The sources of sustainable electricity

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Electricity is one of the most important commodities in our world today. It powers computers, factories, and homes. Our entire lives depend on electricity, yet, most energy production methods are extremely bad for our planet, particularly those that use fossil fuels. Therefore, sustainable electricity sources have gained increasing importance in tackling environmental issues and ensuring a reliable, secure, and cheaper source of electricity.

What is sustainable electricity? 

Sustainable electricity entails generating power in an environmentally responsible way, minimizing ecological impact, and addressing long-term resource availability. This can be achieved by using renewable energy sources, which helps reduce dependence on finite resources and environmental damage. The ultimate goal is to establish an energy infrastructure that is resilient and aligns with sustainability principles.

What are examples of sustainable sources of electricity? 

A sustainable source of electricity is obtained from resources and methods that are environmentally responsible. Examples include solar power, generated by harnessing sunlight through photovoltaic panels, and wind power, produced by capturing the energy from wind turbines. The replenishment of these sources, their lower impact on the environment, and their contribution to the long-term sustainability of energy are all positive aspects. 

1. Solar thermal energy

By definition, solar energy is a natural energy source that comes from the sun. The sun gives off heat and light rays seen in Earth’s atmosphere as the sun’s radiation. These types of electromagnetic radiation are found within the visible spectrum region, which we call sunlight. While most of this naturally occurring, solar radiation is visible and infrared, there are also small amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light, x-rays, and gamma rays.

Solar energy has become increasingly common with the advent of renewable energy sources due to its many advantages. However, there is still debate among critics and proponents alike on whether solar energy is a viable long-term form of sustainable energy in terms of cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

The most common way of using solar thermal power is through concentrating solar power (CSP), which involves using mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays on a small area where water or some other substance that can be heated up is held. This allows for higher temperatures than would otherwise be achieved by using sunlight alone and enables additional electricity to be generated from the heat created by this process.

2. Wind energy

Wind energy is converting wind power into a useful form of energy. Turbines convert the kinetic force of the wind into useable electric power, and windmills in old times converted it into mechanical power. Today, most wind turbines are used for generating sustainable electricity. The largest wind generator in the world is rated at 7 MW (megawatts).

Wind power is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy worldwide. This growth won’t slow down anytime soon: as more people recognize wind as a clean and sustainable source of electricity, demand for it will continue to rise. The International Energy Agency[2] estimates that by 2026 wind power will generate 19% of all global electricity needs. Wind power is one of the world’s fastest-growing types of renewable energy. Wind farms are an increasingly common sight in many countries worldwide, especially in rural areas where they provide a welcome revenue stream to farmers who lease their land. The wind is a clean energy source that we can harness through wind turbines. The wind is the Earth’s most abundant renewable energy source, and it is constantly replenished by nature.

To harness this energy, we need wind turbines that convert the kinetic force of the wind into mechanical power or electricity. The main advantages of using wind turbines to generate sustainable electricity are:

  • It does not emit greenhouse gases like other forms of fossil fuel generation, such as coal or natural gas plants, so it doesn’t contribute to climate change.
  • It’s clean; no noise pollution or environmental damage is associated with its construction or operation.
  • It can be installed anywhere (no fuel transport required).

3. Geothermal energy

Geothermal power plants use the heat of the Earth to generate electricity, which they then sell to consumers. This can be achieved in two ways: by using geothermal energy directly or by using it indirectly.

Geothermal energy is used directly when you are heating water and using that hot water to make steam for a turbine. The turbine turns a generator that produces sustainable electricity for sale to consumers. This process is called “binary” because it produces only high-temperature steam and no low-temperature brine.

Geothermal energy is used indirectly when an engineer needs a heat source for something else (like a power plant) but doesn’t care about generating electricity at all; instead, he uses whatever is available—including geothermal heat—to create his desired temperature at any given time of year.

4. Hydroelectric power

Hydroelectricity is a clean, renewable energy source that generates billions of kilowatts of power. It accounts for more than 16 percent of the world’s electricity generation, making it the largest source of renewable electricity on the planet. Hydroelectric generators produce power by using gravity to drive turbines connected to electrical generators. The water flowing through the turbines spins magnetic-levitation rotors as it passes through them, creating electricity that can be utilized anywhere in the world with an electric grid.

5. Tidal power

Tidal power is a renewable energy source that uses the rise and fall of tides to generate electricity. It is one of the oldest forms of renewable energy, dating back to at least 200 BC. Tidal stream generators extract kinetic energy from moving water and convert it into electricity through turbines. The amount of power generated depends on several factors, including the speed of movement in the tidal stream and the size of the turbine used (larger ones produce more).

What are the benefits of sustainable energy? 

The benefits of sustainable energy encompass reduced greenhouse gas emissions, enhanced air and water quality, bolstered energy security by reducing reliance on finite resources, and stimulated economic growth through the advancement of green technologies and employment opportunities. Sustainable energy supports environmental preservation and also enhances long-term adaptability in response to evolving energy demands. 

Challenges of sustainable energy generation

Sustainable electricity generation is the production of power from renewable energy sources. It is a subset of sustainable energy and encompasses the generation of electricity from solar, wind, water, and geothermal resources. The use of traditional fuels to generate power is a leading contributor to climate change, so there is a need to find ways to reduce our reliance on these sources of energy. Renewable energy can be generated at any scale, from small-scale systems in private homes right up to large utility-scale plants that supply power for entire cities. However, there are many challenges involved in developing sustainable electricity generation technologies, including:

  • Cost – Renewable technologies generally cost more than fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. However, the costs are dropping steadily, and it is expected that they will become competitive with fossil fuels by 2020.
  • Lack of infrastructure – Developing the necessary infrastructure for renewable energy requires capital investment from governments and private investors alike. This includes building wind turbines and solar panels as well as installing transmission lines that connect them with cities where electricity is needed most urgently (typically urban areas).

Begin the energy transition with Schneider Electric

There are many sources of sustainable electricity, and we have covered some of the most popular ones here. At Schneider Electric, we are leading the path in the adoption of sustainable, new energy opportunities for our clientele. Climate change is a major challenge for this generation and making the transition to clean sources of energy is a big way to fight some of its most dire effects. Our goal is to assist organizations around the world in embracing clean and renewable energy sources through our power purchase agreements (PPAs).

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