Solar Wind and Hydropower: Sustainable Energy

There are a lot of concerns about the future of the planet, especially when it comes to rapidly changing temperatures. There are certain areas of the planet that are experiencing drastic physical ramifications, including the melting of polar ice caps, and a higher number of fires than recorded in the past. That being said, there has been a huge shift in the mentality about the sustainability of the planet, and one of the biggest movements is through the continuous development of new, more efficient sustainable energy.

The Movement Towards Renewable Energy: Solar, Wind, and Hydro

What makes any of these specific energy types truly “renewable”? Well, to put it simply, renewable energy is any type of energy produced from those resources that restore themselves naturally, and this includes elements such as sunlight, wind, rivers, waves, or even geothermal heat. The trick is being able to capture the energy from those resources and then convert it into a useable form such as electricity. Three of the most common types of renewable energy are solar, wind, and hydropower, which are explained in greater detail below.

Wind Energy

Strong winds or airflows can be utilized to help run wind turbines. Today’s wind turbines have the capacity to produce between 600 kilowatts and 6 Megawatts depending on the strength of the wind speed. As any wind speed increases, so does the rated power output. To maximize the potential of this technology, the turbines are usually grouped together in ‘wind farms’. These are usually located in areas where strong winds are most constant, such as offshore in the ocean, high altitude sites, and large open flats or plains. Ideally, in the right location, the turbines can spin constantly. The one major downside about wind energy in general is that it’s not consumer friendly, meaning you’re unlikely to see wind turbines in your neighbor’s backyard or the local park.

Hydro

There are actually a couple of different methods that capture the natural strength of water, including tidal power, hydroelectricity, and wave power. Tidal energy is created through structures that are somewhat similar to wind turbines, but they’re inverted and underwater. It utilizes the natural changing tides of the earth, which is useful because tides are more predictable than other forms of renewable energy such as wind or solar. Wave generated power behaves in a similar fashion, but is dependent on surface waves. Hydroelectricity produces power through the gravitational force of flowing water. Turbines in structures like dams simply turn due to the amount of water falling through them, and this is what generates electricity.

Solar Energy

Even though it may seem more futuristic, solar energy has actually been around since the 1970s, and has long been used for commercial and agricultural applications. It has only spread to residential customers and homes in the last couple decades, mostly due to its affordability. Any panels that get direct sunlight are able to convert it into electricity, making so a person might one day come ‘off the grid’ and provide power for their location without needing to rely on the community electricity grid.

As technology continues to develop, each of those three forms of renewable energy, along with additional ones, will become more and more efficient. The ultimate goal is to match and exceed the current demand for power created by humans around the planet.

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