Investing in renewable energy could be a smart move for your business. By generating your own power, you can save money, or even make a bit on the side by selling any surplus energy back to the grid. Even better, you’d be slashing your business’ carbon footprint, and doing your bit to save the planet. Read on to find out all you need to know about the potential renewable business energy deals available to you, and their benefits.
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Wind is the most commonly used source of renewable energy in the UK, and also one of the most affordable. Turbines in the UK can operate at wind speeds as low as 4 metres per second. However, they are more successful in areas with higher wind speeds, of around 7 metres per second.
Wind turbines require planning permission, and if you want to have more than three, an Environmental Impact Assessment will be required.
The payback time tends to be around 4-8 years. However, when wind levels are below the optimum, they generate no electricity. So, it’s wise to have a National Grid back up.
Biomass is organic material like wood, straw and other crops. Energy is generated by burning or fermenting these materials. A biomass system will provide payback in about 5-12 years, but this can be a lot shorter if you have free waste wood available.
Though burning biomass releases fewer carbon emissions than fossil fuels, any biomass system has to comply with legislation like the Clean Air Act.
Biomass can also be made into energy by anaerobic digestion, instead of burning it. This process breaks down the organic material using bacteria which is starved of oxygen. This creates methane-rich gas, which can be burned to generate heat and electricity. One benefit of this is that the waste product, digestate, can be used as compost.
But if you want to do this, you’ll need to get an environmental permit. It’s worth noting that storing biomass fuels can require a lot of space, and finding a decent supply can be difficult. The payback for anaerobic digestion plants is about 5-10 years.
Photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity. They are available in various formats, including cladding, roof tiles and custom glazing. You could also consider a solar hot water system, which takes energy from the sun and transfers it through heat exchangers, capable of heating water up to 65 degrees. Solar water heating collectors are normally mounted on roofs in the same way as PV panels.
Though you can get electricity and heat from solar energy, you probably won’t be able to get all of your energy from it. Sunlight levels are both low and inconsistent in the UK, meaning you won’t always be generating a massive amount of power. Also, PV panels are very expensive to install, so the payback time can be lengthy.
However, PV panels are handy because they don’t need planning permission. Solar hot water systems can be particularly useful for businesses that need lots of hot water, for example canteens.
Both of these energy sources use heat that’s naturally contained in the ground. Geothermal energy can be used in areas where the earth’s interior heat rises close to the surface, for example those that have hot springs of steam. This energy can be harvested using boreholes in the ground. Once harvested, this energy can be used to provide heating, hot water, and even drive geothermal power plants.
Although GSHPs use a renewable heat source, their heat exchange mechanism is powered by gas or electricity. Therefore, GSHPs can only be classed as renewable if they get their energy from a renewable source as well.
GSHP installation requires serious civil work, so it’s only really viable to install it at the building stage. So, if you’re about to build a new factory in an area with hot springs, this could be a great renewable energy option for your business.
For most businesses, generating renewable energy themselves isn’t an option. If you’d still like your business to be greener, a green energy tariff could be the answer.
Some energy suppliers generate all their energy from renewable sources, so choosing these providers means the energy you are using would be renewable. However, even though you’d be signing up for a 100% green tariff, you won’t have 100% green energy delivered to your business. But it does mean that the utility company guarantees that they will try as hard as they can to generate or buy enough green energy to cover all customers on their green tariff.
It’s important to know that green tariffs often are more costly than normal tariffs, and that their net environmental carbon benefit isn’t that clear. If you can’t afford to pay more for a green energy tariff, then you can identify other suppliers’ green credentials by studying their fuel mix. By examining fuel mix data, you can find a supplier that measures up to your own standards on renewable energy.