Renewable energy

Renewable energy technologies are those that generate electricity from resources that are not depleted as a consequence of being accessed. These include Bio, Wind, Solar and Marine energy.


Bioenergy is the energy derived from harvesting biomass such as crops, trees or agricultural waste and using it to generate heat, electricity or transport fuels. Biomass can be burned directly to generate heat and/or power either on its own or 'co-fired' alongside conventional fuels such as coal.

Alternatively, biomass can be treated to create gaseous or liquid 'biofuels' which can be used on their own or in conjunction with conventional fuels such as coal or natural gas.

Continuing support in this area will aim to ensure that bioenergy has a role to play alongside fossil fuels. The generation of energy in this way could help to reduce the UK's dependence on fossil fuels, and could be especially attractive to developing countries.


The use of wind as a renewable energy resource is already well established in the UK and the UK has the greatest wind energy potential in Europe. However, it still contributes a relatively small amount of energy to our overall needs.

There remain a number of issues that need to be addressed in this area including improving efficiencies, improving reliability, handling intermittency of supply and environmental issues together with public perception and acceptability.

Future research in wind energy will help ensure that the UK's future renewable energy targets are met, specifically addressing the challenges of installing and operating offshore wind farms.

Solar technologies

Solar energy is the only renewable energy technology that, in theory, could meet all of the world's energy needs. The use of solar energy as a viable large scale energy source to date has been limited by the cost and efficiency of the available technology.

Research we support in solar energy addresses the current issues surrounding solar efficiencies, materials use and availability. We also aim to develop novel light harvesting technologies such as artificial photosynthesis that offer the potential for innovative low cost alternatives.


The marine environment offers some of the greatest potential for renewable energy generation in the UK - wave-energy devices and tidal power installations add to the potential for offshore wind which is already being exploited.

The British Isles are at the edge of the Atlantic and are exposed to some of the most energetic waves and tidal currents in the world. This makes us well placed to utilise marine technology to maximum effect and subsequently exploit wider international markets.

Related research areas