Alternative, green or renewable energy is energy that is derived cleanly, with minimal effects on the environment. Using alternative energy can reduce pollution, and the use of renewable sources ensures that power will always be available in the future. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources will not run out.
Alternative energy can be used on a commercial basis, it is also possible to use it on a small scale, in a single green building. Alternative energy can be very important if you are hoping to create a green building, whether you are working on a new build or converting an existing property. By incorporating some system of producing green energy into a building, you can significantly reduce the environmental impact of living in the building.
If you are considering using alternative energy in a green building, then you should spend some time thinking about the range of different options which are available. These include wind, solar and geothermal power. It is possible to use alternative energy to supplement your conventional supply of electricity, to provide all of your electricity, or to heat or pump water.
Wind turbines can be used to convert the power of the wind into electricity, although they are also used to pump water. There can be a lot of variation in the size of wind turbines and in the amount of power which they can produce. Small wind turbines can be an excellent choice for home use, particularly in locations that receive plenty of wind. Some are small enough to mount on a roof, while others are usually placed on a separate structure. However, wind turbines cannot produce any energy when the wind is not blowing, so they cannot be relied upon as a single source of energy, without some type of storage.
In some locations, it may be possible to use a turbine driven by the power of water rather than the wind. Water power can be used when building near moving water. It can provide a reliable source of energy since streams and rivers are constantly moving. Water turbines are available that are designed for small scale use, although they tend to be less readily available than wind turbines since their use is location dependent and only a limited number of building projects will be able to use them.
Photovoltaic solar panels, solar laminates and solar shingles can be used to generate electricity. They tend to be fairly expensive to install although the maintenance costs are low. Photovoltaic cells are usually able to produce electricity on overcast days, but they cannot be used at night. Another source of power or a storage system is, therefore, required. Solar power can also be used to heat water rather than to generate electricity. This usually works best in warm and sunny climates. Installing a solar water heating system can be very cheap.
Geothermal energy can be used to create large amounts of reliable electricity and heat in suitable locations. It uses the thermal energy, which is stored in the earth and which is usually most accessible in areas that are near the boundaries of tectonic plates. However, as the technology develops, it is becoming possible to use geothermal energy in other locations.
Geothermal heat pumps can be used anywhere. The ground is less prone to temperature fluctuations than the air, so the temperature underground is usually warmer than that above ground in the winter and cooler in the summer. By burying pipes underground, it is possible to pump heat up into a building during the winter, or to draw heat out of the house and down into the ground during the summer. Geothermal heat pumps can therefore be used to heat and cool a green building. The pump itself will require a source of energy, which should ideally be a renewable one such as a wind turbine or solar panels.
If you want to be completely reliant on alternative energy, then you will probably want to incorporate a number of different technologies into your green building, and you should also think about investing in some type of an energy storage system such as a high capacity accumulator, if you are using an intermittent source of power, so that you will have power even when it is dark or when the wind is not blowing. Making your building as energy efficient as possible can also help you to ensure that you will be able to meet all of your needs using alternative energy.