Sustainable Energy For the Future
Today's conventional generation of electricity is based on the burning of fossil fuels, for the most part. It is also the nation's single largest source of industrial air pollution. Electricity that is generated from other resources such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and low-impact hydro plants is known as green power. As more green power alternatives become available to users, electricity customers are increasingly able to install renewable energy technologies for their homes, businesses, or industries. Thus, as more conventional electricity generation is displaced with the development of green power sources, the total environmental impact from the generation of electricity will be significantly reduced.
The Purpose of Green Technologies
Green technologies apply aspects of technical knowledge to allow us to reduce our human impact on the environment, particularly as we generate electricity. The hallmarks of these technologies are economic feasibility, sustainability, and social equitability. Our current technologies are working towards a point where we could do permanent irreversible damage to the ecology of the earth. Green power technology seeks to halt this destruction. Like everything, though, it has its own positives and negatives, and these aspects need to be acknowledged as well.
Shared Technology Conserves Energy
Combined heat and power (CHP) is also known as cogeneration. Cogeneration power is generated by the use of a microturbine to create useful heat and electricity at the same time. Combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP), or trigeneration systems can be used to both generate electricity and cooling for a building. This maybe a commerical building or hospital, or a manufacturing plant.
One example here is a the use of cogeneration power and solar panel to run all the power needs of a commerical building.
Great strides have been made in our development of green power technologies. As they become refined and more readily and widely available, more and more people will be able to install and benefit from them.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Green Power
There is no doubt that there are many benefits to using green power technologies. One of the major ones is the reduction of carbon emissions and their effect on global temperatures. There are a variety of others as well.
• Corporate Benefits: The use of efficient air conditioning, lighting and other electrical systems plus green buildings and other energy efficiency measures not only saves money on the consumer's end but also creates significant savings on the power production end as well. Corporations not only slash their costs as a result but also fulfill their social responsibilities while doing so.
• Benefits to Manufacturing: Creating products that can be fully re-used or reclaimed makes production economically cheaper and more environmentally sustainable. By changing patterns of production and consumption, manufacturing reduces its environmental footprint. It also saves them money as well.
• Benefits to the Nation: Distributed generation technologies are able to provide energy to communities and users in remote areas successfully without a tremendous capital infrastructure outlay. They do this through the use of newer technologies such as capturing energy from the sun and winds, bio gas production and others. These technologies also provide new employment opportunities for people. Distributed generation also eases the load on the national energy electricity grid as people and industries construct and use their own power sources.
The current drawbacks to green power sources are the cost of some of the newer technologies. As they become more familiar and mainstream, the cost to savings relationship will become more favorable and make them more practical for use by more customers.
Types of Green Energy
Today the world has the capacity to replace fossil fuels to provide electricity, heat spaces and water, and to fuel motor vehicles. There are many types of green energy that are currently in use or in development. Here are six of the most common green energy technologies.
1. Solar Power: is the most prevalent type of renewable energy. Typically produced through the use of photovoltaic cells, these cells capture sunlight and convert it to electricity. This energy is used to heat water, buildings, provide natural lighting, and even cook food. Technologies powered by the sun have become affordable enough to power everything from hand-held gadgets to neighborhoods.
Here is an example of a commerial building installed with solar panels.
2. Wind Power: Air flow along the surface of the earth can be used to push electric turbines. The strongest flows produce the most energy so the prairies, high-altitude sites and areas offshore provide the most optimum conditions for capturing the most.
In a report release by the US Dept. of Energy in 2015 called 'Wind Technologies Market Report 2015' , they detailed a number of key advancements in the use of wind energy as an alternative power source.
Here are some of the key findings
- Wind power additions surged in 2015, with 8,598 MW of new capacity added in the United States and $14.5 billion invested.
- Wind power represented the largest source of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2015.
- The United States ranked second in annual wind additions in 2015, but was well behind the market leaders in wind energy penetration.
- Texas installed the most capacity in 2015 with 3,615 MW, while twelve states meet or exceed 10% wind energy penetration.
The first commercial offshore turbines are expected to be commissioned in the United States in 2016 amid mixed market signals.
3. Hydropower: Hydropower uses nature's water cycle and the force of water running through a hydroelectric dam to generate electricity. Thus it is also known as hydroelectric power. The production of significant amounts of energy requires high precipitation levels.
4. Geothermal: Massive amounts of thermal energy are generated just below the earth's crust from the earth's temperature and the radioactive decay of minerals. Humans have used geothermal energy for millennia for bathing in the form of hot springs. Now this energy is being tapped to generate electricity. It is estimated that in North American alone, there is enough geothermal energy underground to produce as much electricity as coal does ten times over.
5. Biomass: is made of natural recently-living materials such as sawdust, wood waste, and combustible agricultural wastes. Biomass contains stored energy from the sun and thus can be converted into energy. This can also be dome with far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than are released from converting petroleum-based fuel sources.
6. Biofuels: Sometimes instead of burning biomass to convert it to energy, it is transformed into fuel. Two examples of this use are biodiesel and ethanol fuels. Biofuels provided almost three percent of the world's road transportation fuels in 2010 and have the potential to meet more than 25 percent of that demand by 2050.