In order to be an operative consumer of green energy, it is respectable to know where green energy comes from. And the more you know, the better equipped you will be to enjoy the benefits and educate others. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of Green Energy.
What is Green Energy?
Green energy is any energy type that is generated from natural resources, such as sunlight, wind, or water. It often comes from renewable energy sources, although there are some differences between renewable and green energy, which we will explore below.
The key to these energy resources is that they don’t harm the environment by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
As we become more and more aware of our impact on the environment, the importance of transitioning from conventional energy resources to renewable sources is becoming more apparent to consumers. Green energy is a solution to greater sustainability in our power grid, but the term is met with some confusion and is commonly used to refer to renewables by others.
Green Energy Features
Clean. Green energy, which includes green electricity, is clean energy. This means it is produced with little-to-no environmental impact and does not dispense greenhouse gases into the air that contribute to global warming the way fossil fuels do.
Varied. Green energy sources include wind, Geo-Thermal, Hydro, and Solar Energy. Wind and hydro sources generate energy through air and water movement, while Geo-Thermal and solar sources generate energy through heat. All, however, provide reliable power and protect the environment.
Renewable. As stated above, green energy sources eliminate the emission of greenhouse gases into the air. These sources are also renewable energy sources – meaning they are not created from finite materials like fossil fuels.
Stable. Green energy’s varied forms mean more locations across the planet have the potential to harvest this renewable energy. This means more energy can be collected right here in the United States, making the country less dependent on foreign countries’ energy.
Inexpensive. As the demand for green energy continues to grow, the price continues to drop thanks to scale economics. Consider this: between the years 2010 and 2012, the costs of producing energy from wind dropped by 20 percent, and prices have fallen by more than 80 percent since 1980.
Right for You. You have seen the environmental and economic benefits that come from turning your home into a green home. The good news is, those benefits will increase as green energy continues to gain popularity in the market. If you are ready to switch to renewable energy, see what Direct Energy has to offer.
The U.S. energy market provides a range of services and products with green energy, also called green power, being a small category within these options. For many, this is synonymous with renewable energy, but there is a clear distinction.
What is the Difference Between Renewable and Green Energy?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green energy provides the highest environmental benefit and includes power produced by solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, low-impact hydroelectric, and individual eligible biomass sources.
These renewable energy sources enter the power grid and are indistinguishable from conventional energy sources when you flip a light switch or charge your phone. Although renewable energy encompasses the same sources as green energy, this energy more broadly includes technologies and products which can have a considerable impact on both the local and global environment. Essentially, when you buy green power, you are also supporting various renewable energy projects and the investment in technologies that help them grow.
Green energy is that which comes from natural sources, such as the sun. Clean energy is those types that do not release pollutants into the air, and renewable energy comes from sources that are continually being replenished, such as hydropower, wind power, or solar energy.
Renewable energy is often seen as being the same, but there is still some debate around this. For example, can a hydroelectric dam divert waterways and impact the local environment really called ‘green?’
However, a source such as wind power is renewable, green, and clean – since it comes from an environmentally-friendly, self-replenishing and non-polluting source.
How Do Green Energy Products Work?
As a source of energy, green energy often comes from renewable energy technologies such as solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass, and hydroelectric power. Each of these technologies works in different ways, whether by taking power from the sun, solar panels, wind turbines, or the flow of water to generate energy.
To be deemed green energy, a resource cannot produce pollution, such as is found with fossil fuels. This means that not all sources used by the renewable energy industry are green. For example, power generation that burns organic material from sustainable forests may be renewable, but it is not necessarily green due to the CO2 produced by the burning process itself.
Green energy sources are usually naturally replenished instead of fossil fuel sources like natural gas or coal, which can take millions of years to develop. Green sources also often avoid mining or drilling operations that can be damaging to ecosystems.
It’s important to understand that the energy you consume will mix green, renewable, and conventional energy regardless of which product you purchase. This is because all electric grid energy sources are mixed when they enter the power transmission grid. From here, electricity travels to homes and businesses via the handful of regional grids that stretch across Canada and the United States.
So, by buying green energy, you are not directly purchasing green power for your home but are instead paying for a small premium covering the costs of putting more renewable energy into the grid. For those keen to go green at home who don’t have space or funds for a solar panels array, this is the best way to reduce the carbon footprint associated with your energy consumption measurably. It is also the most affordable way to increase large-scale renewable energy investment, and it gives more households and businesses access to green energy.
Types of Green Energy:
There are many types of green energy coming from a wide variety of sources. Some of these types are better suited to specific environments or regions, so many renewable energies filter into the energy grid.
The primary sources are wind energy, solar power, and hydroelectric power (including tidal energy, which uses ocean energy from the tides in the sea). Solar and wind power can be produced on a small scale at people’s homes or generated on a larger, industrial scale.
- Solar Energy
Solar is a clean source of energy that comes directly from the sun. In general, stars produce an unimaginable amount of energy via nuclear fusion— the process by which smaller atoms are fused together by heat and pressure to create heavier atoms—with a lot of energy emitted in the process. This energy then reaches us via solar radiation, which we can collect and convert into usable electricity.
Solar power uses the sun’s light and also warmth (sun radiation) to create sustainable or ‘environment-friendly’ power. One of the most typical kinds of solar energy is utilized by photovoltaic panels or solar batteries. In PV plants, power is generated practically edge-to-edge to record sunlight in significant areas. You will also see them in addition to houses and also other structures sometimes, too. The solar cells (PV panels) are developed from semiconductor materials. When the sun’s rays struck the cells, it releases electrons from their atoms. This enables the electrons to stream through the cell and creates electricity.
On a much more extensive range, solar panels with batteries can simultaneously produce power for thousands of individuals. Solar-thermal power plants use a selection of techniques to generate power, making use of the sun radiation. The sunlight’s energy is used to steam water which, in turn, runs a vapor turbine to create comparably to that of coal or nuclear power plants
- Wind Energy
Wind energy is actually another energy source powered by the sun. That is because the uneven heating of the atmosphere causes winds. This unevenness is affected by our planet’s topology, its spin, and how we orbit around the sun. The surface further modulates the winds they are passing over—either land or water.
Three-blade wind turbines are most commonly associated with wind power. Unlike solar energy, these work on a rather simple principle. The wind turns the blades of the turbine, which turns an internal rotor. This rotor then moves the main shaft, which spins a generator and creates electricity.
Although the wind may seem powerful, expansive wind farms are required to generate enough electricity to make an impact.
- Hydroelectric Energy
Hydroelectric energy is produced by capturing the energy contained within flowing water. This is best achieved by forcing water to flow through a narrow path, increasing its energy per square meter. This is commonly performed by storing water in a reservoir or dam and selectively purging the water by opening an intake.
The gravitational potential energy stored by holding water higher up in the dam forces the water through the intake at incredible speed. When released, the flow spins a turbine which once again activates a generator, creating electricity.
Due to its efficacy, hydroelectricity is one of the most popular forms of green energy. It is estimated that 4 billion tons of greenhouse gases were not released into our atmosphere by generating electricity from hydropower.
The beauty of biogas, if it can be described as such, is that it is not only a green energy source but that it makes use of our waste products. Produced as a byproduct when organic matter decomposes, biogas comes from materials such as sewage, food, agricultural waste, and manure.
These materials are stored in containers without oxygen, causing them to ferment and produce methane and carbon dioxide, and other gases. The methane produced can then be sold on and used to heat homes, have electricity, and fuel vehicles. Simultaneously, the waste placed in a biogas digester becomes nutrient-rich fertilizer, perfect for farms and even home use.
Like biogas, biomass is a source of green energy that comes from plants and animals—both of which contain energy stored from the sun, often in the form of sugar or cellulose. When it comes to converting biomass into usable energy, much of this material is made into biogas as well as liquid biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel. Other solid materials such as wood can be burned by themselves to heat buildings as well as to produce electricity. According to the EPA, around 5% of the total energy consumed in the U.S. in 2017 came from biomass fuels.
- Geothermal Energy
This type of green power uses thermal energy that has been stored just under the earth’s crust. While this resource requires drilling to access, thereby calling the environmental impact into question, it is a vast resource once tapped into. Geothermal energy has been used for bathing in hot springs for thousands of years, and this same resource can be used for steam to turn turbines and generate electricity. The energy stored in the United States alone is enough to produce ten times as much electricity as coal currently can. While some nations, such as Iceland, have easy-to-access geothermal resources, it is a resource that is reliant on location for ease of use, and to be fully ‘green’ the drilling procedures need to be closely monitored
The Main Benefits Green Energy and IT’s Importance
Reducing carbon emissions, preventing further environmental harm, and creating jobs are just some of the opportunities provided by investing in green energy. And by buying green energy, you are helping bring that future closer.
Every day the sun provides the earth with more than enough energy to power the entire planet, but there’s a problem. The current technologies we have in place are not efficient enough to convert enough of it into electricity, and for many, it’s more cost-effective to use other traditional sources. Going green means more significant funding to solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects, creating technologies to better harness the renewable sources around us and make them more affordable and accessible to everyone.
Traditionally we have relied on materials such as coal, oil, and even kerosene to provide us with the energy we need. However, these fuels are non-renewable and expel pollution into our environment and atmosphere. As such, these sources will eventually run out, causing fears about shortages and access to them. But what is worse is the environmental harm they inflict.
Burning these conventional sources of energy fuels global warming. Coal and oil pour toxic gases into the environment, impacting general health, and causing respiratory issues, and reducing life expectancies. Simply extracting oil and coal can destroy area’s environments, economies, and livelihoods in the form of devastating oil spills.
Green energy will help us mitigate and sidestep at least some of these issues, and the quicker we move to renewable energy sources, the better.
Green energy is essential for the environment as it replaces the adverse effects of fossil fuels with more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Derived from natural resources, green energy is also often renewable and clean, meaning that they emit no or few greenhouse gases and are often readily available.
Even when the full life cycle of a green energy source is taken into consideration, they release far fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, as well as few or low levels of air pollutants. This is not just good for the planet but is also better for the health of people and animals that have to breathe the air.
Green energy can also lead to stable energy prices as these sources are often produced locally and are not as affected by geopolitical crises, price spikes, or supply chain disruptions. The economic benefits also include job creation in building the facilities that often serve the communities where the workers are employed. Renewable energy saw the creation of 11 million jobs worldwide in 2018, with this number set to grow as we strive to meet targets such as net-zero.
Due to the local nature of energy production through solar and wind power sources, the energy infrastructure is more flexible and less dependent on centralized sources that can lead to disruption and less resilient to weather-related climate change.
Green energy also represents a low-cost solution for the energy needs of many parts of the world. This will only improve as costs continue to fall, further increasing the accessibility of green energy, especially in the developing world.
Examples of the Green Energy
There are plenty of green energy examples in use today, from energy production through to thermal heating for buildings, off-highway, and transport. Many industries are investigating green solutions and here are a few examples:
1. Heating and Cooling in Buildings
Green energy solutions are being used for buildings ranging from large office blocks to people’s homes. These include solar water heaters, biomass-fueled boilers, direct heat from geothermal, and cooling systems powered by renewable sources.
2. Industrial Processes
Renewable heat for industrial processes can be run using biomass or renewable electricity. Hydrogen is now a large renewable energy provider for the cement, iron, steel, and chemical industries.
Sustainable biofuels and renewable electricity are growing in use for transportation across multiple industry sectors. Automotive is an obvious example as electrification advances to replace fossil fuels, but aerospace and construction are other areas that are actively investigating electrification.
Can It Replace Fossil Fuels and Economically Viable terms?
Green energy can replace fossil fuels in the future. However, it may require varied production from different means to achieve this. Geothermal, for example, is particularly useful in places where this resource is easy to tap into, while wind energy or solar power may be better suited to other geographic locations.
However, by bringing together multiple green energy sources to meet our needs and the advancements that are being made regarding the production and development of these resources, there is every reason to believe that fossil fuels could be phased out.
We are still some years away from this happening, but the fact remains that this is necessary to reduce climate change, improve the environment and move to a more sustainable future.
Understanding the economic viability of green energy requires a comparison with fossil fuels. The fact is that as easily-reached fossil resources begin to run out, the cost of this type of energy will only increase with scarcity.
Simultaneously, fossil fuels become more expensive, and the cost of greener energy sources is falling. Other factors also favor green energy, such as the ability to produce relatively inexpensive localized energy solutions, such as solar farms. The interest, investment, and development of green energy solutions are bringing costs down as we continue to build up our knowledge and build on past breakthroughs.
As a result, green energy can not only become economically viable but also the preferred option.
How Can Green Energy Help the Environment?
Green energy provides real benefits for the environment since the power comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and water. Constantly replenished, these energy sources are the direct opposite of the unsustainable, carbon-emitting fossil fuels that have powered us for over a century.
Creating energy with a zero-carbon footprint is an excellent stride to a more environmentally friendly future. If we can use it to meet our power, industrial, and transportation needs, we will greatly reduce our impact on the environment.
Future of the Green Energy
Rising energy prices, increased import dependence, and increasing greenhouse-gas emissions are environmentally, economically, and socially unsustainable. Achieving a more secure, low-carbon energy system calls for radical action by governments at national and local levels and through participation in coordinated international mechanisms. Greater reliance on renewable energy sources offers enormous economic, social, and environmental benefits. As seen in many countries, developing and implementing alternative energy resources can provide a lot of jobs.
With centralized power, be it through coal, hydro or nuclear power, electrifying cities is the priority, and rural villages, often at the tail end of the power grid, are left in the dark. Locally installed power plants for wind power, solar energy, or biomass are decentralized energy sources and thereby empower people at a grassroots level. It creates independence of power companies and low-cost options to bring energy to rural areas.
A first step at the international level is the funding of the International Energy Agency IEA. One hundred thirty-six countries are part of it. IEA assumes that renewable energy could cover more than one-fourth of the world’s primary energy demand by 2030.
As the world population rises, so does the demand for energy to power our homes, businesses, and communities. Innovation and expansion of renewable energy sources are crucial to maintaining a sustainable level of energy and protecting our planet from climate change.
Green energy looks set to be part of the world’s future, offering a cleaner alternative to many of today’s energy sources. Readily replenished, these energy sources are good for the environment and lead to job creation and look set to become economically viable as developments continue.