You have probably heard a lot of talk recently about green energy, but just what does that commonly used term really mean? Green energy can mean different things to different people, and it is important to establish a baseline before moving forward.
The terms green energy and renewable energy are often used interchangeably, and in some ways that makes sense. Renewable energy refers to energy sources that can easily be regenerated – things like wind power and solar energy. The sun is not going away anytime soon, and neither is the wind. These sources of energy are abundant – and harnessing them properly can provide nearly unlimited energy.
Green energy typically refers to those energy sources that are good for the environment. Many people are concerned that burning coal and using fossil fuels will accelerate global warming and lead to an unsustainable future. Those concerned individuals naturally look to green energy sources as a replacement for those dangerous fossil fuels.
So which sources of energy fall under the renewable and green umbrellas? These energy sources take a number of different forms, and the most popular sources are listed below.
#1 – Solar Energy
Solar energy is perhaps the easiest green energy source to understand. You simply cannot walk outside without feeling the heat and energy coming from the sun. The sun gives off an astounding amount of energy, even from 93 million miles away. Harnessing even a small amount of that energy can power our homes, fuel our businesses and provide an abundant source of renewable energy.
The reality of solar energy has not yet lived up to its promise, but many in the industry are hopeful about the future. Present solar technology has a number of significant drawbacks, including limitations in the storage of solar power and the high cost of the solar panels themselves. Solar technology has been improving, however, and the costs have been coming down in recent years.
#2 – Wind Power
Like the sun, the wind is everywhere, and when it blows it can create significant amounts of energy. Power companies are harnessing this power by erecting large windmills on otherwise empty tracts of land – providing a renewable and sustainable source of energy for their customers. Some individuals are even getting into the wind power game – erecting their own smaller windmills and using wind energy to power their homes and barns.
Like solar, wind power has its own problems and limitations, and so far wind power has not made a significant impact. Operators of large scale wind farms have found that those windmills often kill birds and other wildlife – as those animals fly into the whirling motors. Wind energy is also useless when the wind is not bowing – another important limitation for this source of green energy.
#3 – Hydropower
Hydropower, also known as hydroelectric energy, uses the power of moving water to generate energy. Many power companies have been using hydroelectric power for years – using it to generate a significant amount of power for their customers.
While hydroelectric power is very useful and a good source of renewable energy, it too has some drawbacks. Perhaps the most significant drawback is that hydroelectric power is dependent on a steady source of water. That means hydroelectric plants must be located near rivers and other steady sources of water. That can limit its usefulness, especially in drier parts of the country.
These renewable sources of energy can help power our future without the negative impact of greenhouse gases and other consequences of fossil fuels. While these green sources of energy are not yet supplying the majority of our power, their share continues to grow. Future investment in renewable energy may yet make wind, solar and hydroelectric viable alternatives to coal, oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels.