Types of Renewable Energy
Water or Hydro Energy
Water or Hydro Energy uses the power of water to generate electricity, by pushing turbine like generators. Ardnacrusha, on the river Shannon, which was built in 1927 is our most well known hydro-electric power station. At the time it was thought that Ireland wouldn’t need the amount of electricity which Ardnacrusha could produce, which was 86 MW of electricity, the peak demand in Ireland is now around 5,000 MW! There are now other hydro schemes on the Liffey (Poulaphouca & Leixlip), the Lee (Inniscarra) and the Erne (Ballyshannon) and the total hydro capacity is now 242 MW.
In the Middle Ages there were thousands of water wheels in Ireland providing power to flour mills all over the country. In the last few decades many of these old mill sites have been refurbished with modern turbines and generators installed - there are as many as a hundred of these now totalling about 10 MW. Are there any old mills in your area and have any of them had new turbines installed in recent times?
In Ireland, solar panels can provide around 60% of the annual hot water requirements for homes and buildings. In fact, one square metre of solar panel receives the equivalent of more than 100 litres of oil in free solar energy per year! It works even when the sky is overcast or cloudy.
Wind energy is energy harnessed from the wind using turbines. There are an increasing number of them around the country especially along the coastlines where the most wind is to be found. For a time on the 5th April 2010, 50% of Ireland's electricity was being generated by wind energy and 42% in total was generated by the end of the day - this is a world record! The wind energy capacity of our turbines is currently 1,837 MW and growing.
Passive solar design
Passive solar design uses the energy from the sun to provide heat and light in buildings. Just by designing a house so it faces south, capturing as much sunlight as possible, energy bills can be reduced by 10%.
Using wood fuel instead of fossil fuels like peat, coal or gas in a modern, efficient stove or boiler is better for the environment. Wood is ‘CO2 neutral’. That means that the amount of CO2 given off when we burn wood equals the amount taken in when the wood is growing.
Heat pumps collect heat from the environment (e.g. air/ground/water) and are ideal for the Irish climate. They are an excellent energy source for under floor heating in particular.
Ocean energy includes the energy contained in waves, tides and ocean currents. It has been estimated that Ireland has enough wave energy off the West coast to provide 75% of our electricity needs. While wave energy is not yet commercial, Ireland is one of the world leaders in researching this energy source. For example, a number of prototype devices are currently being tested in Belmullet with the support of SEAI. By 2020, the government plans to power a city twice the size of Cork using electricity from the ocean.