Fossil fuels are running out at a time when our demand for energy is increasing, and our planet is suffering for it.
The good news is that as a business, you have more power than most to do something good for the environment, and there are plenty of ways to go about it.
From something as simple as better building insulation, to generating your own electricity with solar power, there are countless ways to reduce your dependency on fossil fuels and become a greener enterprise. In this guide, we’ll provide you with information about all the main renewables to help you make an informed decision.
Before you start generating your own renewable energy, it’s essential your buildings are properly insulated, because without adequate insulation, your buildings will leak heat and force you to use more energy than you would otherwise use.
There are various ways to make your buildings better insulated. Your windows and doors might be old and need replacing, your loft might not be blanketed, your drywalls might be hollow, or you might have gaps in your floorboards.
We recommend having an Energy Performance Certificate carried out. This will recommend energy-saving retrofitting, so you know where to start.
Commercial solar panels
Solar energy is 100% renewable, relatively efficient (depending on the panels) and the hardware is easily installed.
Most small businesses have enough roof space for a 10kW to 20kW solar system, which would probably provide enough power to serve over 50% of its daily electricity needs (80 to 90 units per day). Excess electricity can also be stored in large batteries, allowing a business to utilise green energy day and night.
Thanks to the Smart Export Guarantee, businesses can also sell excess electricity they generate with solar panels to the grid from 1 January 2020. This applies to solar systems up to 5MW in capacity (the size of 30-acres).
So long as you have adequate roof space, you have everything you need to harness the power of solar. The amount of energy you can generate is dependent on the roof space you have and the efficiency of the panels you choose.
Commercial solar thermal
You can also use the power of the sun to heat your water with solar thermal panels. These also live on your roof, but instead of generating electricity you can use, they transfer heat to your water to reduce your boiler’s energy consumption.
We say reduce, because in winter the heating effect won’t be sufficient to give you hot water by itself. You’ll still need to call on your boiler to heat your water, but it will be pre-warmed so less energy will be used to heat it.
This type of renewable energy will help reduce your energy bill and lower your carbon footprint, but you need to live somewhere sunny to make full use of it because without direct sunlight, the heating effect isn’t powerful. Also, you need space for a dedicated solar cylinder with a solar heating coil for the water.
Commercial wind energy (turbines)
If you’re based somewhere windy and have open space, wind energy will be a reliable way to generate a lot of electricity.
Wind turbines only generate electricity when they turn but when they do they generate a lot – up to 6 million kWh in a year for a single turbine. That’s enough to power around 1,000 small businesses and 500 medium-sized businesses.
The amount of electricity you can generate also depends on the turbine size. Big turbines generate more electricity. Small wind turbines (1kW to 5kW) won’t power your operation, but they can power onsite lighting and appliances.
If your business has access to a fast running water source such as a river or stream, you could generate electricity with it with hydroelectricity.
It works by producing electricity from running water, the flow of which forces a turbine to spin rapidly. This simple effect produces plenty of electricity, with small-scale hydroelectricity setups usually generating 5 to 10kW a day. The amount you can generate depends on the flow of the water and the size of the turbine.
mCHP boilers generate electricity from heat and output both at the same time, effectively putting both power sources into one package.
The way they work is relatively simple: like a regular boiler, an mCHP boiler is powered by a mains gas supply and some of the heat this provides is converted into electricity. This is considered a cleaner way to utilise gas because it does two jobs at once while reducing your dependency on the national grid for electricity.
The newest boilers can generate 1kW of electricity when warmed up, which isn’t enough to completely power a small business, but it is enough to lower your electricity bill. The savings could be as much as £300 per year.
Heat recovery and ventilation
Heat recovery and ventilation systems extract stagnant air from the interior of a building and provide filtered fresh air in its place. Depending on the system, the new air can be introduced from outside or it can be a recirculated version of the old air. The kicker is these systems also extract heat from the old air and distribute it on recirculation, helping to keep the building warm without burning fossil fuels (gas).
Heat pumps for business
Heat pumps can draw heat from the air, land and water around us to a thermal reservoir which is used to heat a building. They are powered by electricity, but electricity is only used to power the pump rather than for the generation of heat. Because of this, they are positive net producers of energy.
The commonest types are air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps, which collect heat from the air and ground respectively. They work all-year round to provide heat to buildings, even during winter, although the effect isn’t as powerful as central heating. For this reason, it’s also important for the building to be well insulated.
Where it rains, it pours, and you can use this fact to provide water for your business in a clean, renewable way with rainwater harvesting.
Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting the rainwater that falls on your property for reuse within your business — the water is collected through a network of drainage holes and is stored in a large water tank. This is then connected to your water supply to provide a clean, free supply of water to your business.
Some industrial companies use this process to provide water for their equipment and machinery, but a more universal application is to flush toilets. It can even be used for indoor heating so long as the water is properly treated.
Also, because the water is stored in large tanks, it’s unlikely you will ever run out – a large enough tank would probably see you through a summer-long drought when filled! There are, however, some conditions you must comply with to harvest rainwater. You can find out more about them here.
We can help you choose the right renewables for your business. Call us on 0333 050 8419 or email us at [email protected].