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The world’s struggle against climate change and global warming is centered on energy, which is also the key to the climate crisis. In today’s rapidly evolving world, the need for clean energy has become an urgent global priority. As we confront the challenges posed by climate change, dwindling fossil fuel reserves, and increasing environmental degradation, transitioning to clean energy sources has emerged as a crucial solution.
By lowering greenhouse gas emissions and fostering a healthier environment, clean energy sources provide a viable and environmentally friendly substitute for conventional fossil fuels. This article will explore different types of clean energy, their benefits, and their role in shaping a sustainable future.
Clean energy refers to energy sources that have minimal or no negative impact on the environment and do not contribute to climate change. These energy sources are considered sustainable and renewable, as they are naturally replenished or have a virtually limitless supply.
Clean energy is produced using renewable, non-polluting, zero-emission resources and includes energy conserved through energy-efficiency practices. The fact that clean energy produces power without harming the environment or releasing greenhouse gases like CO2 is its most important characteristic.
There is a common misconception that the words “clean” and “renewable” are substitutes. Although there is a significant overlap between these two terms, they are not the same thing. And this minor phrasing error can significantly impact policy-making and decarbonization strategies.
Let’s take a closer look at the difference between these two types of energy.
The primary difference is the pollution caused by them. While clean energy includes all energy sources that are carbon-free, zero-emission sources, renewable energy is produced from resources that can naturally renew themselves.
Let’s take an example to understand. Even though biogas and biodiesel are both naturally occurring and renewable forms of energy, they contaminate the atmosphere and release greenhouse gases.
The zero-carbon energy encompasses broader forms of energy and takes into account nuclear power and the carbon-neutralizing effects of technologies like carbon capture and sequestration.
Let’s have a look at the most common types of clean energy.
Wind energy is generated by harnessing the wind’s force via a wind turbine, which converts the kinetic energy of the air currents into electrical energy. It provides an endless supply of clean, efficient, and secure renewable energy.
The rotor blades of contemporary wind turbines collect the wind’s power and transform the wind’s kinetic energy into rotational energy. A shaft carries this rotational energy to the generator, converting it into electrical energy.
There are two forms of wind energy based on where the wind turbines are located.
Solar energy is one of the cleanest renewable energy sources, which converts the sun’s energy into thermal or electrical energy. There are three ways to utilize solar power-photovoltaics, solar heating & cooling, and concentrating solar power.
Unlike concentrating solar power systems (CSP), which focus sunlight through mirrors or lenses to produce heat that is later utilized to generate power, photovoltaic cells (PV) convert sunlight directly into electricity.
Solar technology can capture this energy for various purposes, such as power generation and water heating for household, commercial, and industrial usage.
Hydropower is one of the earliest and most effective forms of clean energy, which produces electricity using the free flow of moving water. It is a renewable, emission-free, local source of energy. They change the natural flow of a river or other body of water by using a dam or other diversion construction to generate energy.
Green hydrogen is produced using electrolysis. This approach employs an electric current to separate the hydrogen and the oxygen. If the power used in this process comes from clean energy sources, we can create energy without adding carbon dioxide to the climate.
Contrary to common assumptions, nuclear energy is a clean energy source regardless of production stage.
Nuclear energy is a clean source with zero emissions. Energy is produced by the process of fission, which involves the splitting of uranium atoms. With our present uranium reserves, it is a nearly infinite and inexhaustible source of clean energy.
The heat generated during the process makes steam that rotates a turbine and produces electricity. As a result, no toxic by-product like CO2 or methane is created, and most nuclear reactors only release water vapors into the atmosphere. Moreover, a single power plant can produce a staggering quantity of energy because of the enormous power contained in nuclear energy.
Tidal energy utilizes turbines installed in tidal zones to harness the energy of ocean tides. The tidal turbines also feature blades that move a rotor to power a generator. Where there is a high tidal flow, they can be positioned on the ocean floor.
The water motion caused by the rising and falling tides powers the turbines, which produce energy. Due to the periodicity of tides, tidal energy has the benefit of predictability.
Geothermal energy utilizes heat emitted from the Earth’s center to generate electricity. In order to obtain hot water or steam, it drills wells to reach geothermal reservoirs that exist naturally. Turbines are then driven by steam or hot water to produce energy.
Biomass refers to organic matter, such as wood, crop residues, and agricultural waste, which can be converted into energy through processes like combustion or anaerobic digestion. Biomass energy is considered carbon-neutral as the carbon emitted during combustion is roughly equal to the carbon absorbed during biomass growth.
Clean energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydro, produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. These sources also do not emit hazardous pollutants into the environment while they are in use. Since it reduces carbon emissions, clean energy is crucial for combating climate change and improving air quality. Additionally, it helps preserve natural resources and defend ecosystems against the damaging impacts of mining and extraction operations.
The increasing demand for clean energy stimulates economic growth. Renewable energy installations require much labor to construct, maintain, and operate, boosting the national economy and providing more job opportunities.
They encourage energy independence and security because they utilize naturally occurring resources that can be found worldwide, allowing nations and regions to build their own technology instead of relying on power supplied elsewhere. Additionally, using clean energy is cost-effective because there is no need to mine or transport fuels like oil or coal. After all, the resources are replenished naturally.
In addition to boosting the economy and environment, switching to clean energy sources will significantly impact people’s health. The discharge of pollutants, including SO2, NOx, and other particulate matter, is frequently linked to the use of fossil fuels.
All these contaminants are associated with cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, and other health issues. By switching to zero-emission energy sources, we can enhance the quality of life.
Clean energy aligns with the principles of sustainable development by providing long-term energy solutions without depleting finite resources. It supports access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all, a key goal of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Clean energy is a critical component of a sustainable future. We can reduce our carbon footprint, mitigate climate change, and create a healthier environment by harnessing energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass.
The installation of more renewable energy capacity globally over the past several years than all new nuclear and fossil fuel capacities put together suggests a promising future for clean energy. Over one-third of the installed electricity capacity worldwide is derived from renewable sources. As per the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), by 2050, renewable energy can and should supply 90% of the planet’s electricity demands.
According to United Nations, the population of the globe might reach 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. All of this translates to a greater global demand for energy, which may rise, according to the most recent study released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This increased energy demand cannot be met by fossil fuels, especially when it’s anticipated that oil reserves will run out in 40 to 50 years and that natural gas reserves will do so in 60 to 80 years. Second, burning fossil fuels emits GHG emissions into the atmosphere, which are the biggest threats to humanity in the twenty-first century.
As we strive towards a sustainable future, investing in clean energy becomes imperative and provides an opportunity to shape a better world for future generations.