Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Guest Post: Four for the Future: Clean Sources of Renewable Electricity

[Clean Air Watch periodically accepts guest posts of general interest.  Today's guest post is from Sarah Smith.  Editor's note: as the link below notes. biomass is a topic of genuine controversy.]

The world’s appetite for electricity grows bigger every day, and the global oil supply and reservoirs that provide hydroelectric power are beginning to show the strain. And while decreasing energy resources would be reason enough to look into types of renewable energy, there’s also the fact that many of the ways we currently generate electricity are harmful to our planet.

Fortunately, those in the know are rapidly developing technologies to meet the worldwide need for types of renewable energy. The four most promising to date? As a suggestion from Generator Hire Sales and Services, those would be solar, wind, heat (or thermoelectric), and biomass. Let’s look at each in turn.

  1. Wind electricity. The good news is, the planet will never run out of wind. The better news is, science has made terrific strides in harnessing the wind’s mechanical energy to produce electricity. The process involves turbines—utility scale that deliver wind electricity to the power grid, distributed/small scale that directly power a home or business, and offshore that are placed in bodies of water. Wind electricity is definitely an up-and-coming technology—it’s clean, renewable, drought-resistant, and uses almost no water. It has even given our economy a shot in the arm by attracting billions of investment dollars!

  1. Electricity from heat. This type of electricity—also known as thermoelectricity—can be produced in a number of ways. One would be using semiconductors to capture waste heat already produced by other processes and transform it into usable electricity. Another is to capture the heat of the sun with reflectors and use that heat to create steam to drive turbines. Electricity from heat can also involve tapping the earth’s geothermal energy which, according to recent estimates, contains more than 50,000 times more energy than all our oil and natural gas resources! Electricity from heat is cleaner than traditionally produced energy and, given the many available sources, well-nigh inexhaustible.

  1. Solar electricity. The sun showers us with energy, and tapping its heat isn’t the only way we can use it. When the sun hits photovoltaic cells—square semiconductors made up of thin film layers of silicon and other conductive materials—it kicks off a chemical reaction that generates a current. Bundle enough photovoltaic cells together, you can generate sufficient electricity to power a home or business, or direct the current the cells produce into a bigger electrical grid. Improvements are being made on this clean, infinitely renewable technology even as we speak!

  1. Biomass electricity. Biomass is your basic organic waste—wood chips, rotted trees and plants, manure, sewage, agricultural byproducts collected after harvest. The simplest and probably most common use of biomass is burning wood. But thanks to fast-paced research and technological developments, biomass has already moved way beyond your fireplace! Did you know, for example, biomass power plants rank second in the nation when it comes to producing renewable energy? And while these power plants do produce some emissions, most are stringently controlled and not harmful to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, biomass electricity production also recycles carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and keeps wood waste out of landfills, thereby reducing the release of harmful methane and greenhouses gasses.

    Sarah is a small business owner, and is currently learning about green technologies, using the internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media, and read travel books.

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