UK’s Energy Supply

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Energy is one of the economy’s stalwarts. For a nation to grow economically it needs cheap and readily available energy to power its industries. Governments must ensure on-time and cheap sources of energy. Recently as reported by the department of energy and climate change, the UK is buying more of its energy from neighboring countries. This increases competition for this precious commodity and therefore the prices skyrockets as witnessed by the rise in oil prices in the summer of 2008. Energy is also needed to power UK’s modern living standards in our homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools (Energy Resources Tidal, 2008 par. 4). There is a need for high energy for warming the houses during the winter period. In the coming years, the UK needs to invest heavily in the energy sector to provide secure and pocket-friendly energy. As Booker recently reported that before 2015 we are going to lose approximately 40% of the generating capacity we need as a result of the closure of nuclear reactors and major coal energy stations due to the EU directive to stop pollution (2008, par. 4). The UK needs to replace the old coal energy factories with modern plants which are fired by gas. These plants are faster, cheaper, and produce decreased amounts of carbon dioxide. With increased global warnings due to the production of greenhouse gases, there is a call by all nations for environmental conservation. This was agreed upon by heads of state in a forum in Copenhagen. In Britain, greater than half of the greenhouse gases produced emanate from buildings, and the solution to counter these results is turning to a renewable source of energy (Black, 2005 par. 6). It is for these reasons that the UK has embarked on wind and tidal energy to boost its energy supply. This essay gives the contributions that wind and tidal energy make towards the UK energy supply.

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Wind energy

Wind power involves converting the moving air into a usable form of energy by use of turbines to produce electricity or wind-powered pumps which pump water (Institute of Civil Engineers, 1990 p. 46). For more than 3000 years, windmills have been used for water pumping, grinding of maize, and as a powering energy source for ships going for long time voyage. They were mainly used by the rural industries for lighting until the cheap engines that used fossil fuel were invented. The windmill was first patented in Scotland after professor Blyth conducted several experiments on it (BWEA, 2007 p. 4). During the same time in America, Charles Brush was able to generate electricity that he used to light his home and laboratory. Various improvements have been done to the windmill like size reduction to fit modern-day society. According to Burton, Sharpe, and Jenkins (2001 p. 29), wind energy is recognized as having a pivotal role in renewable energy supply with more installations increasing the supply from 2.5 GW to a postulated 40GW by the year 2010. The success of wind energy development depends on certain factors like the financial inputs for these projects, the authorization of windmill installation by the local authorities, and the peoples’ attitude towards the windmills.

The speed of wind varies according to places with given locations that have high speeds than others. This is due to the sun hitting the earth’s surface irregularly because of the unevenness of the earth’s surface and also due to the earth’s rotation on its axis. For sufficient energy production, the wind should have a high speed to rotate the turbine at a higher speed and produce more electricity. The earth is unevenly heated by rays from the sun; this causes certain places at the poles to receive less energy as compared to the equator. The place for turbine placement should have freely flowing air and other factors like the presence of transmission lines, the total cost of acquiring the land, and also the impact the placement will have on the environment should be considered. At an electricity generating plant, wind turbines are connected to a medium voltage system for collecting power and a network for communications. The voltage produced by the turbines is increased by transformers at substations and the high voltage power is fed to the transmission system.

Wind energy is advantageous over other sources of energy and has contributed to a larger extent to UK’s energy supply (Buzzle. Com, 2009 par. 6). First, the wind is plenty and distributed everywhere and a windmill can be installed anywhere as long as it’s feasible in terms of installation. Wind energy is renewable and cheap in comparison to others. Unlike other energy sources like coal, it does not produce greenhouse gases, and therefore it’s eco-friendly. Wind energy does not cause pollution and since wind is common everywhere the dependency on energy from other countries will cease. Finally, wind energy offers a permanent and reliable type of energy. Wind energy has offered a cheap solution to UK’s increasing demand for energy. It is being utilized to fill the void in power generation to the growing economy of the UK. As an eco-friendly type of energy, it has greatly contributed to the reduction of greenhouse emissions in the UK. Presently, the UK has turned much attention to wind energy and more turbines are being installed. By January of this year, a 4 GW wind power generator had been installed.

Although wind energy has contributed greatly to the economy of the UK, it has its demerits. A wind power generating station needs large numbers of turbines to be installed to generate enough power and be economical. These turbines create a lot of noise and most of the time cause noise pollution if installed in towns. The amount of wind prevailing at a given time is unpredictable even with sophisticated apparatus. Thus, for those places where a big amount of energy is needed it might not be reliable. Many areas where the production of wind energy occurs are far away from places where the energy produced is consumed, this brings about the need for the long transmission line. It is worth noting that the advantages of wind energy surpass its disadvantages and therefore it should be improved to assist the existing sources.

Tidal energy

It is the kind of hydropower that transforms tidal energy into useful types of energy as the electricity commonly used. During tides, a large amount of water is moved two times daily and this means a lot of energy for the UK’s needs. In Britain, there are 8 main sites identified where tidal power generating stations could be constructed. A big dam is constructed across a river feeding into the sea. When there is tidewater goes in and out and this can be used to turn a turbine or in other cases, they push air inside a pipe which then rotates the turbine (Institute of Civil Engineers, 1982 p. 105).

Tidal energy is also a renewable source of energy and it does not cause environmental degradation by the production of greenhouse gases like fossil fuel or nuclear power (Duff, 1986 p. 125). Tides are caused by the gravitational force on the moon and the sun and also due to the earth’s revolution. One of the disadvantages of tidal energy stations is that they only produce when the tide is going in or out. Their mode of action is predictable and other sources of energy can be used as an alternative. There are three categories of tidal power and these are; the tidal stream system which utilizes kinetic energy generated by the water in motion. This energy is used to power the power turbines for electricity production. Their mode of operation is the same as that employed by the windmills which use wind. The second category is the barrages which utilize the potential energy gain by the water due to a height difference from the high to the low tide. Barrages have challenges of the high cost of infrastructure, lack of proper sites to construct them, and issues of environmental conservation. The third and final is the tidal lagoons which are almost alike with the barrages. The difference is that they are much cheaper and can be adjusted to produce power continuously (Baker, 1991 p. 41).

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For increased production of large amounts of electricity, a difference in height of a minimum of five meters is essential. For some regions along the coastline, the tidal waves experienced here are by far more forceful in comparison with other areas. This trend is attributed to inlets and bays amplifications. When tides are much higher, more electricity is produced and the opposite is also true. The technology involves constructing a dam and installing gates and turbines at some points along the dam. When there is a sizable difference in height, the gates are opened and the water flows creating a hydrostatic head that forces the water to flow through the turbines. As a result, the electric generator is turned on, effectively generating electricity. Electrical power can be generated when water is following either inside or getting outside. In a day, there are two low tides which are followed by two high tides. This produces an electrical generation difference after every twelve hours and no electricity production at the sixth hour. In addition, the turbines find use as pumping devices. During periods of low electrical production, the pumping action of these turbines returns water to the dams. On a normal day, the electricity demand varies with day time consuming more than during the night when most in the population are fast asleep and industries are closed. The supply of power from tidal energy cannot meet the demands. However, one of the advantages of tidal power is that it’s reliable and can be predicted. In the UK, tidal energy is used to replace electricity that would otherwise be generated from fossil fuels. This reduces the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and thus contributing to environmental conservation.

One of the obstacles to the usage of tidal energy is the costs involved in constructing tidal power stations. Various turbines that are used for power generation are quite expensive and require a massive budget. However, the cost of maintenance and operation is quite low as the water is free from the constructed dam but the net cost of the power generated by tidal energy is still high.

Conclusion

Energy is used to power many machines that are used in our industries. It is therefore necessary to have an interrupted supply of electricity to be maintained at all times (Charlier & Finkl, 2009 p. 56). For major economic growth, industries must work all day. This offers employment opportunities to the people and industries contribute to countries revenue through taxes. During the cold season of winter, power is used to warm buildings and it is a costly affair if the rates are high. Governments must endeavor to provide electrical energy at all times and at prices that are fair enough to maximize profits for the industries and for the common people to afford the payment of the bills. It is for this reason that the UK government has invested heavily in finding alternative sources of energy to complement the energy from fossil fuels. The government has embarked on investing in wind and tidal energy to boost energy. This will be a great achievement since most of our energy is imported. Wind energy is gotten from windmills where the turbines are run by moving air. It has various advantages one of them being that it does not produce any greenhouse gases. This has enhanced our fight for environmental conservation. It is also readily available at all times and the maintenance costs are low. It has, however, its demerits as the heavy machines produce a lot of noise-causing noise pollution. The tidal power supply is also being utilized to complement fossil fuels. It is less costly in maintenance and operational costs and does not produce greenhouse gases. It is a call to all of us to save energy whenever possible and use it only when needed. This will see our economy growing and we shall reap the benefits.

Reference

Baker, A., 1991, Tidal Power. London, Peter Peregrinus.

Black, R 2005. Britain Facing Large Energy Gap. BBC News. Web.

Booker, C 2008, Future of UK’s energy supply is dark indeed. Telegraph. Web.

Burton, T, Sharpe, D, & Jenkins, N., 2001, Wind Energy: Handbook. Chichester,John Wiley and Sons.

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Buzzle. Com 2009. Intelligent life on the web. Advantages and disadvantages of Wind Energy. Web. 

BWEA 2007, Countdown to meeting 10% UK electricity target by 2010. Web.

Charlier, R. H & Finkl, C., 2009, Ocean Energy: Tide and Tidal Power. Cheltenham, UK: Springer.

Duff, G. F., 1986, Tidal Energy: Or, Time And Tide Wait For No Man. Telford,UK: American Association of Physics Teacher.

Energy Resources Tidal Power 2008. (Online). Tidal Power energy from the sea. Web. 

Institute of Civil Engineers., 1990, Developments in Tidal Energy. Telford and Wrekin, UK: Thomas Telford.

Roger, H. C., 1982, Tidal Energy. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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