What is clean energy?
The reason why Clean energy is energy derived from times has become so important is simple: climate change.
sums it up perfectly: "Human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – are a primary driver of climate change – and present one of the world’s most pressing challenges. This link between global temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations – especially CO2 – has been true throughout Earth’s history."
Look how much our planet has warmed since the 1800's.
Climate change threatens the very existence of all life on earth. And what is the reason for all this, I hear you ask.
Well, it's humankind's affinity towards using unsustainable energy sources like coal, gas and oil.
For example, in the United States ,the burning of fossil fuels to make electricity is responsible for the largest source of heat-trapping pollution - producing roughly two billion tons of CO2 every single year!
6 EXAMPLES OF CLEAN ENERGY
- Solar Energy
- Hydro Energy
- Wind Energy
- Tidal Energy
- Biomass Energy
- Geothermal Energy
Perhaps one of the most well known forms of clean energy. despite being the most abundant energy source on earth, in 2019 solar energy was responsible for just over 2% of global electricity production.
Solar panel costs have fallen by 99% since 1977 and today, are a much cheaper alternative to using fossil fuels.
173,000 terawatts of solar energy strike the Earth continuously, that's more than 10 times the amount needed to sustain the earth at any given time. Just take a moment to contemplate that for a second.
HOW DOES SOLAR ENERGY WORK?
- Solar energy works by capturing the sun’s solar energy and transforming it into electricity. The sun is a natural nuclear reactor, it releases minute packets of energy called photons. These photons travel 93 million miles from the sun to the earth in approximately 8.5 minutes. Every hour, enough of these photons hit our planet to create enough solar energy to theoretically power our world for an entire year!
Hydropower is the most efficient way to generate electricity. Modern turbines are able to convert 90% of the available energy into electricity.
Hydro energy prevents the burning of about 22 billion gallons of oil and 120 million tons of coal each year!
A great example of a country pathing the way for clean energy use is Norway, they produce 98% of their electricity with hydro power. Of course, not all countries have as much access to water as Norway. However, this is no excuse for not adopting another form of clean energy, such as solar, wind or geothermal.
HOW DOES HYDRO ENERGY WORK?
- Hydro energy is created in hydropower plants. At these plants water flows through a pipe or penstock (sluice or gate), then pushes against and rotates blades in a turbine to spin a generator. This movement in the generator is what produces the electricity.
Wind turbines generate some of the most cost effective renewable energy in the world. One megawatt of wind energy allows for 2600 fewer tons of carbon emissions.
Out of all the renewable energy sources, wind energy is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity production on the planet.
Another important fact to note is that wind energy is unique in that it doesn’t use any water. By 2030, wind power will save about 30 trillion bottles of water in the United States alone!
There are two types of wind energy, onshore (like the photo above) and offshore. Offshore wind turbines are usually much bigger than their onshore cousins. One rotation of an offshore wind turbine blade will produce enough eletrcity to power 1 home for an entire day. Just one rotation!
HOW DOES WIND ENERGY WORK?
- Wind blows past the wind turbine; the massive blades capture the winds kinetic energy and rotate. This rotation transforms the winds kinetic energy into mechanical energy. An internal shaft connected to a gearbox then begins to rotate. This then rotates a special generator that produces electricity.
When you ask yourself the question, what is clean energy, I bet one of the last forms of energy production that pops up into your mind is tidal energy.
Tidal energy is a renewable energy source that utilizes the natural rise and fall of the ocean currents, tides, and waves. Some of these technologies do include turbines and paddles, similar to those used for wind energy (as can be seen in the photograph above).
Tidal energy production is however in its infancy, with the total amount of energy produced still very small.
The three ways to produce tidal energy are tidal streams, barrages and tidal lagoons.
HOW DOES TIDAL ENERGY WORK?
- Tidal energy works in a similar way to wind energy in that the movement of the tides pushes a turbine that generates electricity.
Biomass energy is produced by living or once-living organisms. The most common form of organisms that produce biomass energy are plants, like corn and soy.
Biomass energy currently supplies the world about 10% of its total energy requirements.
The matter of these organisms are burned to create heat which is then converted into electricity.
HOW DOES BIOMASS ENERGY WORK?
- Biomass like corn and soy store chemical energy from the sun. Plants produce biomass through photosynthesis. Biomass can be burned directly for heat or transformed into renewable liquid and gaseous fuels.
Geothermal energy is a clean energy that produces 0.03% of the emissions that coal produces and .05% of the emissions that natural gas creates.
Today its used in more than 24 countries worldwide with the United States being the country that produces the most.
Iceland has many volcanoes, they use the geothermal energy created by these volcanoes to heat 87% of the countries households.
A very interesting documentary created by Zac Efron named Down To Earth (on Netflix - at the time of writing) includes a visit to one of these massive Geothermal power stations in Iceland. It is a tremendous feat of engineering and I would recommend all to give it a watch. Geothermal energy is featured in the first episode of the series.
HOW DOES GEOTHERMAL ENERGY WORK?
- Tons of hot water is pumped from deep down underground through a well that’s under immense pressure. When the water hits the surface, the pressure drops instantaneously, causing the water to transform into steam. This steam then spins a turbine which is connected to a generator, this produces electricity.
WHAT IS THE MOST POLLUTING ENERGY SOURCE
Coal, without a doubt.
Formed deep underground for millions of years because of heat and pressure, coal is a carbon-rich black rock that releases vast amounts of energy when burned.
The reason coal is so harmful is that when it’s burned it releases a number of airborne toxins such as mercury, sulfur, lead, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulates, and various other heavy metals.
Health impacts are numerous, ranging from asthma and breathing difficulties, to heart problems, brain damage, cancer, and neurological disorders.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CLEAN ENERGY
The benefits of clean energy are that it reduces our worlds overall reliance on damaging fossil fuels for energy production.
In the United States, more than a third of energy emissions are derived from coal, oil, and natural gases.
Switching to clean renewable energy sources would reduce the total amount of Co2 emission released into the atmosphere, effectively mitigating climate change.
It is believed that by 2030, 40 percent of American energy demand will be provided by clean energy sources.
While this is an improvement, it is far from enough.
Lists 5 benefits of using solar generators instead of gas generators
- Free Clean Energy From The Sun
When using a solar generator, you are essentially using free energy from the sun instead of using costly dirty fossil fuels. You can continue getting this free energy from the sun for the lifespan of your solar panels, which is usually around 25 to 30 years.
- Low Maintenance Costs
Unlike most conventional fuel or gas generators, solar generators have absolutely no moving parts and do not use a liquid fuel. No moving parts means that the likelihood of needing to pay for any types of repairs is significantly lower.
- Quiet and Clean Operation
Aside from the obvious financial gains of using a solar generator, choosing this green technology over other fossil fueled systems has various environmental benefits. Gas powered generators lead to air pollution alongside noise pollution, and while the latter is just simply annoying, the former contributes to climate change.
- It’s An Investment
The overall lifespan of a solar panel is 25 to 30 years. While gas powered generators do have long lifespans, usually 20 to 40 years, they do not come without problems. You will need to perform various maintenance jobs on them to keep them operational. Additionally, you will need to continuously buy them fuel in order to use the device. Solar powered generators require no such tasks.