalline panels, 72 330w panels based over 3 buildings, all measuring 1053mm by 1590mm meaning the total surface area would be 120.5m2 and this whole system would be rated at 23.76kWp. On the flat roof the panels must be inclined at the minimum angle of 10° yet and angle of 30° is acceptable this is so the panels are able to self-clean. The panels are to be connected to a framework with a range of fixing points. The panels are to be connected to the landlords supply as well as will be grid connected this will mean that there is no storage of electricity produced. The energy produced is to be used on demand and any additional created will be fed back into the grid. The performance of the System is not possible to predict due to the varying amount of sunlight it will receive, but an estimate is based upon the standard MCS procedure and is only give for a guidance.

Hybrid Monocrystalline Solar panel modules, all the parts for fitting the panels as well as the frames, extra parts needed and its warranties, which include a 25 year solar PV module warranty, a 5 year inverter warranty and a 2 year installation warranty. A Feed-in Tariff or FIT is available for a system between 10 and 50kWp, the current tariff level is 4.35p/kWh for every unit that is generated by the photovoltaic system, this tariff is regardless of whether the generated electricity is used or fed back into the grid. There is also an additional export tariff of 4.91p for feeding back into the national grid.

The owner of the PV system will continue to receive the Feed in tariff payment for the first 20 years of the systems life, but to receive a feed in tariff there is an energy performance level that the building will need to obtain, the building will need an energy performance level of at least a D, this is needed before the commissioning of the PV system can commence, the rating are shown in figure 4 below where you can see the different ratings that there are.

Cop21 Agreement and carbon credits.

Cop 21

The cop21 was an agreement adopted from the 21st UNFCCC conference of parties and is a very significant step forward with 195 countries binding to an agreement of which targets to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. Many European and African countries played an important role in helping with the implementation of the agreement. It is now regularly reviewed as countries try to continue to limit global temperatures down by 2 degrees and possibly 1.5 degrees. Developed countries have agreed to help the more vulnerable developing countries to help reduce their emissions. The goal is to limit global warming down to 2°C from the pre-industrial levels this has been agreed by all the countries involved. The Governments can’t tackle climate change all by themselves this is the job of everyone and the whole society such as businesses, investors and the government. [25]

Carbon Credits

Carbon credits are able to be legitimately sold and traded with main different businesses operation in this sector, however there is a concerning increase in the number of businesses using a tactic which targets vulnerable consumers. Carbon credits are a permit or certificate which gives the right to emit one tonne of CO2, these carbon credits can then be traded for money. [26]

The 2 types of carbon credit are VERs or voluntary emission reductions and CERs or certified emission reductions, Voluntary emission reductions involve the reduction or offset of carbon in any way possible, such as solar panel project or and forestry scheme, this option or carbon credit is increasingly being promoted more throughout the UK to investors.

Certified emission reductions are typically traded in large quantities between large corporate businesses and governments, it is not likely that these will be traded in small volumes. [27] Carbon credits work by salespeople promoting the carbon credits to investors who are called out of the blue, yet people are also contact by post, email, in a seminar or word of mouth. You could be offered carbon credit certificates, or the opportunity to invest into a project that generates carbon credits as the return on an investment. You could also lose invested money by being unable to sell or get a rate on carbon credits when you try to trade small volumes of carbo credits. Trading carbon credits can be very risky and requires experience and skill, so if you are considering buying CCs or thinking of investing into a related scheme make sure you know how the sector works and that you understand the risks that can be involved. [28]

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