Green energy - what is it?
Green energy refers to energy that is not created by the use of fossil fuels and is sustainable. There are many different types of green energy, most of which make sound economic sense, particularly for economically disadvantaged people living in remote regions of the world, where access to modern facilities is often difficult, if not impossible. Uruguay has recently hit the headlines as the South American country has made a dramatic shift in recent decades towards sustainable sources of energy, and is now the world leader in reducing carbon emissions. Uruguay now generates 95 percent of its electricity from green sources, and even sells a surplus to neighbouring countries. The change has also had a marked improvement on the country's economic health.
Here is a guide to the five main types of renewable energy:
Harnessing the power of the wind is not a new concept; humans have been using it for sailing for thousands of years, and windmills have been used for centuries to grind corn. Today, giant wind turbines are being increasingly used to create electrical power from the wind, which is great for countries with a coastline, mountains or a high, flat plateau - anywhere with lots of wind.
Building a wind farm is an initially costly venture, but once installed, wind farms are a reliable provider of energy, and their maintenance also leads to jobs. The Department of Energy produced a report this year about the growth of wind power in the United States, predicting that wind power might supply as much as 35 percent off the country's electrical needs by 2050.
Tidal power is a way of harnessing the massive forces of the tides. This is a relatively new technology and at the moment, there is only one tidal power station in Europe, in northern France, known as the Rance Estuary. Tidal power has significant potential for the future as tidal power is seen by many to be more regular than wind and solar power. The major disadvantage of tidal power is that the power can only ben harnessed when the tide is flowing into or out of the barrage system; about ten hours in every twenty-four. This shortfall, however, could potentially be made up by establishing other tidal stations at different times. Constructing a tidal power system is very expensive- there have been plans to build one on the Severn Estuary for years, which have never come to fruition because of the high costs and the potential impact upon the local wildlife.
Solar power converts the energy of the sun into electricity and is becoming increasingly common in the UK. Over the last decade, the government has subsidized the installation of rooftop solar panels for many homeowners making them an affordable option for many people keen to use sustainable energy and avoid costly gas and electric bills. Globally, solar power is also becoming ever more accessible, and the technology is currently being developed in new and exciting ways, such as printable solar panels that can be used on virtually any surface to solar powered water pumps in Africa, where some of the driest parts of the world are situated on top of enormous underground freshwater lakes.
Biomass is a fuel that has been derived from organic material, such as wood chippings or animal waste. It's regarded as renewable as waste will always exist and managed forests should always be full of trees. It's regarded as carbon neutral as using waste for fuel prevents it from being burned and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or from being buried in a toxic landfill site. In 2010, biomass fuel produced about 4 percent of the energy used in the USA. There are 25 biomass projects in the UK with many more planned. Biomass is a cheap and readily available form of energy and one that reduces the need for reliance upon the traditional fossil fuels of oil, gas and coal.
Geothermal power harnesses energy from steam generated from reservoirs of hot water from deep under the earth's surface. There are three different types of geothermal power plants. They are; dry steam power plants, that use underground sources of steam; flash steam power plants that are the most common and use underground sources of hot water; and binary cycle power plants that use water of a lower temperature and various complicated processes to create a clean energy. Geothermal power plants are found predominantly in areas with high geothermal activity, such as Iceland, Alaska and California.