Renewable energy is undoubtedly gaining popularity at the speed of light these days, sunlight that is! “Clean” alternatives to “dirty” fossil fuels are not as prevalent as they should be but are growing in leaps and bounds, looking back to nature as a source of energy. Natural, sustainable energy sources are the wave of the future.
What is a sustainable energy resource? It is an unlimited resource that cannot be depleted, does little to no harm to the environment, and is available for the use of future generations such as sun, water, and wind. These are not new ideas; these superpowers of nature have been used throughout history.
The sun has been used in the past to dry food for storage to use in winter months when food is not so plentiful. It has been used to dry clothes and even to keep time! Rushing water has been used to turn wheels for grinding grains, powering sawmills, and also for creating electricity! Windmills harness the power of the wind to pump water, and sailboats use the wind to move along the water. So, how has our advanced, technological society upgraded the use of these wonders of nature?
Solar power: using the sun to create electricity to power our lives. Solar panels, appearing soon on a roof near you! Solar panels or Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight directly to electricity. All the humans on earth use less sunlight in one year than reaches the earth in one hour. The potential is endless!
Using the power of moving water, either from a rushing river or falling from a high height, is called hydropower. The quickly-moving water is harnessed and used to spin the blades of a generator’s turbine that turns that force into electricity. Hydroelectric power plants come in the form of mega-dams and are often not considered to be a renewable energy source because they displace water on which humans and animals rely. However, smaller hydroelectric plants are more environmentally friendly because they do not divert and displace nearly as much water.
Windmills have been used for centuries to pump water and provide power to mills and other machinery. The new wind turbines of today capture the wind and convert it to electricity. Though the older versions of these turbines hurt birds, the later versions, being more technologically advanced and more well-placed, are actually strongly supported by the Audubon Society because they combat climate change that threatens birds and their habitats.
Geothermal means “heat from the earth.” A geothermal heating system pumps liquid through pipes buried deep in the earth that capture the heat and bring it inside the home. Here, a “heat exchanger” uses the liquid to heat the air. In the summer, they just reverse it to cool the home! As the heat source is constant, only geothermal fluid (a mixture of water and Freon) and copper pipes are necessary to keep this energy going. Geothermal energy is considered renewable because the refrigerant, or Freon, is non-toxic to the environment.
The ocean produces two types of energy: thermal energy from the sun and mechanical energy from the motion of the ocean. The temperature difference between the warm surface water and the colder deep water can be used to produce electricity. Energy is harvested from the pull of the tides to make energy. This type of energy is more consistent than the sun and the wind. However, it is the least-used renewable energy because it can only be used on shorelines.
What is your superpower?
Of all the renewable energy resources, the most prevalent of these is hydropower. However, this renewable resource has become more controversial as of late because of the diversion of water flows and the interruption of ecosystems and animal habitats. Wind is the second most-used clean energy and the fastest-growing renewable resource.
Solar power is the third biggest renewable power source in the world, yet, last year, solar only provided 0.39% of the energy used in the US. With all the sunny days in Las Vegas, it’s a perfect location for solar panels! Of the top three clean energies in use today, solar is the only source that you and I have any control over, it’s our superpower!
If you have a creek running through your yard, you may install a water wheel or put up a small windmill to do small jobs. This would be helpful and save you a bit of cash. When you place solar panels on your roof, however, you’re not only saving money, but you’re adding to the grid and helping the planet. Install solar panels today to do your part to save the world and save yourself some money in the process! Call Sol-up today!