So what is green energy, It depends on who you ask and when you ask it for what is green to one person could be an abomination to someone else. When I was growing up it was things forestry, solar, turf, wind energy, bio gas etc. A lot of these are still considered green energy by many today but they have come under closer scrutiny and the numbers objecting to them being in their area is growing every year.
Forestry has been pushed hard here since the early 1980s the main type of trees planted were sitka spruce. The reason being it is a very fast growing tree and its possible to get a return within 20 years. In the past a lot of (sitka) spruce plantations were planted in totally unsuitable areas like deep peat land. This caused two problems the trees would not grow properly and part of the plantation died and it also caused ecological to the area displacing birds and animals from their natural habitat.
Farmers who might have been finding it difficult to make a living from marginal land were attracted by the grants and premiums that were on offer. It was only natural that they would want to plant their most unproductive land first while continuing to farm their more productive land with livestock.
The problem was the trees would not grow in poor soil types like peat lands either or at least they would take a lot longer to grow. To give an example I know of one sitka spruce plantation near my own farm that is there around 40 years and they have not even got thinning s from it yet.
Another plantation down the road at a lower elevation on better soil has been planted and harvested twice during that time. Today there is more scrutiny on soil type and where trees can be planted. The ecology of the area has come more into focus two as well as a growing opposition from the public.
Groups like save letrim and save Kerry have had enough with sitka spruce trees blanketing the entire countryside displacing both the people and animals who live there.
When the land is planted birds that might rely on it like the curlew sky lank hen harrier etc have lost their nesting areas and hunting ground. The farmer whose family might have lived there for generations will also have lost his connection to the land and while he might live out his days there the next generation will not want to live in a dark forestry far away from shops and employment.
That has a knock on effect on schools and shops in the area also until eventually almost everything in the area is displaced. So forestry as a green carbon neutral energy has lost a lot of its appeal and I think going forward there will be more issues around licenses for replanting and felling trees in areas such as SPAs and SACs.
I think it would be interesting to do a poll on this and see if people still think as forestry is green or not.
Solar energy never really got going here yet and I am not sure if it is cost efective enough at this point in time. Apart from some grants for solar water heating which works alright in the summer. Using solar photovoltaics panels to produce electricity here has not really caught on here yet.
The price of these panels are coming down and the technology is getting better but apart from solar fences garden lights etc. maybe our winters are two long and dark here for it to be a viable option yet. Apart from some companies looking for farmland for solar projects not much else has happened here.
This was happening with wind energy companies a few years back where some were approaching farmers to sign lease option agreements while telling the farmers of the money they could earn if the project went ahead. In reality some just wanted to tie up the land for a number of years so any other wind energy company couldn’t build there.
Unless money changes hands I would be very slow going forward on signing anything based on a promise. It could well be the case that they just want to get a land bank built up in case it becomes more economical in the future through government grants etc. In my opinion if they are serious about making a multi million euro investment then a small sum of money to show the land owner that they are serious would not be a problem especially if it means that you are going to be tied into an agreement with them for a number of years without a guarantee of getting anything.
Wind energy is a bit of a strange one people either love it or they hate it and I think a lot of it has to do with who is making money from it and who is not. Personaly I don’t have any problem with it in the right area but that’s probably easy for me to say as I have land that would be perfect for wind turbines if they ever got planning approval.
A lot of people however hate the sight of them and complain that the ruin the views of the area or there are two many around already. There is growing opposition in certain areas against them and planning objections lodged for everything from noise to shadow flicker to the impact to wildlife to visual impact.
That said they are not like forestry and rather than displace people from the area can actually bring some local employment to the area. Still, many groups do not want wind turbines in there community and because of this planning is harder to get and there are more calls to put wind turbines off shore.
Having a wind farm out at sea will have a lot higher setup cost and the fact that you don’t see many doing it begs the question is it even viable and would the companies see a return on their investment. There has also been some research on wave technology to generate electricity but I haven’t seen any large scale commercial project on this yet either.
Many people see turbines as anything but green and blame them for damaging the upland environment noise bird strikes etc. Although I have to say I have not noticed any noise from the ones near my farm and some say that birds are more likely to get hit by a passing car than the blades of a wind turbine. I can’t say whether this is true or not but it is clear that many don’t see wind energy as green energy any longer
I might be showing my age now but I remember a time when turf was seen as a clean renewable fuel. It was a locally produced form a bog a few miles away as had been done for hundreds if not thousands of years here. At the time dirty fuels were like smokey coal and leaded petrol that caused smog in built up areas.
Turf on the other hand was seen as a source of employment in the local area and most dwellings used it to some degree as a source of heat for the winter. In more recent years it is been seen as releasing carbon into the atmosphere instead of capturing it and storing it under ground like bogs do. So there has been a shift to move away from cutting turf and instead to switch to other heating fuels like wood pellets.
The problem with wood pellets is that they have to be imported and with timber going up in price due to many factors not least the issues around planting and felling trees here and a growing demand worldwide it is now cheaper to burn oil or gas than to burn wood pellets.
I know this because I installed a baxi wood pellet boiler myself. Most people that installed pellet boilers at that time under a grant from the government ended up switching back to oil after a few years as it was cheaper than pellets. I was lucky enough to have a boiler that could also burn wheat or barley which I had access to. I always found it strange though to be living in a world where it was cheaper to burn food than to burn fuel.
I could go really into depth on this but just to keep it simple most people don’t see turf as a green energy anymore. Whether or not oil or gas shipped around the world is greener is open for debate.
Biogas is made by breaking down organic matter like slurry manure or municipal waste in the absence of oxygen. It is called anaerobic digestion and although this idea has been around for a long time there are not two many up and running successfully. I think the main reason being again would be the risks versos the return on investment.
I am not saying that it doesn’t work but just that investors with that much money to spend would usually go for something with the best return on investment. This is of course just my own opinion but if I saw it becoming as popular as wind energy from turbines I could be convinced otherwise.
A lot of farmers here went down this route some years back and some got badly burnt. Crops like miscanthus also known as elephant grass and willow was set in order to be sold to power plants and burnt to generate electricity. If farmers were lucky enough to keep the rabbits away from the young shoots after planting and lucky enough with the weather to harvest the crop in early spring and lucky enough that the power plants would take it.
the return on investment was still very poor for some and for many others it was non existent. So I think the majority of farmers that tried this switched back to grassland and other crops after a few years again.
Batteries have come a long way in the past decade especially with electric cars and cordless tools etc. Mostly due to advances in lithium ion batteries. Electric cars are seen as the new green energy that is going to revelutanise the world we live in. The range and power is getting better every year along with demand as the purchase price comes down and government grants are given to incentives more people to purchase.
I personally think it is only a matter of time before electric vehicles take over from the old petrol and diesel as the lithium-ion has already done in power tools. Even electric scooters and bikes are getting more advanced every year with range and power increases e bikes could take over from other transport in many cities.
As good and all as all this sounds I still can’t say this is all that green. Although lithium-ion batteries contain less harmful metals than other metals they are very expensive to recycle and is more cost effective to mine new metals like cobalt to make new batteries. Cobalt is mined in places like the democratic republic of Congo. Lithium is mined in places like south America, south Africa and parts of Asia and china.
Mining in many countries have a whole host of environmental and health problems associated with it especially small scale mining that is mostly unregulated and has high levels of child labor and work place injury and has other problems like mining related illnesses, environmental damage, child labor, prostitution and rape.
Car companies in Europe will need to cut costs if they are to have any hope of competing with cheaper petrol and diesel cars so this is one area where I don’t see batteries as being a truly green energy.
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What is green energy?
although advances are being made I don’t see any true green energy out there yet although we are probably getting closer. If you look close enough you will always find people who have problems with what others see as green. Sales and marketing also comes into play and the seller will always try to tell you the best about what they are offering.
People will always try to get the best product at the cheapest price or even get the best return on investment. So in summery it is very much down to the individual person or maybe there is no such thing. Let me know what you think in the comment box below.