Exploring the different types of renewable energy

October 9, 2023

Renewable energy has accelerated in development over the last few decades, but has origins dating back centuries.


In the 19th century, French physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect, which later became the foundation for solar photovoltaic technology. However, during the mid-20th century, fossil fuels became the dominant energy source due affordability and ease and renewable energy sources declined in use. Fast-forward to the 1980s and 1990s, and there was a real drive to incentivise and promote renewable energy and, now in the 21st century, with the help of technological advancements, falling costs and increased awareness of environmental issues, renewable energy sources are becoming a key part in the journey towards a sustainable and environmentally friendly industry.


Here is an overview of the different types of renewable energy sources that are used today:



  • Solar – One of the most popular sources of renewable energy for homeowners, 1.3 million UK homes now have solar panels installed. When exposed to sunlight, the solar panel absorbs the energy via photovoltaic cells. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow and therefore a renewable energy source.



  • Generated from turbines, the wind turns the blades of a turbine around a rotor, which turns a generator that creates electricity. Specific environments have been dedicated to this form of renewable energy with designated wind farms generating significant amounts of power in windy areas. Even with wind speeds as little as 3-5 metres per seconds, energy would still be generated.
  • Air-source heat pumps – An air source heat pump is a low-carbon heating source. It uses a refrigeration cycle to move air outside to inside your home, transferring the heat from the air outside and transferring it as useable heat in your home.



  • This generates energy using the heat from the Earth’s core. Wells of up to a mile deep are drilled into underground reservoirs to tap into the geothermal resources. Power plants then draw fluids from these reservoirs to the surface to produce steam which drives turbines to power a generator for electricity. This method is particularly prevalent in regions with high geothermal activity.



  • Hydro-electric power – This renewable source converts energy from flowing water. Most commonly from rivers or dams, the force of the flowing water turns the turbines to power a generator that produces electricity. The greater the height and the more water there is flowing through the turbine, the more electricity is generated.


  • Tidal – Introduced in the 19th century, this form of energy is generated by the natural rise and fall of tides caused by the gravitational interaction between Earth, the sun, and the moon. Tidal currents generate energy when water passes through a constriction, causing the water to move faster. Using specially engineered generators, tidal energy can be converted into many useful forms of power, such as electricity. Suitable locations for capturing tidal energy include those with large differences in tidal range and where tidal channels become smaller and the currents become stronger. Due to its density, tidal energy produces an exponentially greater amount of power than a wind turbine and is more consistent in its behaviours.


  • Wave energy – Similar to tidal energy, wave energy is captured from the kinetic energy of ocean waves. Wave energy converters capture the up-and-down motion or other movements of the waves to generate electricity. These devices come in various forms, such as oscillating water columns, point absorbers and overtopping devices. Different to tidal waves, these waves are caused when the waves propagate slower than the wind speed just above and energy is then transferred from the wind to the waves.


  • Micro-hydro power – A small-scale source of hydropower that generates energy from flowing water; most commonly a small stream or river. Unlike hydroelectric power, which can provide electricity for entire regions, micro-hydro power systems are designed to generate electricity for individual homes, smaller communities or remote areas that are not connected to the grid. A water intake structure is built to divert a portion of the flowing water into a pipeline or penstock, which directs the water to the turbine. The turbine then converts the kinetic energy of the flowing water into mechanical energy, which powers a generator to convert to electricity.


Each source has its own strengths, weaknesses and all depend on factors such as geographic environment, resources and technological advancements.


Today, with constant developments, technological advancements and ongoing research,  renewable energy is an ever-increasing driving force in the transition to a more sustainable and eco-friendly energy system.


At Consumer Energy Solutions, our vision is to provide the best green energy solutions in the UK. We use government backed grants to install energy efficiency measures including insulation, renewable heating systems and solar PV into UK homes with no cost to our customers.


For more information on how we can increase the energy efficiency in your home, visit: https://www.consumerenergysolutions.co.uk/

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