These are the five different types of green energy. Not all of them are going to work in every situation, and some are better suited to large or small scale implementations.
We have the technology and it’s past time for humanity to make the switch to completely renewable energy. Currently, most of our energy comes from natural gas, coal and oil based energy sources, which are both dirty and unsustainable.
What other alternatives do we have?
Understanding the Five Different Types of Green Energy
Hydropower is currently the largest producer of renewable energy, accounting for over 70% of our renewable energy production. This is hands-down the most popular of the different types of green energy.
The way it works is that special installations are placed underwater, where strong currents of water will push through a mechanical instrument known as a penstock.
This “push” is then converted into electricity and fed into the energy grid.
There are definite negatives, though!
Large scale hydropower has some serious environmental impacts as it floods and destroys forests, agricultural land, and wildlife habitats. Fish and wildlife are often killed by the turbines, even though steps are taken to prevent that. Sometimes entire villages have been relocated in order to make way for the reservoirs.
Currently, scientists are working on ways to increase output from existing hydropower dams rather than build new ones.
Solar energy is another common type of green energy. There are two main types of solar power: solar power for homes and solar power plants.
Though solar PV has gotten a lot of press in recent years, there are a lot of problems still.
First of all, though the production of energy is more green than oil, the process of creating the materials that solar PV is made from is quite toxic.
There’s also the problem that it’s still extremely expensive to buy and install. To make your money back from the savings of a solar panel may take as long as ten to twenty years.
Wind energy is a stellar renewable source of power, easily earning it a spot in the top types of green energy. The key to wind power is to place these energy generators in high altitude, high wind velocity locations.
The return on wind power is substantial. The main downside is that aesthetically they block the view from just about any angle because of their size. On a smaller, domestic scale, they don’t block views but they are not suitable for all locations. Here in Nova Scotia, our winds are actually too strong to use domestic wind power.
That said, large scale wind power is more cost-efficient than solar and easier to construct than hydropower.
Although most people are just hearing about this as a renewable energy source, geothermal energy has been known about and used as long as civilization, and harnessing it has been happening for at least fifty years. Think about natural hot springs – if you’ve ever visited one, you’ve used geothermal energy.
The technology continues to improve, which means that this will eventually become one of the more familiar types of green energy, but for now its use is limited.
The main drawback to geothermal energy, and the reason it only provides about 10% of our renewable energy sources, is that it is not suitable for all locations. Areas with significant geological activity – volcanoes and earthquakes – are best suited for harnessing this power.
Closer to home, increasing numbers of households are installing geothermal heat pumps, which are also (and perhaps more accurately) known as ground source heat pumps .
Even though outdoor air temperature fluctuates during the year, the temperature 4-6 feet below the surface is stable all year because it collects and hold the heat of the sun. Pipes buried underground collect the stored heat underground and move it into the home. In the summer, the process is reversed and the temperature underground, now cooler than the air temperature, is moved indoors.
Unfortunately for most of us, while geothermal heat pumps are becoming more affordable, geothermal energy is still extremely expensive.
An average home needs about a 3 ton system, at $3000-$9000 per ton.
More importantly, the underground coils needed for an average home require about 1800 feet of property, which will be dug up in order to install the coils. Vertical coils are available, which take very little space, but they are more expensive to install and won’t work in rocky areas.
Biomass is primarily the conversion of manufacturing by-products into electricity.
These by-products can include wood chips and fragments, leftover sugar, animal manure and anything else that’s burnable.
Biomass can also include materials produced specifically for the production of energy (e.g. corn ethanol).
The biomass is burned and the heat energy is turned into electricity. Biomass is a great way of disposing of products that might otherwise become waste; but is unlikely to become a primary producer of our world’s energy needs.
These are our primary sources of renewable energy. Of course, there are many other fringe sources of energy that are being researched all the time.
In order for a renewable energy to truly make sense, it needs to be both scalable and financially sustainable for investors. For the time being, the five listed above are the main sources of renewable energy.0