Renewable technologies – a complete guide for businesses

Government’s across the world continue to take action to reduce the effects of climate change and move towards a low-carbon future.  This has seen many innovations emerging in the field of energy efficiency and renewables.

Business and industry are among the biggest energy consumers around today, and are responsible for a substantial percentage of all carbon emissions being produced. Commercial energy costs can therefore be considerable, so taking steps to improve energy efficiency doesn’t only benefit the environment, but also the bottom line.

So, what are the key renewable technologies around today and how might they benefit commercial energy users?

A guide to renewable technologies

What is Solar PV?

Solar PV is one of the most widely used renewable technologies in the world. Solar installations work by using solar panels to capture the energy naturally available in sunlight, before converting it into electricity. The panels can generate renewable energy even on cloudy days, but are most efficient when placed directly facing the sun and kept free from shade, dirt and other obstructions.

Solar panels are usually installed onto the rooves of buildings, where they are referred to as roof-mounted, or fixed to frames that are fitted directly into the earth, referred to as ground-mount solar. The size of a solar installation can range from a few panels to large solar farms.

The electricity generated by a solar installation can be used on site, stored in an energy storage unit and released when it is needed, or fed back into the grid. By reducing the amount of electricity that needs to be purchased from an energy supplier, the cost savings can be substantial.

What is an energy storage unit?

For companies, energy storage units are a way to maximise the potential benefit and savings generated by onsite renewable technologies, as well as providing an additional revenue stream.

An energy storage unit can be used to store power generated by a renewable system, such as a solar farm or wind turbine. The benefit of such technology is that the energy can then be released when it is needed.

Weather and other factors can influence the amount of power that is generated by renewable technologies and when they will work. For example, solar panels won’t work at night. By using an energy storage unit, a renewable power supply can be changed from an intermittent energy supply to constant.

They also allow high intensity energy users, such as manufacturers using industrial processes, to buy and store the energy they need at times when the tariff is at a lower rate, rather than during peak periods where costs are at their highest. They can also be used to store renewable energy generated onsite before selling it back to the grid when demand is high and a better price is offered.

What is a biomass boiler?

A biomass system works by burning natural, plant-based materials, such as wood pellets, chips or logs, rather than oil or other fossil fuels. This leads to much lower carbon emissions.

A biomass boiler can be connected to a central heating and hot water system, to provide renewable heat for a property. The savings generated on energy bills can be substantial when compared to other forms of heating, especially when introduced in the place of an oil boiler.

Biomass can be particularly beneficial for organisations with sizeable heating demands, such as care homes, large commercial units, poultry farms and leisure centres.

What is a heat pump?

Heat pumps are a highly efficient solution for the heating and cooling of properties. They are available in a range of sizes and are around 3 to 5 times more efficient than their fossil-fuelled counterparts. The heat that such pumps extract from the ground, air, or water is natural and being renewed constantly, making them a highly efficient solution.

Ground source heat pumps extract the low grade heat energy from the ground. The concentrated heat can then be used for heating water, homes and commercial premises. In reverse the system can also provide cooling, making it an ideal system for use in all seasons.

Air source heat pumps work in the same way but by extracting heat from the air. They too can provide heating or cooling for buildings. They are extremely versatile and able to function in all climates.

What is a building management system?

A building management system (BMS), also known as a building automation system (BAS), is a way for companies to effectively manage and refine how energy is being used within their operations and buildings.

A computer-based control system will monitor and control electrical equipment, such as lighting, ventilation, fire and security systems. It will ensure energy is being used in the most efficient way. For example, lighting and other equipment may be turned off automatically when an area is no-longer in use. By running electrical equipment in line with demand, energy waste can be substantially reduced.

Recommendations

Key to reducing carbon emissions and energy expenditure when you’re a commercial enterprise is to understand how energy is currently being used, then to find ways to reduce any waste and to use energy more efficiently. Reducing the amount of power that is purchased from an energy supplier by investing in ‘behind the meter’ activity can also have a significant impact and with so many renewable technologies available to choose from, blending different measures is the best way to achieve the maximum benefit.