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Renewable Energy Myths – Fact Busted!

Posted in: Energy

Posted on: 17.07.2017

At Good Energy we see a lot of misinformation being thrown around. Climate change deniers and renewable energy sceptics happen across our way, so we thought we’d do our best to bust some of the renewable energy myths that are out there.

Because this is the internet and anyone could make anything up, we’re going to back up all our points with solid research from independent third parties.

Where to start? How about with one of the comments we see the most?

Myth #1
Renewable Energy is Too Expensive

This is tosh. Wind power is one of the cheapest forms of energy available, with solar power also being cheaper than coal and nuclear. Yes, these renewable forms of energy might currently be slightly more expensive than gas, but the cost of energy from gas is forecast to increase while that generated from renewables is only going to go down even further.

Where are these stats? Here’s the Electricity Generation Costs report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Wind turbines are cheap to build

Myth #2
Renewables are the only energy type that gets subsidies

No. The belief that fossil fuels or nuclear don’t get subsidies is completely wrong. See our recent blog on renewable subsidies to understand more. What do you call the billions of tax payer pounds being poured into Hinkley Point C if it isn’t a subsidy? Or the money paid to existing coal fired power stations to stay online? In value terms, the UK Government pays way more in subsidies to fossil fuels than it does to renewable energy sources. And with recent government changes to renewable subsidies, the support clean, green energy receives has been drastically cut.

You can find out more about these subsidies here.

Myth #3
Climate change isn’t real

Okay, Donald Trump, let’s just ignore all the scientists and facts and data shall we? When experts in the field from all around the world are agreeing that climate change is very real and the reason for this warming is human activity you really should pay attention. You wouldn’t ignore potentially lifesaving medical advice – especially if all the second opinions said the same thing, so why would you choose to ignore the health of the world?

The science of climate change is clear. It’s how the world reacts that remains uncertain.

Here’s NASA’s page all about climate change: https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

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Myth #4
Wind farms kill birds and bats

While this one isn’t completely untrue, they don’t do half as much damage as people think. This myth comes from early wind farms in the USA which were poorly designed and not well placed – however, this led to a change in process that ensures new turbines are less harmful to wildlife and a huge amount of consideration goes into their placement.

In fact, the number of birds killed by wind turbines is drastically less than that caused by cats, cars, buildings and agricultural pesticides. Find out more here: https://www.carbonbrief.org/bird-death-and-wind-turbines-a-look-at-the-evidence

 

Myth #5
You can’t be sure that you always supply 100% renewable electricity

In a narrow, technical sense, you’re right. Like every supplier, our electricity reaches our customers via the national grid; otherwise, we’d have to run wires from our wind and solar farms and other renewable generators directly to the premises of our customers. This would be impractical and uneconomic and would make it almost impossible to switch suppliers in future.

 

So at any given moment, our customers – like everyone else - are getting power from whoever is generating on the grid, including fossil and nuclear power stations.

But unlike other suppliers, we guarantee that, over the period of a year, every unit of electricity our customers use is matched by a unit going into the grid from our wind and solar farms and our other renewable generators. As we grow, this helps increase the amount of renewable electricity that’s going into the grid.

You can see this by looking at our fuel mix.

Did you know that between 2015 and 2016 in Britain over 24% of electricity came from renewables?

Myth #6
Renewables can’t provide electricity 24/7

What happens on dark, still windless nights? This is something we’re asked all the time. Firstly, the weather is rarely the same across the whole country, so spreading renewable generators out means you can reduce the impact of unfavourable weather in one place. 

Secondly, some renewable technologies like biomass and hydropower, together with battery storage, can work together to help meet energy demand when solar and wind are producing less. It isn’t about relying on one specific form of energy; we need a balanced mix of sources, spread across the country and matched with battery storage and other smart technologies, to provide us with a steady supply of electricity.

Still think this isn’t possible? Check out this statement from academics at Stanford University, which says “the main barriers to a conversion [to 100% renewable power] are neither technical nor economic; rather, they are social and political.

Myth #7
You’re just another avenue for the big oil companies

We are not affiliated with any big oil or gas company. Good Energy is owned by shareholders – most of who are also our customers - and was started by Juliet Davenport back in 1999 to provide people with the option to go renewable when there wasn’t a choice. Some big oil companies are investing heavily in renewables, which highlights just how vital this form of energy is. 

You can find out more about our story right here.

Myth #8
We will never be able to leave natural gas

Currently, the UK is reliant on natural gas. It is cheap, easy to use and there is a good working system in place to deliver it to homes around the country which makes it seem impossible that we’ll ever be able to survive without it. However, natural gas comes at a cost to the environment. So we can’t give up on transitioning away from it before we’ve even begun – there are other options available, find out more here.

As more renewable heating solutions are created that are affordable, the dependence on gas for heat will reduce. Combine this with an increased amount of biomethane going into the national grid and improved home efficiency and giving up natural gas becomes a real possibility.

And other people think the same as us. Greenpeace has put together an Energy [R]evolution document which includes the transition away from gas in their 100% renewable future.

Myth #9
We’re wasting land putting solar farms in fields

At Good Energy we’re big supporters of rooftop solar farms, however, we also think solar farms can be built in fields in harmony with wildlife and existing biodiversity. More often than not, these fields are dual purpose – providing a grazing area for sheep as well as generating renewable energy. In some cases, solar arrays are spaced far enough apart to grow crops in between and this is certainly the case with on-shore wind turbines too.

Here’s an entire article on agricultural good practice for solar farms.

lambs on a solar farm

Myth #10
Wind turbines are not efficient

This is a common misconception and can be skewed in several ways depending on the metrics and measurements used. Wind turbines cannot extract all the power from the wind, just as coal fired power stations cannot capture all the energy from coal and put it to good use. Neither method is 100% efficient – the science says they can’t be. However, on its own efficiency is not a good metric for wind turbines, because the fuel costs nothing and will always keep on blowing! We should also look at a turbine’s availability – how much of the time it can generate. Wind turbines do not break down very often and do not require much down time for maintenance, and can operate about 99% of the time.

Here is everything you need to know about the mathematics behind this.

Myth #11
Having solar panels will make your meter run backwards

This one actually can happen, but it shouldn’t. This would be a result of a faulty or non-compatible meter being used with a PV system. The company installing a PV system should check the compatibility of your meter and should inform your supplier if the meter needs to be upgraded.

Here’s what Which? has to say on this.

 

Solar panels on the roof of a home

Have you got any more myths that need to be busted? Any renewable questions that you think aren’t quite right? Send us a tweet and we’ll do our best to dispel it!

Posted in: Energy


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