Renewable energy; energy sources that will last long term
Renewable energy or sustainable energy?
Renewable energy and sustainable energy, two terms that are often used with the same meaning in mind. There is, however, a clear difference. Renewable energy includes all forms of energy that can be produced over and over again. Sustainable energy goes a bit further and also demands that the production of the energy holds no negative consequences for mankind and the environment. Bredenoord finds it important that energy sources are both renewable and sustainable and is always looking for clean energy solutions. This resulted in the Clear Concept product line, to which many sustainable alternatives have been added over the years.
Renewable energy is a collective term for all energy gained from renewable sources. Energy from fossil sources is thereby excluded. A few examples of renewable sources are biomass, wind, water, the sun and warmth. These sources will each be discussed in more detail below.
Forms of sustainable energy
Energy from biomass
Energy from biomass, also known as bioenergy, is released when processing organic material into fuel, such as gas or oil. These fuels can then be converted to warmth, light, movement or electricity. A simple way of obtaining bioenergy is burning wood or garden waste. However, it’s also possible to convert animal and plant based waste and used frying oil into a fuel through fermentation, gasification or chemical processing. Developing fuels that can be used in existing systems (such as the combustion engine) is given highest priority at the moment. This will be further developed in the future.
Biomass is a sustainable energy source when it uses waste as its raw material. The CO₂ released while burning the fuel has previously been taken from the atmosphere by these raw materials. As such the emission has been compensated.
Biofuel obtained from raw materials that were grown specifically for this purpose is not sustainable. This is because the crops are grown on land that could have been used for food production instead. In addition, forests are often felled to create more suitable land, which has negative consequences for biodiversity.
Wind energy is generated when wind moves the rotor blades of a windmill. Through gears this movement is transferred to a generator. No CO₂ is emitted in this process. The CO₂ emitted during the production and maintenance of the windmill is compensated within three months due to the emission saved by using the wind energy instead of fossil energy. Therefore wind energy is both renewable and sustainable.
There are, however, various downsides to wind energy. It’s impossible to predict the available amount of wind energy at any given moment; when there is no wind the mills will not be powered. In addition windmills disrupt the natural rhythm and habitat of birds. Local inhabitants often protest the placement of new windmills because of the sound and drop shadow of the mills, as well as the spoilt view.
Energy from water, better known as hydro power, is generated when running water powers a turbine. Just like wind energy, hydro power is sustainable and CO₂ neutral. The CO₂ emitted during the production of the turbine is compensated within a few months by the green energy the turbine produces. The availability of hydro power can more easily be adjusted to the energy demand than wind energy, although the demand cannot always be met precisely. A downside to hydro power is that the blades of the turbine can damage fish and water plants.
Sunlight can be converted into electricity in solar panels. Unlike with wind energy and hydro power the production of solar energy has no negative consequences for flora or fauna. Solar panels can easily be placed on roofs and land. In the Netherlands there are several solar parks where solar energy is generated on a large scale. However, private individuals can place a few panels on their roof as well. Just like wind energy, the availability of solar energy cannot be adjusted to the energy demand. Especially in southern regions with many hours of sunshine solar panels generate high returns. In areas with fewer hours os sunshine solar panels logically generate a lower return. As part of the Clear Concept line Bredenoord offers two energy solutions using solar panels, which are the Mobile Solar Plant and the Mini-SunBox.
Warmth is a common byproduct of industrial processes and generating energy. For example, the burning of fossil fuel or biomass generates warmth that can be reused.
Warmth from the soil can be used as well. Groundwater can hold this warmth well. When retrieving thermal heat this groundwater is pumped up from a maximum depth of 500 meters. Setting up the required systems and installations is very pricey. In the Netherlands technicians and scientists are still experimenting in this area. In other countries with a more suitable soil composition or more easily reachable warmth due to volcanic activity the usage of thermal heat is more common. In Iceland, for instance, thermal heat covers 80% of the demand for warmth.
Guidelines for renewable energy
In the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive it is determined that after 2020 14% of all energy consumption must originate from renewable sources. In transport 10% of energy must be renewable. In order to achieve this every year a higher percentage of biofuel is blended into fossil fuel. These goals are part of the Dutch Agreement for Sustainable Growth. The reusing of organic material such as used frying oil and animal or plant based waste as raw material for fuel contributes to the goals set by the Dutch government relating to circularity. In 2030 the use of fossil fuels should be reduced by 50%.
Progress resolutions regarding renewable energy
In 2017 6.6% of the total energy consumption originated from sustainable energy. Although this is an increase in comparison to the year before, the Netherlands still have a long way to go. One of the objectives of the Agreement is to achieve a share of 16% renewable energy in 2023. The expectations are promising; with current policy a share of 16.7% should be realized.