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Renewable energies in homes and businesses: Forms and uses

Renewable energies are in vogue, their presence in everyday life has increased in recent years and is expected to increase even more in the future. They are becoming increasingly important in regional, national, European and global political agendas and the laws that are being adopted affect both individuals and businesses.

You have wondered whether you can use renewable energy in your home (flat or house) or business, what types of renewable energies are best, how much it costs to install them, what savings they bring.... In the following we will try to answer these and other questions.


WHAT ARE RENEWABLE ENERGIES AND WHAT ARE THEIR ADVANTAGES?

Renewable energies, also called green, sustainable or regenerative, are those that regenerate naturally at a higher rate than their consumption. The best known are: Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass.

Using them to generate energy (electricity and heat) has several advantages:

  • By reducing energy costs, you pay less for your electricity bill and / or fossil fuels.
  • Contributing to the sustainability of the planet and mitigating climate change.
  • Being less polluting, they have a positive impact on public health.
  • Independence from fossil fuels, because no one knows what the price of gas, electricity and oil will be in a decade or two.

In addition, there are numerous public subsidies for the installation of renewable energy sources, which help to amortise the investment more quickly.


FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN INTEGRATING RENEWABLE ENERGIES INTO THE HOME AND BUSINESS

The factors will vary depending on whether it is a new building, a renovation or simply an "add-on". Especially in the case of new construction, and also in the case of renovation, there are architectural design strategies aimed at reducing the energy consumption of the building and thus achieving a passive, green, efficient, zero-energy or even energy-plus building. These passive measures, in addition to the integration of renewable energy sources, are, for example:

  • Special materials that allow for proper thermal insulation, and even those materials that contribute to the building's climate control, such as paving that generates energy when walked on and plaster that absorbs heat.
  • Domotics: autonomous control systems for lighting, electrical appliances and heating.
  • Correct orientation of the house.
  • Correct installation and configuration of windows.
  • Protection from solar radiation by pergolas, awnings....

For existing buildings, the main factors that determine the integration of renewable energy are the following:

  • Materials and insulation used in the construction.
  • The location and orientation of the building.
  • Climatic conditions (mainly hours of sunshine and average wind speed in the area).
  • Existing consumption patterns (both in private households and businesses).
  • What energy sources are used for climate control (heating and cooling).


WHAT GREEN ENERGIES CAN I INTEGRATE INTO MY HOME OR BUSINESS?

In most homes and businesses, the types of energy we (still) use are grid electricity, gas and diesel. The available green alternatives are:

  • Photovoltaic panels: consist of interconnected photovoltaic cells made of semiconductor materials that convert solar energy into electrical energy. They are usually installed on roofs, but also on balconies and open spaces. The electrical energy generated in this way is used for self-consumption and, in the event of a surplus, can be stored in batteries or fed into the distribution grid. The savings on electricity bills can be up to 75 %. In addition, in recent years, thanks to technological advances, the prices of photovoltaic panels are cheaper than ever before, so together with the savings in electricity bills, the costs are amortised sooner.
  • Solar panels: These are sometimes confused with photovoltaic panels. Although their appearance is similar, they differ significantly in their construction, operation and purpose (heating water for various purposes). Installed on roofs and rooftops, a fluid circulates through them (sometimes directly the water for consumption). The liquid is heated by solar radiation and is exchanged or supplied to a buffer tank for domestic water heating and heating. As in the case of photovoltaic panels, their use is sometimes reported to reduce energy bills by up to 70%.
  • Small wind turbines: At a certain level, the energy generated by the wind can be used by wind turbines with a capacity of less than 100 kW. Like photovoltaic systems, they can be installed on roofs, terraces and gardens. Current models are very efficient and quiet and can generate enough energy to power a home with low consumption. When assessing the installation of these devices, experts recommend that the average wind speed in the area is greater than 4 m/s to be profitable.
  • Biomass: This is a collective term for renewable resources of animal or plant origin (e.g. wood, plants and vegetable waste). Pellet boilers are mainly used in buildings to generate thermal energy for heating the house and domestic hot water. They can achieve savings of up to 60 % compared to diesel.


THE IDEAL COMBINATION OF GREEN ENERGIES

When it comes to integrating renewable energies into a (planned or existing) building, it is advisable to seek the advice of an expert who will evaluate all the variables that influence the energy efficiency of the building. In addition to the factors that focus on technical aspects (materials, building services, orientation, climatology), he takes into account the habits and needs of the people who live or work in it to design a project that includes the combination of renewable energies that optimises the available options based on the owner's budget.


ARE RENEWABLE ENERGIES PROFITABLE ON A PRIVATE LEVEL?

Although the sometimes high initial costs are often a deterrent factor, the savings achieved in the long term (on electricity bills and / or fossil fuels such as gas and diesel) and also the numerous public subsidies make them a profitable investment, with a payback of between 5 and 15 years, depending on the initial amount invested. 

Existing public subsidies in Spain for renewable energies include:

  • Installation: sometimes they allow savings of up to 50% of the total cost.
  • IBI discount (Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles, property tax): With variable percentages and terms depending on the municipality.
  • ICIO discount (Impuesto sobre Construcciones, Instalaciones y ObrasTax on Construction, Installations and Works): These are usually between 50% and 95%, depending on the municipality.


RENEWABLE ENERGY IN SPAIN AND MEXICO

In most Spanish and Mexican areas there are weather conditions, sunshine hours and/or wind intensity that make the installation of photovoltaic systems, solar panels and wind turbines very profitable. For example, many regions in Spain reach and even exceed 3,000 hours of sunshine per year (energy that can be harvested according to the Global Solar Atlas) and wind conditions (average wind speed above 4 m/s) are also favourable in various locations in the peninsula and islands (Canary and Balearic Islands), as can be seen on the Global Wind Atlas map.


At Luxsystems we are experts in renewable energies and we analyse the best solution for each case. We know how to work on an industrial and domestic scale. From off-grid houses to photovoltaic fields of 180 MW.


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