Are renewable energy sources reliable?
Renewable energy is being utilised more than ever before in the UK. In fact, according to recent Imperial College London research, as of 2022 40% of the nation’s electricity was generated by solar, wind, biomass and hydropower. This was a 5% increase when compared to 2021. However, how reliable are renewable energy sources? Are these green methods a suitable long-term replacement for fossil fuel sources, and which type of domestic renewable is considered most reliable?
Focusing particularly on domestic solar, wind and heat pump technologies, this article offers useful information if you are thinking about investing in green sources of heat and electricity for your home, but are concerned about reliability issues.
Are renewable energy sources reliable in the UK?
Yes, renewable energy sources can be considered reliable in the UK. Although all green technologies have their unique pros and cons, it’s important to remember that renewable energy is generally reliable due to the fact it does not rely on one single source. This is to say, while solar and wind power are ‘variable’ - meaning they rely on conditions being correct in order to work - other renewables such as geothermal, biomass, and hydropower can generate energy as and when required.
However, when it comes to individual domestic renewables solutions, is this still the case? Well, while renewables tend to get grouped together, below we break down three popular energy sources. This will help to highlight which energy sources are most reliable if you are thinking about investing in household renewables.
Is solar energy reliable?
Despite the UK not being the sunniest nation, solar power is still considered a reliable form of energy. This is because solar panels don’t always need direct sunlight to work efficiently. Although it is true that the amount of energy panels can generate does start to diminish in overcast conditions, most solar systems can operate well in cloudy and overcast conditions. Indeed, even in the UK, standard domestic solar panels can save the average UK household around £270 on utility bills each year.
Solar power also tends to be a very low maintenance form of energy. According to a study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, most modern day solar panels have a failure rate of just 0.05%. This means solar energy’s principle technology is very reliable and requires little maintenance during its lifetime.
Is wind power reliable?
Put simply, yes. In the UK, wind turbines are capable of producing green electricity between 70% and 80% of the time. This makes wind power a reliable source of energy the whole year round. This also explains why this form of renewable energy is the most common green energy source in the UK. Currently, around 18% of all energy produced in the UK is generated by wind turbines. However, with new onshore and offshore wind farms in development all the time, this is expected to increase over the coming years.
When it comes to harnessing wind power domestically, small turbines can be equally as reliable. Indeed, a well-placed 6 kW turbine can contribute up to 9,000 kWh a year for your home. For context, this could shave up to £600 off an average household electricity bill.
Are heat pumps reliable?
Domestic heat pumps represent a very efficient and reliable energy source for UK homes. When compared with standard electric boilers, for example, heat pumps can operate at as much as 400% more efficiency. This is because they produce more useful heat than the amount of electricity they require to function. This efficiency ratio is known as the Coefficient of Performance (CoP).
While installation costs can be high, so are the savings this technology can provide. All in all, a home heated by a heat pump rather than a traditional boiler can cut its annual heating bill by as much as 30% (when combined with good installation and smart tariffs), according to Octopus Energy.
Although not carbon neutral - as electricity is required for these pumps to function - all heat extracted is from a renewable source. This means heat pumps are considered a renewable source of energy. On top of this, both air source and ground source heat pumps are thought of as extremely reliable. These systems have an operational lifespan of between 20 and 25 years and require little ongoing maintenance after installation.
What is the most reliable renewable energy source?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Instead, the most reliable and best suited renewable energy sources for your home will depend on a number of factors unique to your lifestyle and home.
For example, as we have discussed, domestic solar panels are considered an efficient and reliable form of renewable energy. However, if you live in a location which receives little sunlight, or if your home is often shaded by trees, buildings and/or other structures, this renewable may not be the best choice for your home. Indeed, some installers may advise against solar panels if your roof faces a certain direction.
Similarly, although heat pumps are also generally a reliable source of domestic heat, they are not appropriate for all homes. Both air source and ground source heat pumps can be installed in a range of different property types - including flats - however, they require a good deal of space both inside and outside. This is a factor that must be considered before opting for a renewable installation of this type in your home.
Here at Viessmann, we are embracing the green transition. With this in mind, we offer a variety of sustainable heating options for all types of homes. This includes both solar thermal systems and heat pumps.