Clean energy is energy that is produced through methods that do not release greenhouse gases or any other pollutants. Clean energy can be generated from renewable sources like solar and air currents.
It is important to note that the terms renewable energy and clean energy are not interchangeable. Not all renewable energy methods are clean energy. For example, geothermal power is a renewable energy source but some of the ways it can be processed can have a negative impact on the environment. Let’s learn today what is clean energy And how its works. Is all renewable energy clean?
What is Clean Energy?
Clean energy is energy that comes from renewable, zero-emission sources that do not pollute the atmosphere when used, as well as energy saved by energy efficiency measures.
There is a degree of crossover between clean energy and green or renewable energy sources, but they are not exactly the same. In order to understand the difference, it is worth understanding what it actually means.
What Does Clean Energy Mean?
Clean energy is energy gained from sources that do release air pollutants, while green energy is energy derived from natural sources. There is a subtle difference between these two energy types even though they are often spoken of as being the same.
Renewable energy is power generated from sources that are constantly being replenished. These renewable energy resources won’t run out, unlike fossil fuels and gas, and include wind and solar energy.
However, while most green energy sources are renewable, not all renewable energy sources are seen as being green. For example, hydropower is a renewable resource, but some would argue that it is not green, since the deforestation and industrialization related to the building of hydro dams can damage the environment.
The perfect clean energy mix occurs where green energy meets renewable energy, such as solar energy and wind energy.
An easy way to remember the differences between these different energy types is:
- Clean energy = clean air
- Green energy = natural sources
- Renewable energy = recyclable sources
How Does Clean Energy Work?
Clean energy works by producing power without having negative environmental impacts, such as the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. A lot of clean energy is also renewable, including wind power, some hydro resources, and solar-powered energy generation.
Why is it Important?
The most important aspect of clean energy is the environmental benefits as part of a global energy future. While clean, renewable resources also preserve the world’s natural resources, they also reduce the risk of environmental disasters, such as fuel spills or the problems associated with natural gas leaks.
With fuel diversification, through different power plants using different energy sources, it is possible to create reliable power supplies to enhance energy security, ensuring there is enough to meet our demands.
How do renewables and energy efficiency work together?
Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are regenerative over short periods of time and cannot be depleted. The most common renewable energy resources are biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind.
Energy efficiency includes technologies (including passive solar), products, and services that reduce the amount of energy required for buildings, processes, or tasks. Find out more.
Put simply: A clean energy economy powered by both renewables and energy efficiency is the most sustainable energy planning scenario available.
Are all Renewable Energy Clean?
Renewable energy is a practical and affordable solution that has created new jobs and industries and decreased our dependence on coal and other fossil fuels. Solar, wind, and ocean-based energy can consider as clean and renewable energy forms until they are planned and located in the right places.
1. Geothermal energy
What about geothermal energy? This energy obtained from the heat in the earth is renewable and clean. But research have shown that much preparation must be done to assure that it is sustainable.
There are risks of contaminating groundwater and over time there is a tendency for land sinking (subduction), induce seismic activity, and landslides. Exploration activity for geothermal energy also causes an environmental impact as it is commonly carried out in ancient and environmentally sensitive areas. Therefore, a well-thought-out plan is needed for this.
2. Hydro energy
Consider hydroelectric energy. It is a form of renewable energy but does not meet the standard of clean energy. Building dams is destructive to the natural environment, displacing habitat, animal and fish species, and humans, causing unnatural flooding, and diverting the waters of communities that need it.
There may be a drought and many rivers are also drying for other reasons. Therefore, what was once considered renewable may be limited. There is a significant emission of greenhouse gases in the first few years after dam closure and reservoir formation. Instead, micro-hydropower projects using river currents can consider as an alternative to hydroelectricity.
Another type of renewable energy that can be considered comparatively clean is derived from biomass. Biomass contains organic materials such as industrial waste, agricultural waste, wood, and bark. They can directly burn-in specially designed power plants. It burns cleaner than coal because it contains less sulfur which reduces sulfur dioxide when burning.
It can also be made to decay using microbes to produce methane that is later use as fuel. Although it called a low-carbon alternative, it produces a certain amount of carbon dioxide while burning. Indirectly it breaks important ecosystems such as forests and grasslands that play a significant role in carbon storage. Therefore, it cannot consider completely clean.
4. Nuclear Power
Nuclear power recognized as a ‘clean energy’ source because it does not deliver any harmful carbon effusions, but it is a non-renewable energy. Its installation operations and management are more expensive than others.
The safety factor is another important thing to consider when using and disposing of radioactive materials. Radioactive toxicity and radioactive pollution are very real threats during the Chernobyl disaster 1986 (industrial accident) and Fukushima Dachi nuclear disaster 2017 (natural disaster due to tsunami). It can consider clean but should be classified under “dangerous”.
Recent Developments in Renewable Energy
Development in renewable energy is becoming as exciting as research and development teams first come up with unimaginable and innovative ideas.
From converting concrete roads and parking lots to solar roadways, to solar vehicles and surrounding communities mining asteroids into outer space, there is no limit to the ability of humans to think and adapt.
Biofuel Production Using Algae
Ethanol produced from corn has used to mix with gasoline. But ethanol degradation has side effects. New research is converting algae to renewable fuel butanol. This alga survives on nitrogen, phosphorus incense, and carbon dioxide.
They harvested and dried every 5-8 days. Carbohydrates extract and convert into natural sugars, which are ferment to produce butyric, lactic, and acetic acids. Butanol produced by further fermentation of butyric acid and is a low-cost replacement for ethanol.
One advantage of using algae is seen when it is grown in aquatic bodies which are dead zones. Dead areas are contaminated by fertilizer runoff consisting of nitrogen and phosphorus and do not survive here. Algae flourish here and this can result in the cleanliness of a river or lake and thus the process can be environmentally friendly.
Battery capabilities progress
Increased battery capabilities will improve the storage capabilities of the additional power produced. These advances come in the form of large utility-scale energy storage systems, extending new materials beyond micro-grids, faster and more efficient superconductors, and current lithium-ion batteries. New designs for batteries and new chemistry are developing.
Smart grid technology
As our electric infrastructure era smart grid technology pushed to do more generation and transmission, as it originally designs to do, modernizing the grid makes it smarter and more flexible. This will reduce the frequency and duration of power outages, reduce the effects of hurricanes, and restore service faster.
There will be better safety, lower peak load, better integration of refurbishment, and lower operating costs. The technology evolves into advanced sensors, digital meter advanced relays, automatic feeder switches, and batteries.
Marine technology recommends harnessing wave and tidal energy from the oceans: marine energy is the next player in the energy market after wind energy and solar energy. The rising waters of oceans and rivers produce large amounts of energy and can be exploited.
There are some obstacles to overcome the unpredictability of the wave intensity and its intermittency. Suitable locations for installing tidal power plants are in hazardous and harsh environments. Also being studied is the impact of equipment on marine ecosystems.
A material call percocyte is testing in solar cells to increase cell efficiency. It is now able to convert 23% of sunlight into electricity. Work is being done to make these cells sustainable for long term use (at least 20 years which is the average lifetime of a solar panel).
The water Split into oxygen and hydrogen
One of the most promising ideas for storing renewable energy is to use additional electricity to Split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen has many uses in the industry and can use to power hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Splitting water using a precious metal catalyst such as platinum or ruthenium was an expensive process and require large amounts of energy. New developments use inexpensive nickel and iron to make the high-quality catalyst required for this reaction.
Millions of dollars are being invested in research methods and materials to improve the efficiency with which we are able to extract energy from renewable sources. We can think that the sky is the limit here.
Tobacco farmers are being asked to convert their farms into solar farms. There have been (very rich) people who are exploring the possibilities of finding resources from outer space. Depths of the sea, volcanoes, microbes are being studied. The behavior of plants and animals is studied to improve machines and grids. The sky cannot be the limit here.