The Underwriters Laboratories Inc, or UL, is an independent global company that provides safety certifications in the following fields: Safety, Environment, Health, Knowledge and Verification. It encompasses development of different standard tests and procedures for different products.
UL and Renewable Energy
The Laboratories have played a major role in the verification of the energy efficiency of renewable energy. Currently, UL has been issuing certification for a wide variety of products. What it has included in its fields of verification for renewable energy are wind power and solar power. Despite being one of the laboratories approved for verification by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration and proudly saying that the company has reached Europe in the field of product certification, still it has not discovered the high research potential of other forms renewable energy. The high cost of renewable energy, consequently the slow shift from the non-renewable ones and of course its low availability in the market might have limited what could have been studied by the UL.
UL and Solar Power
Solar power, not the thermal solar heating cooling form, but the one that uses photovoltaics, is one of the fields heavily researched by UL. It caters to manufacturers whose market are not big energy companies, but residential. It is interesting to note that countries in Europe have implemented what looks like to be a one-panel policy, which requires each household to have at least one photovoltaic panel. All of these households are able to sell as well as supply solar power to the grid. The latest research that UL conducted in the field of photovoltaics is simulating the fire hazards of a PV cell which extends their boundaries up to safety research. Aside from fire, electrical hazards of the PV system, from the cell, microinverter and cables, were also studied with the US Department of Homeland Security in the simulation. It was found out that fire generates electrical current at hazardous levels in the PV array. With this, UL together with the Homeland Security has created a module to train fire fighters to avoid electrocution in such situations.
In UL, manufacturers can choose between certification before production or after production. The cheaper choice of using a pre-certified design before actually manufacturing the PV cell has been given by the company to those interested in solar power. The products included in this are flat-plate and thin-film PV cells. This adds to the benefit of having global access through a certification from UL having, as mentioned, reached the best of the western world.
UL and Wind Turbine Power
Wind turbine generator systems or WTGS, is also verified and certified by UL. It was two years ago that the company released services for wind turbine certification. Even the components of the wind turbine are covered by the product safety certification for both fire and electrical safety. It is interesting to note that when the western world is taking on solar power, its eastern counterparts are trying to be the leading nations on wind turbine power. The big windy markets of UL include China and India, the two Asian superpowers. Also included in the countries that efficiently utilize the wind turbine are Mexico, Argentina, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Iran. It is worth emphasizing the growing markets of renewable energy in the world.
UL and Non-Renewable Energy
Sadly, the world is miles away from the realization of full use of environment-friendly renewable energy. It won’t surprise you much that UL has 150 different types of products approved for the handling and storage of non-renewable sources of energy, specifically natural gas and oil. However, UL does not cater to the source of energy, like approving clean coal and natural gas, but the products that utilize them. UL certifies that a certain product has a “clean burn” which means it combusts the fuel almost completely, producing less carbon by-products. The research investments of UL reflects that of the market, showing that in the aspect of renewable energy there is still a lot to be learned about, while that of the non-renewable energy sources has been studied more.
UL and Power Generation
The Laboratory has treated the tools in power generation separately. This includes converters like microinverters and engine generators. In any form of energy used, may it be renewable or non-renewable energy, converters or inverters are used as long as it is distributed. Conversion is very important in order to convert direct current, for example from solar power, to alternating current through a microinverter (usually used in the household) or a central inverter (usually in bulk solar power generation). Alternating current must be set at a useable voltage and frequency which may vary across the world. Engine generators, on the other hand, are commonly used as back-up in an event of a grid-failure. However, some areas utilize generators in combination with solar power or wind turbine power, for instance during night time and lack of wind, respectively.
Energy and You
It may have been an issue of the least concern for you, never having bothered yourself about your source of energy and the kind of appliances you have to utilize them. It is good to note that private firms like UL exist in the monitoring of these products. Efforts in the field of renewable energy have always been the initiative of the private sector, even how appealing it is to the sentiments of the public. This is not to undermine the few governments that have tried to implement the shift into a more sustainable source of energy. You may take this point as something too big for you to handle, a more macro issue that only governments and corporations could do something about. As the consumer, the one who powers the market and the capitalists, you have the choice. The choice of caring for the earth, and thinking about the generations you wanted it to cater. For now, it is a hard choice, renewable energy being a lot costly. It takes a change of heart to create a change of government; it is as we know the voice of the people. Act and dare to challenge the conventional