May 14, 2013

 Differing views exist as to the most effective sources of renewable energy, with some arguing that solar power is king, while others argue that a combination of renewable energy sources is the most effective way to power our world.

Energy regulator Ofgem’s latest Feed-in Tariff (FIT): Annual Report (published in December 2012) revealed that photovoltaic solar panels produced the most electricity through the scheme between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012, at a total of 259,198.0 mega watts per hour (MWh).

This was followed by wind power, producing 93,510.6 MWh, anaerobic digestion at 71,607.2 MWh, with the latter described as the process in “which bacteria break down organic material in the absence of oxygen to produce a methane-rich biogas”, and Hydro Power at 52,197.6 MWh.

It is important to note, however, that photovoltaic installations made up 99% of total installations registered by technology type, as outlined in the annual report, and as a result it is no surprise that this renewable product generated the most electricity.

Despite this, leading figures in the energy industry have pointed to the growing potential of solar energy as a renewable energy source.

A report written by energy and climate researchers at Stanford University revealed that while the solar panel energy industry used more energy than it created until 2010, this situation has now been reversed and by 2020 the solar industry is set to “pack back” the electricity it used to create solar panels.

In terms of wind power, a report by the Carbon Trust argues that as wind power technology is one of the most mature of the renewable energy technologies, it has “the prospect to generate – cost effectively – a significant proportion of their electricity needs”.

However, doubt has been cast over the effectiveness of wind farms, with research conducted by Professor Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and former energy advisor to the World Bank arguing that the last 11 years has seen the performance of wind farms “deteriorate markedly”.

Ultimately, a number of renewable and non-renewable sources of energy, such as domestic heating oil, could feature to varying degrees in our future. 

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