Technology behind renewable energy is expanding at a great rate. One Israeli scientist sees solar energy as being the eventual major source of power. Victor Klimov in New Mexico is looking at methods to double the power from a solar cell. Solar energy use is now commonplace for gadgets about the home and garden. Wind farms have begun to contribute to the grid and turbines have been incorporated into domestic residences. Our petrol already contains a percentage of biofuel and Ford are developing models to run on Flexi-Fuel using 85% biofuel.
In the UK solar panels were the first popular choice and are now being used in many instances from powering bus stop and road sign lighting to homes, schools, fire stations, bus garages and offices.
Wind power has increased tremendously after government backing began which saw a number of major schemes being developed from 2004/2005, particularly in Scotland. Europe's largest onshore wind farm, to be sited just south of Glasgow, was given approval in April 2006. It has been predicted that onshore wind farms could provide 5% of Britain's electricity by 2010. In March 2006 the Cumbrian offshore wind farm started to produce power - eventually it will provide for 65,000 homes. Individuals are increasingly finding ways to incorporate wind power for their homes - a Kent couple, a smallholder in Wales and a Peckham man made it to the BBC news. Middlesborough and Manchester football stadiums, schools and offices have also found ways, or are planning, to incorporate the use of the wind.
Biomass has, of course, always been used in the form of wood burning stoves and fires. Wood burning using pellets in stoves is now carbon neutral where open fires are far less beneficial. Biomass material sources are becoming incredibly varied and is a fascinating area to watch develop - whilst farmers are finding it another means to diversify. Housing Associations are including biomass power in new affordable homes powered by biomass. Biofuel is already an ingredient at our petrol stations and in Teeside a massive new plant opened in June 2006 which will produce tonnes of biodiesel annually.
The UK has been somewhat slow to consider the power within the oceans that surround the island, but there are some schemes in planning stage which could have a significant impact on our renewable energy bank. The biggest one to watch is the scheme off Guernsey, which could potentially provide a third of the UK's power needs. Utilising tidal energy is a very new technology, it will take some years for development to be realised. Another scheme being considered is a barrage for the Severn - there are however significant environmental implications for this one - environmental groups have other alternatives, such as tidal lagoons, which appear viable.
Although the UK does not really lend itself to geothermal power - Iceland is the place for that - there are some isolated areas that can tap into the earth's inherent heat. Durham and Midlothian are just two of these - it is, I believe, also being made use of on the south coast of England.