For years, clean energy has been held back by one main criticism: it’s too expensive. In reality, Mike Carroll, Irvine, CA, agrees this argument has some basis – traditional forms of renewable energy like solar and wind can cost more upfront than coal or natural gas. But as technology advances, clean energy costs are dropping rapidly, making it a more viable option for developed and developing countries.
What Is Clean Energy?
Clean energy comes from sources that do not produce greenhouse gas emissions. This includes renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydropower, and nuclear power. Clean energy also includes more efficient traditional forms like natural gas and biomass.
Using clean energy is crucial for achieving net-zero emissions by mid-century, as the Paris Agreement on climate change requires. That’s because they replace greenhouse gas-emitting energy sources with cleaner alternatives.
Types Of Clean Energy
Here are a few types of clean energy:
Solar power comes from the sun. Solar panels, also called photovoltaic cells, capture the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity. The electricity can then be used to power your home or business. Solar panels are usually made out of silicon, a type of material that is found in sand. When sunlight hits the silicon, it causes electrons to be knocked loose from their atoms. These electrons flow through the solar panel and into wires, which carry the electricity to an inverter. The inverter transforms the direct current (DC) electricity into alternating (AC) electricity, which powers your home or business.
Wind power comes from…you guessed it…the wind. Wind turbines capture the kinetic energy from the wind and convert it into electricity. The blades on a wind turbine are connected to a shaft in the center of the turbine. As the blades spin around, they cause the post to turn. This shaft is connected to a generator, which produces electricity. The generator uses magnets to create an electric field as they spin around at high speeds. This has an electric current, which flows through wires and is sent to a transformer. The transformer increases the voltage so it can be sent long distances without losing power.
Hydropower comes from water—more specifically, moving water. Hydropower plants use dams to harness the kinetic energy from moving water and convert it into electricity. When water flows downstream and hits a dam, it pushes against its turbines. This causes the turbines to spin, activating a generator that produces electricity.
How Does Clean Energy Work?
There are several ways to generate clean energy. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, while wind turbines capture the kinetic energy of moving air to generate power. Hydroelectric dams harness the power of flowing water to produce electricity, while geothermal plants tap into the Earth’s internal heat to produce energy.
Nuclear power plants use uranium to generate heat, which is then used to produce steam that spins turbines to generate electricity. While nuclear power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, it does produce radioactive waste, which poses serious environmental challenges.
How Can We Transition To Clean Energy?
Mike Carroll says there are many ways to transition to clean energy, but one of the most important is investing in renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Another critical step is transitioning from fossil fuels like coal and oil to cleaner alternatives like natural gas and biomass. Finally, we need to Increase efficiency standards for appliances and buildings to save energy and money.
The Impact Of Technology
Here are three ways technology is impacting and improving clean energy.
Solar panels are getting cheaper and more efficient.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are the heart of any solar panel, and they’ve come a long way in recent years. In 2010, the average efficiency of PV cells was about 15%. Today, that number has climbed to 22%, with some cells exceeding 40% efficiency. As panel efficiencies increase, the amount of land required to generate the same power decreases, lowering costs. In addition, PV cells are getting cheaper to manufacture thanks to advances in material science and production techniques. The price of solar panels has fallen by 99% since 1977, making them an increasingly attractive option for utility-scale projects and rooftop installations.
Wind Turbines Are Taller And Have Longer Blades
The height of wind turbines has increased dramatically over the past few decades as manufacturers strive to take advantage of stronger, consistent winds at higher altitudes. The tallest turbine currently in operation stands at 853 feet tall, nearly twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. But it’s not just size that’s increased – blade length has also grown. The most extended turbine blades in operation measure over 300 feet long, which is longer than a football field. These taller, longer blades capture more energy from the wind, resulting in more power generation with fewer turbines. That means lower costs for developers and a smaller footprint for wind farms.
Advances In Battery Technology Are Making Storage Cheaper
One of the main challenges facing renewables that Mike Carroll and many others know well is that they are intermittent energy sources – the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. That’s why storage is so vital for integrating renewables into the grid. Battery technology has come a long way in recent years, thanks to advances in materials science and manufacturing processes. The cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 85% since 2010, making them increasingly competitive with other forms of energy storage like pumped hydro and natural gas peaker plants. And as battery costs continue to fall, we can expect even greater adoption of renewables in the coming years.
Technology is driving innovation in the clean energy space, leading to a cleaner, more affordable sources of power that can compete with traditional fossil fuels on both price and performance. As we look to meet our future energy needs without further damaging our planet, it’s clear that clean energy is the way forward – and Mike Carroll agrees that technology will be vital to making it happen.
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