Within the past few decades, the amount of U.S. electricity generated by various clean, efficient energy sources has be rapidly increasing and still continues to. Wind, solar, and biofuel are a few of the main types of efficient types of energy frequently used in our nation today. Within the global economy, clean and renewable energy alternatives are one of the most swiftly evolving and growing industries by far.
With China and the United States accounting for the most energy consumption, it makes since why both countries should opt for more reliable energy sources. However, fossil fuels such as oil is one of the leading sources of electricity in both nations, according to the Global Energy Statistical Yearbook.
Many are confident that clean energy for the future is the answer to a variety of global issues: pollution, wildlife and environmental concerns including climate change, unemployment rates, trade deficits, the national debt, and of course, the cost we personally pay for our electricity.
Some of the cleanest and most efficient energy solutions to date include the following:
One of the most known types of clean, renewable energy sources is solar power which is derived from the sun. (Solar also plays a major role in most of the other sources of energy listed in this article.) Solar panels “capture” the sun’s energy and convert it to a usable form of energy to power heating and cooling systems, hot water, lights, appliances, and more.
If you have friends or family with solar panels, you’ve probably heard them talk about how their utility bills have reduced since going solar. The nice thing about solar power is that you can either buy or rent solar panels. If your panels are hooked up to the national grid, you can even be credited for energy you create with your solar panels but don’t end up using. It’s a nice way to recycle unused energy while letting your home’s energy start paying for itself.
Many schools, colleges and universities, and community buildings are now equipped with solar panels. Solar lights and solar outdoor water fountains are also popular on the market today. Heck, you can even final solar-powered flashlights, keyboards, and cell phone chargers. Solar is extremely convenient – especially for campers and other outdoorsy folks.
Through wind power, turbines or windmills turn to convert the wind’s kinetic energy into useable electrical energy. Without a source of air flow, turbines could not conduct such power. Like solar, energy from the wind is renewable as it makes use of a natural, reoccurring source from the environment.
Wind power is fairly versatile. Turbines can be stand-alone, can be combined with a photovoltaic system, or can be connected to a power grid a part of a wind plant or wind farm. Wind turbines are commonly found on farms or ranches but can even power homes in located in a windier region.
Interestingly, wind power is not a newer concept at all. In fact, it first appeared in the Middle Ages in Europe. However, it’s believed wind power could have been used as early as 500 to 900 A.D. in Persia (present-day Iran).
A lesser known clean energy option is geothermal power which utilizes heat hitting the earth’s rock or waters to generate electricity. With that said, it is a specific form of solar energy. Regions containing geothermal reservoirs or hot springs can have their water pumped into a heat exchanger where heat energy can be transformed into mechanical energy for us to use.
Geothermal energy is sometimes used to heat commercial buildings, grow greenhouse plants, pasteurize milk, and to heat water. In general, geothermal power is slim in comparison to other sources of energy used worldwide. Only 0.3 percent of the world is powered by geothermal power, according to BP Global. However, in Kenya, 40 percent of energy is derived from geothermal power, over 25 percent in Iceland, and 18 percent in New Zealand.
Hydropower, also known as water power, is usable energy that is created from falling or quickly-traveling water such as waterfalls or rivers. Renewable Energy World mentions that 10 percent of the nation is powered via hydropower, credited by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A typical hydroelectric power plant utilizes water-spun turbines, and thus, are able to produce electricity after activating generators. A hydroelectric plant, or a pumped storage plant, can even store this energy for later use. A farm, ranch, or home can even be powered by their very own small-scale hydroelectric power system.
5. Ocean or Marine (Ocean Thermal and Ocean Mechanical)
Ocean or marine power is a kind of hydropower but is specifically source from our world’s biggest bodies of water: oceans. From the ocean, we can derive energy via the sun’s heat (ocean thermal) or through the kinetic power of its tides and waves (ocean mechanical). Ocean mechanical energy is also known as tidal power.
Ocean currents, while they do move slower than wind, have the opportunity to produce more energy than wind power as the density of water is 800 times greater than that of wind, according to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Marine power is a great clean energy source considering over 70 percent of our Earth is covered with water. Yet, it is still not a popular renewable option for energy given the other options at hand – especially when it comes to solar power.
Bioenergy is created by burning organic matter, known as biomass, such as: wood, crops, algae, landfill gas, alcohol fuels, and even garbage. Liquid manure, plant silage, or wood chips, for instance, can be burned in a plant or other facility that has the technology to make power.
Bioenergy is often used by individual farms and the like, however, is also found being used in rural villages. Germany is one country that has biomass-heated villages.
While bioenergy does release carbon emissions, experts a part of the EU and UN deem bioenergy as clean energy. While whether or not it is truly clean is debatable, this type of energy is in fact renewable and quite diversified considering the variety of input materials that can be used.
Last but not least, we’ll cover hydrogen power. As the most basic and abundant element on the planet, using hydrogen as a source of energy is highly reliable, simple, and renewable. Best of all, there is little pollution involved in creating electricity from hydrogen, and it can be found in numerous compounds. As a bonus fact, NASA launches space shuttles via hydrogen fuel as it is a high-energy and very efficient type of power.
While hydrogen has also been used to power marine vessels, vehicles on a broad scale, and as a source of emergency power for larger facilities – especially in remote areas – creating energy from hydrogen is currently expensive. With that said, it isn’t likely we’ll be experiencing hydrogen power in our homes just yet.
Clean Energy FAQ:
1) Is coal clean energy? Whether or not coal is clean energy is being debated, but compared to other sources, coal is a dirtier source of energy as it emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fortunately, there is technology available that can capture and store the pollutants released from burning coal, making it cleaner than before, but it is expensive.
2) What are clean energy sources? Clean energy sources are materials that produce little to no greenhouse gases when converted into usable energy. Some examples of sources include solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, and the other types of energy listed in the above article.
3) Why is clean energy important? Clean energy is important because it means a less polluted atmosphere and a more efficient way to obtain electricity. Replacing non-clean sources of energy with clean alternatives can slow down risks of global warming, which can in turn help wildlife and our planet on a broad scale. The Industry is also believed to help create more jobs.
4) How clean is solar energy? Generally, the process of converting solar energy into usable energy is a very clean source of energy. However, the process and materials used in making solar panels are not as “clean” as one may believe. Creating greener, more environmental resources to use for solar panels will take time. Regardless, National Geographic has found that within the past five years, the use of solar energy has increased sixfold.
5) How does clean energy help the environment? Using clean sources of energy is good for the environment in different ways. For one, if we opt for clean energy over energy that emits environmentally-harmful pollutants into our atmosphere, we can slow the progression of climate change and other harmful environmental effects dirty sources of energy would otherwise provide.
Additionally, because bioenergy, for instance, is created by burning crops, manure, garbage, and other materials, choosing an energy source such as this is a great way to reuse unwanted products. The burning of garbage for energy is especially great for the environment as it reduces unwanted materials that may be of harm to wildlife and the environment.
6) How many jobs does clean energy create? According to a report from the Environment Defense Fund Climate Corps, switching to clean energy creates jobs a whopping 12 times quicker than the fossil fuel industry. Over 2 million jobs can be found in energy efficiency and another 769,000 jobs can currently be found in renewable energy just in the United States. The clean and efficient energy sector accounts for up to 4.5 million U.S. jobs in total. Numbers were 3.4 million in 2011.
7) Is clean energy a good investment? Considering the clean energy sector is still newer, be aware that not every related stock will be good to invest in. As a suggestion, it would be wise to expand your investments beyond just energy and into clean energy technology. However, investing is looking good as cleaner sources of power are becoming more popular on a global level over the years.
8) Is clean energy cheaper? Clean, renewable energy is and continues to be more affordable the longer it’s out, but not all forms of clean energy are affordable. For example, solar energy can reduce many utility bills, but hydrogen power still isn’t as affordable as it could be. But it is expected to become dramatically cheaper than fossil fuel overtime.
9) Are clean energy and renewable energy the same? No. Clean and renewable energy are two distinct terms. However, you can have energy that is both clean and renewable at the same time.
Clean energy simply refers to a source of power that utilizes resources that give off little to no pollutants or other debris when converted into usable energy. Clean energy systems do not always use renewable resources and do not have to, to be considered clean energy.
On the other hand, renewable energy makes use of undepletable resources. Renewable refers to something that is unlimited. Examples of renewable resources include wind, water, and heat. When energy is derived from one of these sources, it is often referred to as renewable energy. Renewable energy can be clean it that it often has little to no pollutants or emissions involved.
10) When did clean energy start? Clean energy has been available for many centuries – in fact, longer than we may even realize. Spinning windmills, fires for cooking, and propelling ships have been used by our ancestors as natural and cleaner types of energy than we have later created. It wasn’t until the middle of the 18th century that non-renewable, less cleaner sources of energy came about during the Industrial Revolution. Since then, fossil fuels were a major source of power for our nation, and eventually, our world.
Overtime, methods of deriving clean energy have increasingly become more advanced and still are. We even have technology today to help reduce pollution apart of less cleaner sources of energy. Some may even say that the idea of us turning towards cleaner sources of energy today is essentially a “back-to-basics” type approach as we now can see how use of fossil fuels can be damaging and what cleaner energy can provide positively.