Manual Sustainable Solar Housing: Volume One - Strategies and Solutions

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If the biomass source is agricultural or municipal waste, burning it or converting it into biogas also provides a way to dispose of this waste. As of , wood remains the largest biomass energy source today.

Our track record in the adoption of renewable energy

Use of farmland for growing fuel can result in less land being available for growing food. Since photosynthesis is inherently inefficient, and crops also require significant amounts of energy to harvest, dry, and transport, the amount of energy produced per unit of land area is very small, in the range of 0.

In Europe in the 19th century, there were about , windmills, slightly more than the modern wind turbines of the 21st century. The age of coal powered steam engines replaced this early use of wind power. Wind power has high potential and have already realised relatively low production costs. At the end of , worldwide wind farm capacity was , megawatts MW , representing an increase of Solar heating systems generally consist of solar thermal collectors, a fluid system to move the heat from the collector to its point of usage, and a reservoir or tank for heat storage and subsequent use.

The systems may be used to heat domestic hot water, swimming pool water, or for space heating. Energy received from the sun by the earth is that of electromagnetic radiation. Light ranges of visible, infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, and radio waves received by the earth through solar energy. The highest power of radiation comes from visible light.

Solar power is complicated due to changes in seasons and from day to night. Cloud cover can also add to complications of solar energy, and not all radiation from the sun reaches earth because it is absorbed and dispersed due to clouds and gases within the earth's atmospheres. Solar thermal power stations have been successfully operating in California commercially since the late s, including the largest solar power plant of any kind, the MW Solar Energy Generating Systems.

Nevada Solar One is another 64MW plant which has recently opened. Solar electricity production uses photovoltaic PV cells to convert light into electrical current. Photovoltaic modules can be integrated into buildings or used in photovoltaic power stations connected to the electrical grid.

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They are especially useful for providing electricity to remote areas. Large national and regional research projects on artificial photosynthesis are designing nanotechnology -based systems that use solar energy to split water into hydrogen fuel.

One side of the "Artificial Leaf" produces bubbles of hydrogen, while the other side produces bubbles of oxygen. Most current solar power plants are made from an array of similar units where each unit is continuously adjusted, e. The cost of focusing light on converters such as high-power solar panels, Stirling engine , etc. Research is ongoing in space-based solar power , a concept in which solar panels are launched into outer space and the energy they capture is transmitted back to Earth as microwaves. A test facility for the technology is being built in China. The farm will initially use three Pelamis P machines generating 2.


Subject to successful operation, a further 70 million euro is likely to be invested before on a further 28 machines to generate MW. The farm will be the world's largest with a capacity of 3 MW generated by four Pelamis machines. In , the world's first turbine to create commercial amounts of energy using tidal power was installed in the narrows of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland, UK.

The 1. Although the generator is powerful enough to power up to a thousand homes, the turbine has a minimal environmental impact , as it is almost entirely submerged, and the rotors turn slowly enough that they pose no danger to wildlife. Most electric grids were constructed for non-intermittent energy sources such as hydroelectricity or coal-fired power plants.

If intermittent sources make up a larger percentage of the energy supply for a given electric grid, there are several possible approaches to ensuring that electricity generation can meet ongoing demand:. As of , the cost and logistics of energy storage for large population centres is a significant challenge, although the cost of battery systems has plunged dramatically.

Some costs could potentially be reduced by making use of energy storage equipment the consumer buys and not the state. An example is batteries in electric cars that would double as an energy buffer for the electricity grid. Energy storage apparatus' as car batteries are also built with materials that pose a threat to the environment e. The combined production of batteries for such a large part of the population would still have environmental concerns.

To provide household electricity in remote areas that is areas which are not connected to the mains electricity grid , energy storage is required for use with renewable energy.

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Energy generation and consumption systems used in the latter case are usually stand-alone power systems. Energy from renewable sources can also be stored as heat or cold, through thermal energy storage technologies. For instance, summer heat can be stored for winter heating, or winter cold can be stored for summer air conditioning. Nuclear power plants have been used since the s to produce a steady supply of electricity, without creating local air pollution. There is considerable controversy over whether nuclear power can be considered sustainable, with debates revolving around the risk of nuclear accidents such as the Chernobyl disaster , the cost and construction time needed to build new plants, the generation of radioactive nuclear waste , and the potential for nuclear energy to contribute to nuclear proliferation.

Solar Energy Systems as a Business Sustainability Performance Strategy

These concerns have led to a decrease in the contribution of nuclear energy to the global electricity supply since Some people, including early Greenpeace member Patrick Moore , [55] [56] [57] George Monbiot , [58] Bill Gates [59] and James Lovelock [60] have specifically classified nuclear power as green energy. Others, including Greenpeace 's Phil Radford [61] [62] disagree. Newer nuclear reactor designs are capable of burning nuclear waste until it is no longer or dramatically less dangerous, and have design features that greatly minimize the possibility of a nuclear accident.

These designs have yet to be commercialized. See: Molten salt reactor Some forms of nuclear power can "burn" nuclear waste through a process known as nuclear transmutation , such as an Integral Fast Reactor. Nuclear power plants can be more or less eliminated from their problem of nuclear waste through the use of nuclear reprocessing and newer plants such as fast breeder plants. In theory, the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuel power plants can be significantly reduced through carbon capture and storage , although this process is expensive.

Some believe that fossil fuel burning, with carbon capture and storage, may have a role in a sustainable energy system. Moving towards energy sustainability will require changes not only in the way energy is supplied, but in the way it is used, and reducing the amount of energy required to deliver various goods or services is essential. Opportunities for improvement on the demand side of the energy equation are as rich and diverse as those on the supply side, and often offer significant economic benefits.

Efficiency slows down energy demand growth so that rising clean energy supplies can make deep cuts in fossil fuel use. A recent historical analysis has demonstrated that the rate of energy efficiency improvements has generally been outpaced by the rate of growth in energy demand, which is due to continuing economic and population growth. As a result, despite energy efficiency gains, total energy use and related carbon emissions have continued to increase.

Solar Solutions for the Developing World - The Solutions Journal

Thus, given the thermodynamic and practical limits of energy efficiency improvements, slowing the growth in energy demand is essential. Any serious vision of a sustainable energy economy thus requires commitments to both renewables and efficiency. In developing countries , an estimated 3 billion people rely on traditional cookstoves and open fires to burn biomass or coal for heating and cooking.

This practice causes harmful local air pollution and increases danger from fires, resulting in an estimated 4. Thus far, efforts to design cookstoves that are inexpensive, powered by sustainable energy sources, and acceptable to users have been mostly disappointing.

The Solutions Journal

Climate change concerns coupled with high oil prices and increasing government support are driving increasing rates of investment in the sustainable energy industries, according to a trend analysis from the United Nations Environment Programme. Investment flows in broadened and diversified, making the overall picture one of greater breadth and depth of sustainable energy use.

The mainstream capital markets are "now fully receptive to sustainable energy companies, supported by a surge in funds destined for clean energy investment". In several countries with common carrier arrangements, electricity retailing arrangements make it possible for consumers to purchase "green" electricity from either their utility or a green power provider.

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Electricity is considered to be green if it is produced from a source that produces relatively little pollution, and the concept is often considered equivalent to renewable energy. In some U. By participating in a green energy program a consumer may be having an effect on the energy sources used and ultimately might be helping to promote and expand the use of green energy.

They are also making a statement to policy makers that they are willing to pay a price premium to support renewable energy. Green energy consumers either obligate the utility companies to increase the amount of green energy that they purchase from the pool so decreasing the amount of non-green energy they purchase , or directly fund the green energy through a green power provider. If insufficient green energy sources are available, the utility must develop new ones or contract with a third party energy supplier to provide green energy, causing more to be built.

However, there is no way the consumer can check whether or not the electricity bought is "green" or otherwise. In some countries such as the Netherlands, electricity companies guarantee to buy an equal amount of 'green power' as is being used by their green power customers. The Dutch government exempts green power from pollution taxes, which means green power is hardly any more expensive than other power.