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What is Clean Energy? Sources, Uses and Benefits

  • Ayush Singh Rawat
  • Mar 11, 2021
  • Science & Technology
What is Clean Energy? Sources, Uses and Benefits title banner

Introduction

 

On 17th February, South Korea unveiled a 8.2GW wind complex offshore the Sinan County in the South Jeolla Province. The project is said to be the world’s largest of its kind and is a long leap in the country's efforts to support a green recovery. 

 

This step by South Korea showcases why it is the need of the hour for governments and civilisations to shift from fossil fuels to the much more cleaner and renewable sources of energy.

 

Scientists believe if we continue to use natural gas and coal at the current rate of consumption, these resources will cease to exist by 2060. Now it has become a necessity to use the renewable sources of energy so that fossil fuels do not become the legends of the past just like its original source.

 

So let's dig deeper and find out what exactly is Clean energy.


 

What is Clean energy?

 

Clean energy is energy that is produced from renewable, zero emission sources that do not pollute the atmosphere when used. They also save energy by imposing energy efficiency machines and measures.

 

Clean energy is the power generated from sources that do not emit any carbon-emissions and are truly clean in nature. Sources like wind energy, bioenergy, solar energy, hydropower, natural gas, and geothermal do not possess any air pollutants and hence are clean energy sources.

 

As the saying goes, the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; we transitioned to better solutions. The same opportunity lies before us with energy efficiency and clean energy. - Steven Chu

 

Renewable energy is carried from resources that are bound to be ceaseless and it just means they will be replenished naturally over a period of time. This eternal cycle will go on as these sources are unlike fossil fuels whose end is just inevitable.

 

Many often mistake Green energy for Clean energy, which is not so bizarre as both are similar in many ways but differ at one junction, i.e., Green energy comes from natural sources and no natural source is compromised during production but Clean energy means clean air and it could be at the expense of natural sources.

 

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In production of Hydroelectricity, dams are used. Natural vegetation has to be demolished in order to make these dams. This is a simple example of a Clean energy not complying with the premises of Green energy.

 

Clean energy, Renewable energy and Green energy all three walk on a very thin line of difference and do satisfy most of the criterias for each other.

 

The most important aspect of clean energy is the environmental sanctity that it promises to maintain. While clean, renewable resources also preserve the world’s natural resources, they also reduce the probabilities of environmental calamities, such as fuel spills or accidental natural gas leaks.

 

With fuel diversification, through different power plants using different energy sources, it is now possible to create reliable power supplies to beef up energy security, ensuring there is enough to fulfill our present requirements.

 

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Clean energy sources

 

  1. Solar energy

The most common resource is solar energy. We gain this amazing clean energy source through sunlight and heat, and can be utilized to convert electricity through technology equipment like solar panels or concentrating solar power plants (reflective mirrors). 


photo of solar panels is depicting the working of solar energy to produce electricity.

Solar panels


We generate this electricity without any harmful emissions or pollution, which makes it the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy.

 

 

  1. Wind energy

 

Another clean energy source, wind energy is technically another form of solar energy since the sun is partly responsible for all weather phenomenons on Earth and hence wind energy. 


photo is showing a wind mill which is used by many countries to provide electricity.

Wind turbines


However, for the sake of how electricity is produced by different machines,i.e.,solar panels and wind turbines, they are reconsided to be two different forms of energy. Just like solar energy, power generated from wind turbines also lacks air pollutants.

 

 

  1. Bioenergy 

 

This is a really fun and exciting source of energy! This form of renewable energy is created by the residue of living organisms such as algae, wood, crop. It can also be produced from food waste, landfills and fermented crops. The most common application of Bioenergy is its use as fuel for transportation and heating buildings.


 

Organic materials is being processed and burned to create steam which spins a turbine that generates electricity.

Working of biomass converter machine, Source


It’s such a versatile form of energy because, while it can and does generate electricity, it's also future proof as it creates biofuels for transportation which act as a replacement for fossil fuels. And since the need for fuel has become so predominant, bioenergy has become the best trick up human’s sleeves.

 

 

  1. Geothermal energy

 

Unlike water, solar and wind, geothermal energy isn’t related with the sun. It is energy that is derived from the heat of the Earth itself. Mostly people use geothermal as a source of heating and cooling their homes.

 

To create geothermal electricity, the Earth’s latent heat is used to boil water to create steam which then rotates the turbines to generate energy. 


working of a geothermal power plant; electricity is being produced by hot water vapors and then the vapors are cooled down in the cooling tower to renew the water.

Geothermal power plant, Source


It works on similar grounds as to a coal-powered power plant but due to its functioning on Earth’s heat instead of burning fossil fuels, it is a more reliable and cleaner way to produce energy.

 

 

  1. Hydropower

 

Hydro energy is another source of energy that is technically assisted by the sun, but hydropower is basically fueled by the water cycle. The sun evaporates water, which then forms clouds that eventually trickle down as rainfall and snow that create rivers, streams and other large bodies of water. 

 

The very iconic and famous Hoover Dam, the giant structure holding back the raging Colorado River, is the sole example of how hydropower is used today.


the photo shows how the water is processed in order to generate electricity

Working of hydroelectric power plant, Source


Hydropower works on the principle of the kinetic energy from flowing water and transforms it into electricity through spinning turbines located in a moving water body. 

 

Hence, hydropower can be a large-scale operation like the Hoover Dam, or it can be small-scale project without a dam, too. Most importantly, this process also doesn’t create any greenhouse gases while generating electricity.

 

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Uses of Clean energy

 

Clean energy has many applications and as it is the fuel for the future, its usability and requirement are only going to increase over the course of time.

 

  • Solar energy applications

 

Solar energy can be used for heating and lighting buildings, generating electricity, heating water directly, cooling, charging batteries.

 

However, this same clean energy technology can be upscaled by installing larger panels that are used to provide power for homes or other buildings or even multiple solar panels, such as with a community solar panel arrangement to provide power to entire towns.

 

  • Hydropower applications

 

Water is another clean resource with some exciting applications. Hydroelectric power plants take the water from rivers, streams or lakes which propels  the turbine to create electricity. 

 

Another use of water comes through municipal pipes in towns and cities as lots of water runs through pipes in homes each day, there is an initiative towards harnessing this energy to help meet domestic and other power requirements. 

 

As generators have become smaller and less expensive to build, this use of municipal water will help in replacing generators with more organic ways.

 

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  • Wind power applications

 

Wind power works by attaching a windmill to a generator which converts the movement of the windmill blades into power. This form of energy has been used since time immemorial to grind grain, pump water or perform other mechanical tasks, but is now being extensively used to produce electricity. 

 

Onshore and offshore wind farms are becoming increasingly famous, but wind power can also be used on a smaller scale to produce electricity, even to provide power for recharging mobile telephones.



 

Benefits of Clean energy

 

  • Reduction in air pollution- The most elementary and important benefit of clean energy is that it leaves zero emissions and zero carbon footprint over its production which is a huge upgrade over ancient fossil-fuels.

 

  • Replacement of fossil-fuels- Humans have exploited fossil-fuels over a long period of time and now we face the dilemma over its extinction but now these clean energy resources have stepped up and have provided great alternatives for the endangered fuels.

 

  • Economic benefits- There are financial benefits related to clean energy, not due to the making of work to improve the infrastructure, manufacture clean energy solutions and installing the appropriate machineries and maintain them. 

 

Renewable and clean energy are the booming sectors as the world has started to move away from fossil fuels, meaning that more opportunities have and will continue to arise in areas ranging from vehicles to power generation.

 

  • Production costs- Clean energies rely on one-time investments and do not require any extra transport and extracting costs unlike coal and fuels as they can replenish themselves.

 

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Clean energy vs Renewable energy

 

In reality there is some difference between Clean energy and Renewable energy. 

 

  1. Renewable energy is considered to be the energy from sources which are 100% renewable in nature whereas Clean energy is derived from sources having zero carbon footprint.

  1. For contrast, Nuclear energy is a source of Clean energy but it is not renewable in nature. Hence, all Renewable energy is clean energy but does not hold true for the other way round. 

  2. At the current rate, usage of logs and wood chips can also be considered as renewable sources of energy as more trees can be planted but this would not comply with the ethics of Clean energy.

  3. While renewable energy is just a subset of Clean energy. Both renewable and green energy come under the working of Clean energy.


 

Conclusion

 

After discovering the different sources of energy and their individual benefits, the future for Earth looks good. Renewable is the term that defines that change. Many more resources are being discovered so that the production can be done at a larger scale and more countries take up these resources seriously. 

 

Clean energy has helped the Green drive to move forward by initiating world-changing measures. A transition now to clean energy would be an assurance of a worry-free lifetime for our future generations. 

 

We have learnt about these resources above and now it's our time to put faith and investment on these methods so that they can rise up to their full potential.

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