Micro-generation, the production of energy on the smallest of scales, is designed to enable individuals or communities to generate their own heat and electricity, with the beneficial side-effect of emitting low amounts of carbon dioxide. To achieve sensible levels of savings, systems must be properly sited, specified and installed In this case a solar thermal system can provide 50 to 70 per cent of a household’s hot water needs, while a wind turbine can knock a third off its electricity bill.
Rooftop solar panels have been the main, and in some areas the only, source of micropower, but they are being joined by a wide range of technologies.
These are some of the options:
* Biomass heating involves planting and harvesting fast-growing trees such as willow, birch or poplar, and turning them into wood chips or pellets that are then burned in stoves or boilers to provide heating and hot water for homes and communities.
* Solar power comes in two forms: photovoltaic (PV) systems, which produce electricity, and solar thermal systems used to provide hot water and heating.
* Ground-source heat pumps harness energy in the ground for heating: pipes are laid that absorb the heat from the earth – a few feet below the surface, the earth keeps a constant temperature of about 11C-12C.
* Combined heat and power systems are similar to gas boilers, but provide electricity as well as heat. Used increasingly in both domestic and industrial spheres, according to the Micropower Council, they reduce a house’s carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 tons a year.
* Microturbines provide electricity, either powered by the wind or naturally flowing water, and the latest development is the roof or wall-mounted wind turbine.
Lachlan Bateman, 26, the project leader for new product development at Solarcentury, a green energy company, studied mechanical engineering and industrial design at university in Australia. “I am involved here on the commercial side of new product development, looking at how we can help companies with large buildings with our solar technology,” he says. “It’s very challenging work.”
Check out this book on Amazon: A Micro-generation Manifesto
Global sales in solar power are predicted to reach 3,500 megawatts annually by 2010, with a global turnover of $21billion.
The recent planning white paper in the UK recommends waiving planning permission for domestic solar panels and wind turbines. The Centre for Alternative Technology’s booklet Choosing Windpower is full of information (