Clean energy has become a popular topic in almost every circle. You will find politicians, scientists, your family, colleagues, and your friends talking about it. We all probably know at least one or two people who are beginning the switch over to clean energy. When it comes to clean energy, solar power is the most widely discussed and preferred option, and that makes sense.
Initially, solar power was pretty expensive, but with time and innovation, it has now become accessible for everyone. Solar energy requires harnessing the sun’s energy and then using photovoltaic technology to convert it into electricity. It has so far shown a lot of promise and this is why countries around the world are beginning to promote the use of solar energy as a reliable alternate, and this movement is beginning to gain traction.
A simple solar panel set up with the right equipment can help you move off the main electrical grid with ease. However, some people are still interested in exploring more options, and this is why this article will help you do just that. If you are interested in learning about different clean energy options that are currently being researched and looked into, you can keep on reading below.
Hydroelectric power, like the name suggests, involves the use of water, more specifically the movement of water. You will usually find hydroelectric power setups being used in dams and reservoirs. When water is released from the dam’s reservoir, the pressure of the water’s movements is enough to roll the turbine which is located below. As the turbine rolls, the generator is triggered as well and this movement ends up producing electricity.
This is a perfect eco-friendly way to produce electricity as no harm is done to the environment and no harmful emissions like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, etc. are being released into the environment, making it a much better alternative to fossil fuels and other sources of non-renewable energy.
This is something that different countries recognize and you can see it in their practice as well since 16.6% of our global energy needs are being met by hydroelectricity and this percentage is expected to continue increasing annually over the next 25 years.
Currently, 150 countries are trying to use hydropower, and it is proving to be a good investment. A lot of people do not realize this but the cost of production when it comes to hydroelectricity is comparatively low, and hydroelectric power can end up powering the public’s electricity network. A hydro station that has a capacity of 10 MW can end up producing electricity at a rate of 3-5 cents every kilowatt-hour which is pretty cheap. There is also the fact that hydroelectric power can be used by bigger companies and industries. Hydroelectric power plants can also help save more water in dams and reservoirs, plus the best advantage when it comes to hydroelectric power plants is how long they can last you. A well-constructed hydroelectric power plant can end up being functional anywhere between 50-100 years, and even longer than that if maintained well enough.
Nuclear power is currently a controversial subject and a lot of people do not want to talk about it, but it is being used to make clean energy, and there are a lot of environmentalists and other associations like the World Nuclear Association and the Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy that are advocating for nuclear energy and claiming that it is a safe and clean way to produce power. On the other hand, you will find Greenpeace and the NIRS talking against nuclear energy and claiming that it still poses a threat to both people and the environment.
In case you are not familiar with nuclear energy, it involves the use of plutonium and uranium (mostly) in different nuclear reactions and the energy that is produced by these reactions creates heat which will in turn lead to the creation of atomic energy. The reactions involved include nuclear fission (more popular), nuclear fusion, and atomic decay.
Nuclear energy currently contributes to 10% of the world’s energy output and use, meaning that it comes second after the use of hydroelectricity when it comes to alternative energy sources that are currently being used.
There were 449 civilian reactors worldwide in 2018, and as of January 2020, another 337 more civilian reactors have been established, so there are quite a lot of them spread throughout the world. When we compare nuclear power to fossil fuel and other energy sources, it happens to have some of the lowest fatality levels for every unit of energy that it generates, so it causes significantly less damage to the environment compared to fossil fuels. Regardless of your current opinion on nuclear energy, it is here and it is doing some good. If you are still unconvinced, ever since nuclear energy was commercialized (around the 1970s), it has managed to prevent up to 64 billion tons of carbon dioxide that would have otherwise been released into the atmosphere because of fossil fuels. Hopefully, with time and more discussions, we can reach a better understanding of nuclear power and whether or not it is truly safe or not safe for us and the planet.
Another clean energy alternative that is being explored and used worldwide is biofuel. Now the terms biomass and biofuel are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two that need to be noted. Biomass is essentially raw materials that are already present biologically. Biofuel, on the other hand, is a material that has still be thermally or chemically altered, making it the end product. Hence, biofuel is liquid or gaseous fuels that can be used for energy generation.
Yes, biofuel can be a source of renewable energy because the biomass that is needed to produce it continues to grow at a rapid rate. Biofuel can be derived from certain crops, and can also involve the use of agricultural, domestic, and industrial waste.
Types of Biofuel
There are currently two different types of biofuel, and these are bio-ethanol and biodiesel.
Now bioethanol is the byproduct of the fermentation process. Basically when carbs, starch, or sugar is fermented, and end up creating alcohol as a by-product. Some crops like corn, sorghum, and sugarcane can be used to produce bioethanol.
Pure ethanol is used for powering vehicles and other modes of transportation. Ethanol can be put in gasoline as an additive since it helps to improve the octane level, which means that gasoline works better, and at the same time, it ends up reducing vehicular emissions. You will mostly find biofuel being used and utilized in America and Brazil.
The second type of biofuel is biodiesel, which is a by-product of the transesterification of oils and fats. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel source for vehicles, and you will find it is used primarily in Europe.
Natural gas, also better known as fossil gas is a hydrocarbon gas that is naturally occurring. Its composition consists only of different alkanes and primarily methane as well as helium, hydrogen sulfide, and trace quantities of nitrogen and/or carbon dioxide.
If you are wondering how natural gas comes into being then it is produced as a result of the decomposition of plant and animal matter when it is in an environment where there are heat and a lot of pressure. This process occurs throughout millions of years, and natural gas is produced as a by-product.
Natural gas has been used now for the last couple of decades, and we do not have to worry about it running out because modern innovation has led to the development of compression techniques which can allow us to produce natural gas ourselves, which spells good news.
Natural gas is great because it can be used on its own, and it can also be combined and paired with other alternative energy sources like wind and solar energy. You will find natural gas being used in different power plants, and off-grid generators as well.
Of course, there are still some concerns when it comes to natural gas, and we will be honest, natural gas does cause gas emissions, however, it is still a lot cleaner when compared to the emissions we get from burning oil or coal. Burning natural gas leads to the production of water and carbon dioxide, however, the level of carbon dioxide emission when burning natural gas is significantly less than coal. Natural gas releases half the amount of carbon dioxide that is released by burning coal. If you want numbers, then in 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration reports burning coal produced 13,787 metric tons of carbon dioxide globally, whereas natural gas produced 6,799 metric tons of carbon dioxide, so this report stands as proof.
Yes, this does not mean that natural gas is entirely eco-friendly, but when you compare the rate of carbon dioxide emission, it is safe to say that it can prove to be a better alternative for the time being.
Wind energy is not something new, and its use can be traced back to hundreds of years. You will traditionally find wind energy being used in rural areas for milling or pumping. Now, wind power involves the use of the wind itself to power and move turbines (kind of like hydropower) to generate electricity. Many countries have already established wind farms and for good reason. Wind energy is a great way to produce clean energy that will not cause any problems for the environment.
Wind farms involve a setup where the wind turbines are connected to the electric network so all energy and electricity that is produced by the wind farm will end up going to the electrical network grid which will, in turn, give everyone in the grid’s area electricity.
This process of using onshore wind farms is beneficial for some countries and has even proven to be cheaper than coal and gas power plants for them.
Now there are some problems with wind energy, and that is the fact that it won’t work everywhere. A windfarm will affect the landscape and will require a lot of space compared to other power plants and stations. Both on-shore and off-shore wind farms come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, but the bottom line here is that while wind energy is a clean source of energy, it is dependent entirely on the wind, so you might experience fluctuations in electrical output. So countries that do not have enough space for wind farms and those that do not have a lot of wind in their geographical area in the first place cannot take advantage of wind energy. Wind energy can, however, still be used with other energy sources to reduce some pressure.
Geothermal power involves the use of the power that is being generated by naturally occurring geothermal energy, so as the name suggests, the energy is being extracted from the ground. This is still a relatively new idea, but the geothermal power sector has been gaining some momentum and there was a reported 5% increase in growth reported in 2015.
Currently, 70 countries around the world are making use of geothermal heating and 26 countries are making use of geothermal power to generate electricity. The Geothermal Association (GEA) has estimated that currently less than 7% of geothermal potential has been tapped globally, so there is still a lot of room for growth. Countries that are using geothermal energy (up to 15% of their electricity production and use) include New Zealand, El Salvador, the Philippines, Kenya, and Costa Rica.
Geothermal power involves the use of different processes like flash steam and dry steam power stations, and binary cycle power stations to generate power (both heat and electric).
There is a lot of promise when it comes to geothermal energy because studies have proven that a geothermal power station will only produce an average of 45g of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt-hour of electricity that is generated, which means that a geothermal power station is producing less than 5% of carbon dioxide emissions than the amount being created by coal-powered plants and industries, which is a ridiculously low amount. So the future for geothermal power is currently looking to be a bright one.
There are many other alternative energy sources as well, and these include and are not limited to hydrogen gas, biomass energy, tidal energy, and wave energy. Each of these also come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. You are now familiar with a variety of clean energy alternatives apart from the usual solar energy. While some of these are still being researched, we must start making the switch as soon as we can because the planet is dying and if we want to have a chance to save it, then switching over to clean energy is one of the first and most important steps that we need to take.