Renewable or clean energy comes from natural sources like the sun and wind. These sources are constantly replenished, and that’s why they are considered as unlimited. They also have the least carbon footprint hence the names green and clean energy.
Renewable energy has grown popular in the last few decades as the impact of increased emission became more apparent. However, these clean energy sources have been used for centuries. Past civilizations used the wind to sail vessels through oceans, while windmills have long been used to grind grains.
Although renewable energy is generally considered “green” and “clean,” it’s important to point out that the energy sources are not entirely safe for the environment. For instance, the production and transportation of renewable energy resources like wind turbines and solar panels produce some emissions. However, the impact of these sources is very negligible compared to fossil fuels like gas and oil.
Types Of Renewable Energy
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reports that more solar energy reaches the earth in one hour than the amount of energy consumed by everyone in a whole year! Therefore, there is plenty of solar energy that can be harnessed to perform different tasks at personal and industrial levels.
Many people are already using solar energy to heat their businesses and homes, power their homes, charge electronic devices, etc. The adoption of solar energy is also increasing as the federal and state governments continue to provide programs making the installation of solar panels cheaper.
Numerous factors can affect the amount of energy you can harvest from the sun. First, solar panels come in different types. Efficiency varies from one type to the next, and that’s why choosing the right kind of solar panel is crucial. How the panels are installed will also affect the amount of energy they can capture in a day. Panels that are set up facing east or west generally capture less energy than those facing true north or true south. That’s because the latter will be exposed to sunlight for more hours than the panels facing the direction where the sun rises or sets from.
The other factors are weather conditions, your location, and the size of panels.
California and Texas are two of the top producers of wind energy in the United States. Globally, China leads the pack, with the US, Germany, and India closing the top 4.
Wind energy production is pretty straightforward. Advanced technology has helped companies develop larger and more efficient wind turbines – some as long as modern skyscrapers. These turbines are then installed in open fields where there is optimal exposure to the winds. The winds push the blades, which, in turn, rotate the generator resulting in the production of electricity.
Although wind energy is not as practical as solar energy at a household level, it can make a significant difference on the industrial scale where there is lots of pollution. Utility companies can also use the source to supplement the grids.
Geothermal energy is another excellent source of renewable electricity. The energy comes from the heat emitted by the earth’s core, and it can be used to cool and heat houses or generate electricity.
Several concerns have been raised regarding geothermal energy. One of them is the increased risk of earthquakes in areas that are already at a predisposed risk. Geothermal plants may also have toxic effects on the environment. Silica and sulfur dioxide emissions do occur around geothermal plants.
Another challenge with this type of energy is that it is not available in all countries. Places like Iceland have more geothermal capacity than other areas.
Modern technology facilitates the conversion of organic matter like animal and plant wastes to energy at a very low environmental cost. Biogas is an example of reliable power made from organic matter. It is produced through anaerobic digestion, a process involving the breakdown of agricultural, domestic, and industrial wastes in the absence of oxygen.
Besides producing energy, biomass also gets rid of wastes that would otherwise end up polluting our environment.
Hydro energy works on the same concept as wind energy, except it relies on flowing water instead of wind. The water turns turbines to generate electricity.
Hydro energy is the most widely used renewable energy in the world. However, to get the most energy from this source, many countries have built dams, barriers, and reservoirs, which have affected some ecosystems.
What Are The Advantages Of Renewable Energy?
1. The Energy Never Runs Out
Renewable energy sources like the sun and wind will never run out. There may be seasons where their supply is limited or areas where there isn’t enough geothermal energy, but at the end of it all, the sun will always rise, and the wind will blow. If that stops happening, then electricity and energy will be the least of our worries as a planet.
2. It Saves Money
Green energy is cost-efficient in the long run. The initial cost may be higher but once you start harnessing the energy, using and maintaining your systems is very cheap. After all, you are using abundant free energy provided by nature.
Another direct saving you will make is through programs like the Investment Tax Credit and the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit.
Also, green energy resources like solar panels usually come with long warranties extending to over two decades. That’s because they are very durable, so repairs and replacements are almost unnecessary.
3. It Saves The Environment
Renewable energy has less carbon footprint than fossil fuels. It reduces the impact of global warming as well as the risk of developing medical conditions like cardiac and respiratory diseases.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Renewable Energy?
1. High Upfront Cost
The initial cost of setting up renewable energy is usually very high. This forces most people and companies to opt for fossil fuels.
2. Availability Is Limited
Energy sources like the sun are affected by seasons, while geothermal capacities vary from one region to the next.
3. Storage Capacity Is Limited
Storing renewable energy is nowhere as easy and affordable as, say, natural gas. This is especially a problem for large renewable energy plants. The good news is there is promising technology working on efficient and affordable ways of storing this energy.
Green energy, just like everything else in life, does have its own challenges. But, in the grand scheme of things, these energy sources do way more good than harm. That’s why the future is green.