Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy sources

Renewable energy is harnessed from sustainable sources such as the sun, wind and water. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources will never run out, are more reliable and don’t emit carbon into the atmosphere – the leading cause of climate change.

What is renewable energy?

Here’s a simple renewable energy definition: renewable energy extracted from natural resources which will replenish in a human timescale, i.e. they are a part of our planet’s ecosystem and aren’t going to run out.

What are fossil fuels?

Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas to fuel our homes, businesses and means of transport. However, while fossil fuels have enabled huge economic growth and technological evolution, we now know that burning them has also damaged our planet through the vast amounts of carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere.

Carbon emissions are causing our planet’s climate to change so drastically that it could eventually lead to widespread drought, flooding and massive population displacement caused by rising sea levels.

If that weren’t enough reason to find alternative sources of energy, fossil fuels are non-renewable, i.e. they take millions of years to form. This means that once they’re gone, they’re gone, and they are running out. This is why more and more of us are turning to renewable energy sources to power and heat our homes.

Types of renewable energy sources

Types of renewable energy sources include:

  • Air
  • Biomass
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Hydro
  • Tidal


It’s commonly known that wind can be used as a renewable energy source to generate power but heat can even be extracted from the air around us, an abundant source of energy that can be harnessed at almost any time (even in freezing temperatures) to generate heating for a home.

Biomass and biofuels

Biomass energy is a renewable energy source because it is produced from organic materials such as plants and manure. The most common forms used to generate biomass energy are wood, crops and manure.

Biofuels are a form of renewable energy derived from burning plant or animal substances, otherwise called combustion. One of the challenges to biofuels has been that it is not easily transferred into a liquid form which is the primary method used to fuel most cars and homes.


Geothermal comes from the Greek word “Geo” which means earth, so geothermal energy is derived heat from the Earth. It is considered to be a renewable source of energy as the water in the Earth is replenished by regular rainfall and the heat used is regularly produced by the planet.

Hydro Power

Hydro power or hydro energy is derived from the movement of water, rather than the natural heat of water (geothermal). One form of hydro power is generated through the movement of water through turbines, such as water running through turbines in a dam. Hydro power is considered a renewable energy source as the water is continuously cycled back through the plant or into nature.


In one form or another, solar power has been around for thousands of years. As a renewable source of free, green energy, technology has found a way of harnessing the sun’s energy via solar panels.


Tidal movement of the oceans generates kinetic energy which, using a generator and turbine can be converted into electricity to power appliances.

Wind Power

Wind power is used as a means of generating electricity by wind turbines which are capable of harnessing the power derived from the wind, converting kinetic energy into mechanical energy. A source of clean, green renewable energy, favourable climate conditions in Europe means wind energy is a highly viable method for electricity generation. And none more so than in the UK, with 40% of all wind energy in Europe blowing over the country.

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Types of renewable heating systems for homes

Air source heat pump

Air source heat pumps are becoming more and more popular with homeowners and businesses looking to heat buildings with a renewable energy source. An air source heat pump operates like a refrigerator in reverse. Visually, air source heat pumps resemble an air conditioning unit which sits outside your home and draws in air via a rotating fan. A refrigerant chemical then absorbs the latent heat from the air so the heat can be used in the home. In an air-to-air heat pump this heat is used to heat the space in your home while in an air-to-water heat pump the heat produces hot water for domestic use and a wet central heating system.

Air source heat pumps can still work effectively even in temperatures as low as -25°C in some cases and, as well as reducing your home’s carbon footprint, can significantly reduce heating bills when replacing a traditional oil or LPG boiler.

Biomass boiler

Biomass boilers burn wood pellets, wood chips or logs, using the generated heat to produce hot water for wet central heating systems. In some cases they can also be fueled by biological material from plants and plant-based organisms.

Burning wood rather than gas or oil is much more sustainable as we can plant and grow new trees but we can’t replace the gas or oil we’re currently burning for fuel without waiting a few million years. This is not the only method of generating biomass energy; you can also create biomass energy by converting these substances into methane gases, ethanol and biodiesel fuels which can be translated more easily into our current methods of energy use.

Ground source heat pump

Ground source heat pumps (also known as geothermal heat pumps) can be installed to harness the natural heat from underground. Ground source heat pumps extract heat via tubes of fluid buried outside your property. This fluid absorbs the heat from the ground so it can be used to heat your home and water. The tubes can either be installed straight down, deep underground or horizontally if you have enough outside space. Using renewable energy to produce heat for your home means you will need to buy less from a supplier and so should be able to reduce your heating bills as well as your carbon emissions.

The price of installing a ground source heat pump will vary from home to home and from installer to installer so it’s important to get more than one quote before committing to a price. You can get free, no-obligation quotes for a ground source heat pump here.

Solar panels

Solar panels absorb energy from the sun to either heat water in a cylinder or generate electricity:

  • Solar thermal panels use the sun’s energy to heat water which can then be used in taps, showers and wet central heating systems. A popular choice in a growing renewable energy market, solar energy is free and means owners need to buy less energy from a supplier.
  • Solar PV systems capture the energy from the sun’s light and convert it into usable electricity which we can use to power everyday appliances, electric heating or even to run electric cars.

If you’re interested in solar PV or solar thermal panels as a renewable energy source for your home and would like free, no-obligation quotes, place a quick enquiry with our sister website, Solar Guide to find and compare quotes from MCS registered solar installers in your area.

Water source heat pump

Heat can also be extracted from the Earth’s natural water sources. For properties situated near a lake, river or stream it’s possible to install a water source heat pump. Pipes are submerged in the water and a heat pump pushes a heat absorbing fluid through the network of piping; this fluid extracts natural heat from the surrounding water to be used in the heating system.

Should you switch to a renewable heating system for your home?

It’s widely accepted that we need to make a change to cleaner and renewable energy sources if we want our planet to survive for as long as possible.

The UK government plans to phase out oil fired central heating boilers by 2025 and has announced that natural gas boilers will be banned in new build homes by 2025. In their place, they want homeowners to adopt renewable energy sources for our heating and power and even drive electric vehicles rather than relying on petrol or diesel.

By switching to a renewable heating system you will not only be lowering your carbon footprint, but could also make significant savings on your energy bills and even earn money through the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

Renewable heating systems for your home

The most popular types of renewable heating systems available are:

  • Solar thermal panels for a renewable wet central heating system;
  • Air source heat pumps for heating and / or hot water production;
  • Ground source heat pumps for wet central heating systems;
  • Biomass boilers for wet central heating systems.

You also have the option of a hybrid heating system which allows your existing gas or oil boiler to be paired with a renewable heating system.

Benefits of a renewable heating system

Heating your home using a system that generates power from renewable energy sources comes with many benefits:

  • Cut your electricity bills
  • Less reliance on your energy supplier
  • Shrink your carbon footprint
  • Earn money through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)

What is the Renewable Heating Incentive

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) was introduced by the government to encourage homeowners to switch from heating their homes using gas and oil to renewable energy sources.

The scheme pays owners of eligible renewable heating systems for the energy their technology generates for 7 years after installation – the tariff paid varies from technology to technology.

Cost of a renewable heating system

Heating your home using renewable energy sources means switching to a renewable heating system which can be a considerable investment with prices ranging from £3,000 to £21,000 depending on the technology you choose.

Renewable Heating System Potential Cost
Air Source Heat Pump £4,000 – £11,000
Biomass Boiler £4,000 – £21,000
Ground Source Heat Pump £8,000 – £12,000
Solar Thermal £3,000 – £7,000
Water Source Heat Pump £10,000

While these initial prices might be higher than a conventional boiler, fuelled by fossil fuels, over the years you will potentially see considerable savings on your energy bills that could see you eventually make a return on your investment – something you wouldn’t get with a gas or oil boiler. Add payments through the RHI into the mix too and that initial investment soon looks worthwhile.

Get free quotes to heat your home using renewable energy sources

If you’re interested in reducing the impact your home is having on the environment, you can get free no-obligation quotes for the installation of a renewable heating system by completing our simple online form.

With the quotes in hand, you’ll be in a position to compare them and be confident that you’re getting the most competitive price.

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