The world has turned its attention to the preservation of planet Earth. With climate changes and the short supply of finite resources like wood and crude oil, humanity is tasked with figuring out how to harness another type of energy. Aside from controversial nuclear power, renewable energy can be harnessed through the elements while minimally impacting the environment.
Wind-powered turbines are one of the fastest growing technologies for good reason. Non-polluting and inexpensive to build, wind turbines create a tremendous amount of energy. There are even residential units being fabricated. If installed on agricultural land, wind farms have a minimal impact on the environmental. An added bonus is that maintaining turbines creates jobs. Europe is currently the leader in offshore wind power, particularly in the North and Baltic seas where the wind is incredibly strong.
Probably the best known renewable energy source is solar energy. The sun’s rays are captured by special photovoltaic (PV) panels that collect the energy and convert it to electricity. This conversion is done cleanly, and so the impact on the environment is minimal. Solar cells are easy to transport, so PV technology can be applied to small-scale projects—like rooftops—or in even gigantic arrays. One of the main concerns with solar energy is that efficiency is dependent on daylight hours. Cloudy weather or smog hampers the amount of energy gathered.
The Hoover Dam is a famous example of hydroelectric power. Using the gravitational force of flowing and falling water to move turbines, electricity is generated. The higher and faster the water sluices down the dam, the more potential energy it can produced. When the water hits the turbines at the bottom, it transfers this energy to turbines, which charge coils of wire leading to a transformer, and eventually power lines. Some negatives to water power is that rivers must be dammed, severely impacting the surrounding natural environment, and that the cost of building such dams is extremely expensive.
– Tidal energy is similar to wind turbines, but the strong tide turns the blades instead. Presently, there are underwater turbines off the coast of Wales, providing electricity for around 5000 homes.
– Wave energy is dependent on the ocean’s surface and requires buoys to conduct electricity through the peaks and troughs of the waves. A commercial wave park has been built in Portugal to help power the country.
Between tidal and wave, tidal seems to be more effective. However, there is more concern for the underwater wildlife around such turbines.
When one hears the term “biomass,” they may be confused about what materials are being used. Biomass refers to live and dead plant matter and animal waste. Examples would be dead trees, yard clippings, hemp, corn, and palm oil. What is awesome with biomass and biopower is that it can re-grow. However, because the energy being burned off and utilized is carbon dioxide, meaning that biopower could pose a potential environmental threat if relied on too heavily.
Steam rising from Earth’s core is super-heated and packed with usable energy. The Romans used to utilize steam for heating residences and baths, so why not use natural sources of steam on a larger scale? A geothermal power station takes this raw power and uses it to create electricity. Presently, California has more than 40 geothermal plants! El Salvador, Iceland, Kenya and the Philippines also make use of geothermal energy. However, because geothermal energy can only be found at the junctions between tectonic plates and volcanically active regions, plant location is more or less predetermined. Drilling comes at a high cost, but once the plant is built, it sustains itself.
These five examples of renewable energy are each being researched extensively. The “going green” movement has changed energy production. Alternative energy sources are rapidly becoming a mainstay. Though some are more feasible than others, being able to recycle and reuse energy can greatly reduce pollution and other negative impacts on the environment.
Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat., the world’s #1 leading waste oil boiler manufacturer.