It’s no surprise nowadays to hear that coal, oil, and other sources of power can pollute the air and otherwise damage the environment. As a result, more and more people are turning to various types of renewable energy for their power. Renewable energy is generated from natural sources that are constantly replenished and will never run out, making them a smart investment for the future. Here are several types of renewable energy and how they can benefit you.
The Benefits of Renewable Energy Sources
There are numerous reasons to consider switching to renewable energy. Using renewable energy sources that do not produce greenhouse gasses can reduce some types of air pollution and reduce dependence on imported oil and fuel. Renewable energy also does not damage land in the same way that mining coal and oil often do. Because the renewable energy industry is still growing, building and maintaining renewable energy plants can create jobs and boost the economy. In addition, the cost of using renewable energy is falling, making it the ultimately cheaper option.
Solar energy involves using power generated by the sun. It is a sustainable form of energy that can be used as long as the sun exists, and is usable worldwide. Solar energy reduces electricity costs, and homeowners who install solar panels can save over $100 per month in many places. Solar panels are large and bulky, making it difficult to install them on some homes; however, many communities have installed communal “solar gardens,” which allow multiple homes to receive energy from a single installation of solar panels at a different location. Unlike wind turbines, solar panels are completely silent.
However, there are a few disadvantages to solar energy. Panels can be expensive, and installations that are unable to store energy — which can get expensive — can only provide power when the sun is up and strong. Solar panels require expensive, rare materials as well as a significant amount of space to be installed.
Using the wind to produce energy has been gaining popularity. Once a turbine is set up, operational costs are relatively small compared to other forms of power. Continual research is being dedicated to making wind one of the cheapest types of renewable energy. Owners of large tracts of land can rent part of their land to government organizations and other businesses seeking to install turbines on the land. Because many wind turbines now feature a sleeker design, it’s more attractive than ever to rent land in this manner.
Like solar energy, wind power is not the most reliable source of power. Severe storms, wind, and lightning can damage turbine structures, which may endanger birds and other wildlife. Turbines can be loud and unsightly, making many people hesitant to install them. In addition, producing wind energy requires an expensive installation and a large area of land on which to install a sufficient number of turbines to adequately provide energy.
Biomass energy involves using organic material obtained from plants and animals, such as animal waste, wood, leaves, and paper, to create energy. Biomass can easily be stored and used in the future, and it is easily collected. Using biomass can also help manage solid waste by quickly removing it and putting it to good use. Biomass can be produced and transported locally, making it particularly attractive to individuals and smaller communities.
Because biomass is often burned in order to release its energy, using biomass can often cause gasses like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide to enter the air, possibly contributing to global warming. Extracting biomass on a large scale can be expensive, and many extraction projects are never completed. Storage costs can also add up over time.
When you use geothermal energy, you’re actually using the planet’s core temperature to create power. It does not cause significant pollution, and it is highly efficient and reliable compared to other types of renewable energy sources. It can provide savings of up to 60 percent on heating and cooling costs. Unlike wind and solar power, geothermal energy equipment is kept largely underground.
Geothermal energy is better suited to new structures, as retrofitting older ones can be expensive. No matter where they are installed, the equipment carries a high up-front cost. Geothermal energy requires a significant amount of water in order to function, and installation can damage underground ecosystems.
Hydrogen fuel cells use the energy produced by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to create electric power. Because it does not rely on combustion, it is one of the cleanest sources of energy currently available. Like geothermal energy, it is highly efficient and can be used continuously without recharging. Fuel cells are quiet and are able to store energy for later use. They are also well-suited for energy distribution to other areas.
Hydrogen may seem too good to be true, and there are some drawbacks. Many people are concerned about the safety of using hydrogen reactions for energy, and its durability is still being researched. It is also very expensive to use due to the raw materials, such as platinum, that are necessary to build fuel cells.
Using water to produce energy is an old technique, as evidenced by the water wheels attached to the earliest factories. Using hydropower does not emit greenhouse gasses and provides a consistent, reliable source of energy. The operating costs associated with it are fairly low, and it is largely considered a safe method of creating energy.
Hydropower is not without its flaws. Creating dams can significantly impact the natural habitat surrounding waterways, displacing people, animals, and entire ecosystems. The cost to build the necessary structures is high, and the facility can be limited in capacity by its size and that of the waterway. In addition, hydropower is susceptible to major droughts.
In addition to these tried-and-true types of renewable energy, many scientists speculate that another option may be available: cold fusion. Thought to have been discovered in 1989, cold fusion involves causing a nuclear reaction at room temperature to create energy. Although the theory of cold fusion is questioned by many in the scientific community, many other scientists are working on this technology to demonstrate that it can be scaled up as a viable form of renewable energy.