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What is renewable energy and how is it generated?

Renewable energy refers to energy that is generated from a power source that can be replenished, such as sunlight, wind, water and biomass instead of fossil fuels like coal or oil. Fossil fuels come from carbon-based organic materials and form over millions of years. Renewable sources on the other hand, get replenished by nature and are not carbon-based, which means they do not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and are safer for the environment.

How can I use renewable energy in my home?

For environment-conscious customers there are two ways in which you can support the renewable energy industry in Australia. The easier option is to look for electricity providers that offer green or renewable energy plans, which let you buy some or all of your energy needs from renewable sources. The second option available to many Australian households is to install solar panels on the roof of your house. The solar panels will generate electricity to power your home or feed into the power network.

What is a green energy plan?

There isn’t a one single type of green energy plan as each electricity provider has different ways in which they choose to generate or buy the energy for their network. The most common sustainable energy plan is one where you can sponsor a percentage of your energy usage to be generated using renewable sources. While this renewable power will not directly come to your home, the electricity provider will purchase it on your behalf and feed it back into the grid. Some providers like Powershop even let you pick the sustainable industry that you want to support including community energy projects, landfill gas, energy from sugar milling and other wind farms.

What are the benefits of renewable energy?

Renewable energy resources are clean sources of energy. They can be harnessed without damaging the environment, unlike using fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. Increasing the use of renewable energy is therefore a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting Ireland's Kyoto commitments. Renewable energy resources will never become exhausted. Unlike finite fossil fuels, renewable energy resources are continuously replenished and will not run out. Renewable energy resources are indigenous resources. Ireland is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. We now import approx 89% of the fuels we need for energy. By tapping into the renewable energy resources with which Ireland is richly endowed, we could reduce this reliance on imports. By increasing our use of renewable resources, we can achieve a more secure and stable energy supply for the long term.

How does renewable energy contribute to sustainability?

Renewable energy is a supply-side solution for a sustainable energy economy. Renewable energy measures promote sustainability by increasing the supply of energy from sustainable sources. Energy efficiency measures promote sustainability by reducing demand for and consumption of energy.

Can solar panels and other renewable energy technologies provide heat for my home or building?

Yes. Sudan receives enough annual solar energy to allow a correctly sized solar thermal collector system to provide an annual average of 60% of a building's hot water requirements (the figure will be higher in summer and lower in winter). Clean renewable heat energy for buildings of all sizes can also be obtained using passive solar design, heat pumps and wood fuel.

1. What are the financial benefits of solar energy?

When you install a solar energy system on your property, you save money on your electricity bills and protect yourself against rising electricity rates in the future. How much you can save depends on the utility rates and solar policies in your area, but going solar is a smart investment regardless of where you live.

What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

Solar power, like other renewable energy resources, has many environmental and health benefits. Going solar reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change, and also results in fewer air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which can cause health problems.

How does solar impact my property values?

Studies have shown that homes with solar energy systems sell for more than homes without them. However, your property value will only increase if you own, rather than lease, your solar panel system. In most parts of the country, going solar will actually increase your property value more than a kitchen renovation.

How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Solar panels absorb the sun's energy throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. At that point, you either use the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid.