Renewable Energy’s Bright Future: Green Energy’s Pros and Cons
Recent international focus on safe energy underscores the need for reevaluating all energy alternatives, particularly those that are clean and renewable. Because although the global economy is coming out of a recent recession, oil prices are climbing and the demand for alternative renewable sources is consistently growing. Indeed, the alternative energy market is one of the few markets that has seen substantial growth during the recent recession of the last two years. One thing is clear; the need for more efficient use of electricity with the integration of renewable energy sources is present.
Smart Grid and the Integration of Renewable Energy Sources progress
The Smart Grid is a Department of Energy (DOE) supported project that involves an integrated system of mixed distributed resources to increase the penetration of renewable energy – such as hydro, wind, solar, wind and geothermal, while delivering improved efficiency and reliability. These and other distributed resources will be fully integrated into the new smart, electrical grid.
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy sources are sources of energy that are constantly replenished. These include energy from water, wind, the sun, geothermal sources, and biomass sources such as energy crops. In comparison, fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are non-renewable. Once a deposit of these fuels is depleted it cannot be replenished – a replacement source must be found instead. In the United States, both renewable and non-renewable energy sources are used to generate electricity, power vehicles, and provide heating, cooling, and light. While renewable energy is generally more expensive than conventionally produced supplies, alternative power helps to reduce pollution and to conserve fossil fuels. “People sometimes get caught up in cost-effectiveness,” said Paul Torcellini, a senior engineer at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. “But it can be a question of values and what we spend our money on.”
For comparison purposes, we will explore a few of the different sources of renewable energy:
WHAT IT IS:
Hydropower refers to the use of water to generate electricity. Water is the most common renewable source of energy in the United States today. Hydroelectric power doesn’t necessarily require a large dam – some hydroelectric power plants just use a small canal to channel the river water through a turbine. Other uses of hydropower include water-cooled chiller and power systems.
Hydropower is a renewable and non-polluting energy source without any greenhouse gas discharge and no toxic waste production.
Where dams are built in order to utilize hydropower, the cost can be substantial. Also, the unnatural block in the river’s system disturbs natural fish migratory and spawning patterns.
Hydropower energy sources should experience strong development in the coming decades because of their non-polluting nature and significant unexploited potential.
WHAT IT IS:
Wind power refers to the use of modern wind turbines that are used to generate electricity, either for individual use or for contribution to a utility power grid. The power in wind increases rapidly with its speed, which means that locating windmills in areas of strong winds is critical. The strongest winds in the United States tend to be in Alaska, the western United States, and the Appalachians. Wind power currently supplies about 1% of United States electricity needs, but capacity is expanding rapidly.