Basically, green energy refers to the energy that is derived from natural resources such as water, wind, and sunlight. This type of energy is often derived from renewable sources. These types of energy sources are important in that they do not harm the environment by emitting no or lesser greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as compared to fossil fuels.
How Does Green Energy Work?
In terms of energy sources, green energy is usually derived from renewable resources, such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, biomass, and hydropower. It is important to recognize that each of these technologies works in a different way, whether it is by taking energy from the sun, for instance using solar panels, or by using wind turbines or water to generate power.
What Does Green Energy Mean?
For a resource to qualify as green energy, it should not produce pollution as much as fossil fuels do. This means that not all renewable energy resources (such as biomass, etc.) are considered green. It can be said that power generation that utilizes organic materials from sustainable forests is renewable, but it is not necessarily environmentally friendly due to the CO2 emissions involved in the burning process.
A green energy source is typically replenished naturally, as opposed to a fossil fuel source such as natural gas or coal, which usually requires millions of years of development. Also, green sources typically avoid mining and drilling, which may have detrimental effects on ecosystems.
Green Energy Examples
The main sources of energy are wind power, solar power, and hydropower. In addition to being able to produce solar and wind energy at a household level, these two resources can also be used to generate electricity on a larger industrial level.
Following are the six most common examples of green energy sources.
1. Solar Energy
Going solar is a great way to help the environment while also reducing your carbon footprint. Solar panels have a long life expectancy and are easily recyclable. Unlike traditional fossil fuels, solar power is accessible to nearly everyone and can be an excellent source of green energy. There are several ways to harness solar energy.
The resources of solar energy are enormous and can be harnessed anywhere in the world that receives sunlight. Solar radiation, also known as insolation, varies widely by location, time of day, and weather conditions.
A solar energy system can be an effective backup in the event of a power outage. During such times, the energy produced by solar panels can run appliances. Some solar systems are connected to a grid inverter to be used during a power outage. In the long run, these systems will pay for themselves. It is a long-term investment and a great way to save the planet in the process.
2. Wind Energy
While it is possible to harness wind energy in most regions of the world, it is a highly intermittent source of energy, so it will require more installed capacity than solar or other renewable energy sources. Wind energy is particularly beneficial in combination with other renewable energy sources, such as solar panels. This type of green energy helps to ensure a better global energy supply. The technology behind wind turbines is rapidly advancing, with some turbines having more than eighty meters of blade length.
It is important to note that onshore wind farms require a lot of lands, though each turbine occupies only a small plot. The land beneath and between wind turbines can still be used for agricultural purposes. The technology behind wind turbines has improved by five times in efficiency and has a low upfront cost. As a result, wind energy is a great investment. In some countries, subsidies are offered up to 50 percent of the costs of wind turbines, making them an ideal option for many people.
The most popular type of wind turbines for homes are small turbines that produce approximately the amount of energy that single home requires. These turbines are generally installed on short towers and require a site assessment. These turbines are also a good choice for homeowners because they are cheaper than other green energy alternatives and do not require detailed onsite resource assessments. Moreover, many states offer tax incentives to encourage homeowners to install wind turbines.
Hydropower is renewable energy produced by the use of water. Water vapor from the atmosphere condenses and falls as precipitation, which eventually flows down to streams, lakes, and oceans. The energy released by these water sources turns turbines that generate electricity. In some cases, hydropower can treat 50 million gallons of water per day and even run an entire power plant. Hydropower is also known as “green” energy because it does not use fossil fuels.
Although hydropower is a renewable energy source, it is not really green energy. Hydropower plants affect river ecosystems, affecting sediment transport, water quality, and fish migration. As a result, it makes it impossible for many species to complete their life cycle. Consequently, two events have been held at the European Parliament to raise awareness about the negative impacts of hydropower. But despite these challenges, many environmental and social advocates believe that it is still a great way to generate green energy.
Hydropower’s carbon footprint has been compared to the carbon emissions of coal plants. The latter emit carbon and other greenhouse gases. However, hydropower projects are in more remote locations than coal plants and are therefore more difficult to construct. Therefore, hydropower projects can be more cost-effective in remote areas. But hydropower projects are still costly and, in some cases, have high environmental costs.
4. Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy is completely renewable and can be used to produce electricity and heat water. Once produced, this fluid can be returned to the ground, reheated, and used to produce electricity again. This renewable energy resource is also ideal for short-term and long-term flexibility. And what’s even better is that geothermal power plants are not limited to a single location.
This renewable energy source can be obtained by digging deep wells. Hot water and steam are emitted and can be used to power turbines and electricity generators. The oldest form of geothermal technology uses dry steam. However, more modern methods rely on flash plants, which use high-pressure hot water pumped into a cooling system. Binary plants, on the other hand, use a secondary fluid with a lower boiling point than water. In binary plants, the hot water passes through a cooling fluid that has a lower boiling point than water, turning it into vapor and driving a turbine. Binary plants are expected to be the most common type of geothermal power plants in the future.
Although geothermal energy is widely underutilized, it has the potential to be a major source of electricity. The source of heat is located deep inside rocks, which are almost everywhere on earth. And because the rocks are hot, the water inside them can be heated and pumped into power plants and other large systems. Geothermal energy is also a renewable source of electricity and heat and is virtually infinite. In addition, it is readily available on a global scale, and it can be used for both small- and large-scale projects.
The southeastern United States is the largest source of biomass, with over 40 million acres of pine plantations. Most of these are privately owned and constitute a small percentage of total forestland in the region. These plantations are the primary source of biomass for wood products and the pulp and paper industry. However, biomass is not carbon-neutral, and the emission of carbon dioxide from burning biomass is much lesser than that of coal.
As a renewable energy source, biomass is a particularly attractive option. Its high energy yields make it an attractive feedstock, as it produces energy more efficiently than many other biofuel feedstocks. Additionally, algae are an excellent biomass feedstock, since they can be grown in ocean water and do not deplete freshwater resources. They also require no soil and do not reduce the amount of arable land used for food crops. In addition, algae absorb pollution and carbon emissions, allowing them to be farmed as living organisms.
Biomass is renewable and comes from plant and animal matter. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass can be burned directly or converted into liquid biofuels, such as biomethane. It can also be harvested as gas from landfills or anaerobic digesters. Unlike fossil fuels, biomass can be grown very quickly and is renewable. As such, it is a great alternative to fossil fuels and is often the only option available in many areas of the world.
There are several advantages and disadvantages to biofuels, including their carbon footprint. While they may not replace petroleum, biofuels are renewable sources of energy and can be produced continuously. Scientists have made strides toward increasing crop productivity, which addresses deforestation concerns associated with biofuels. Palm oil is arguably the most profitable crop for biodiesel production. Furthermore, it has an incredible life cycle, lasting as much as 30 years. It also absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, allowing for a lower carbon footprint. Some biofuels are blended with gasoline to boost their octane rating and reduce harmful emissions.
The outcomes of life cycle assessment studies are highly situation-specific and dependent on numerous factors. While first-generation biofuels may be associated with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than fossil fuels, they cannot yet meet the Renewable Energy Directive’s standards. Second-generation biofuels, on the other hand, have greater potential to reduce emissions. Third-generation biofuels, however, are currently not feasible at the current stage of development.
Why Green Energy Is Important?
As an alternative to fossil fuels, green energy has many positive attributes for the environment. Unlike traditional sources of energy, green energy is often renewable and clean, meaning that it emits no or little greenhouse gases and is often readily available.
Green energy sources, when considered over their entire life cycle, emit far fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, along with few or little air pollutants. Besides being good for the environment, this is also good for the health of people and animals.
Additionally, green energy can also contribute to stable energy prices because these sources are typically produced locally and are therefore less susceptible to geopolitical crises, price spikes, and disruptions of supply chains. Economic benefits also include the creation of jobs in the construction of facilities that frequently serve the communities in which the workers work and live.
As energy is generated locally through sources like solar and wind power, the infrastructure for energy production is more flexible and dependent less on centralized sources. Centralized sources are less resilient to weather and climate changes due to their tendency to cause disruptions.
Many countries around the world also find green energy a cost-effective option for their energy needs. As costs continue to drop, green energy will become more accessible, especially in developing countries.
Advantages of green energy
1. Inexhaustible energy source
While fossil fuels are a finite, inexhaustible source of energy, renewable energy sources can provide unlimited supply. These sources can help to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. In addition to being renewable, these energy sources are cost-competitive.
Green energy sources are a good option because they don’t pollute the atmosphere, and they produce less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels.
2. No or lesser carbon emissions or greenhouse gases
Renewable energy sources have an insignificant carbon footprint compared to fossil fuels. Yet avoiding fossil fuels has a significant carbon footprint. Green energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro produce no or lower carbon footprints than coal or gas. This carbon footprint is stable, even after accounting for emissions that occur during construction, fuel supply, and manufacturing. However, it is still essential to consider the carbon footprint of these sources before making the decision to use them in your area.
In an article by the Economist, Irina Boerkova argues that we can become self-sufficient with green energy by 2050. She argues that it’s not as difficult as some people make it out to be. The problem is that we are unable to harness the enormous potential of renewable energy in our region. It may take more than a few megawatts of renewable energy to power a whole city, and we would need to co-operate with other regions or countries in Europe to be truly self-sufficient.