10 Sustainable sources of energy are crucial today. Where the consumption was initially (in Stone Age) around 3 kWh per day per person and was mostly used for nourishment it has reached 219 kWh per day per person. As per a study done in 2019, with a world population of about 7.7 billion, we now have a world average consumption of primary energy of 58 kWh per day per person where USA is at 219 kWh, Germany at 119 kWh, China at 75 kWh and India at 58 kWh per day per person.
The growing population has increased the total energy consumption whereas rate of consumption per person per day has also increased drastically.
What is Sustainable Energy?
Sustainable energy is a form of energy that can be utilized with minimum adverse impact on environment and can be generated for the repeated us without affecting natural resources. As per Wikipedia the definitions of sustainable energy typically include environmental aspects such as greenhouse gas emissions, and social and economic aspects such as energy poverty.
Why do we Need Sustainable Energy?
Conventionally, energy production happens utilizing the reserved natural resources. With the increasing population, urbanization and industrialization use of energy has rapidly increased. One side meeting the demand of energy is a big challenge; the other side natural resources are getting exhausted with high utilization. Another major concern with conventional energy source is pollution and ecological imbalance. Using more renewable energy can lower the prices of and demand for natural gas and coal by increasing competition and diversifying our energy supplies.
1. Solar Energy
Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar technologies can harness this energy for a variety of uses, including generating electricity, providing light or a comfortable interior environment, and heating water for domestic, commercial, or industrial use.
The most common types of solar energy:
- Photovoltaic systems – One of the most common ways to use solar power is to use photovoltaic systems or as they are also known solar cell systems, which produce electricity directly from sunlight. The semiconductor materials used in these solar energy systems absorb sunlight which creates a reaction that generates electricity – to be exact, the solar energy knocks the electrons loose from their atoms which make them flow through the semiconductor material and produce energy.
- Thin film solar cells – Thin film solar cells uses layers of semiconductor materials only a few micrometres thick. Some of the advantages of thin film solar cells include low material consumption, shorter energy payback period, large area modules, monolithic integration, tuneable material properties, low-temperature processes, and transparent modules. Due to lightweight and thin material this is used in rooftop shingles, roof tiles, building facades, or the glazing for skylights or atria.
- Solar water heating systems – As the name suggests involves the heating up of water using the sun’s heat. The idea behind this comes straight from nature: the shallow water of a lake or the water on the shallow end of a beach is usually warmer compared to deeper water.
- Solar power plants – The most common collector is called a flat-plate collector which is mounted on the roof and faces the sun. Small tubes run through the box and carry the fluid – either water or other fluid, such as an antifreeze solution – to be heated. As heat builds up in the collector, it heats the fluid passing through the tubes. The storage tank then holds the hot liquid.
2. Windmill Energy
Wind turbines use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. Wind flows over the blades creating lift (similar to the effect on airplane wings), which causes the blades to turn. The blades are connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator, which produces (generates) electricity.
The best places for wind farms are in coastal areas, at the tops of rounded hills, open plains and gaps in mountains – places where the wind is strong and reliable.
Hydropower plants capture the energy of falling water to generate electricity. A turbine converts the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy. Then a generator converts the mechanical energy from the turbine into electrical energy.
Because hydropower plants can generate power to the grid immediately, they provide essential back-up power during major electricity outages or disruptions. In addition to a sustainable fuel source, hydropower efforts produce a number of benefits, such as flood control, irrigation, and water supply.
4. Biomass Energy
Biomass energy is energy generated or produced by living or once-living organisms. Biomass is organic, meaning it is made of material that comes from living organisms, such as plants and animals. The most common biomass materials used for energy are plants, wood, and waste.
The organic materials used to produce biomass are infinite, since our society consistently produces waste such as garbage, wood and manure. Not only is there is a limited supply of fossil fuels, but fossil fuels come with environmental baggage, including the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and the pollutants that result from removal, transportation and production.
By burning solid waste, the amount of garbage dumped in landfills is reduced by 60 to 90 percent, and reduces the cost of landfill disposal and amount of land required for landfill.
5. Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy is a type of renewable energy taken from the Earth’s core. It comes from heat generated during the original formation of the planet and the radioactive decay of materials. This thermal energy is stored in rocks and fluids in the centre of the earth.
Geothermal energy can be used in heating and cooling buildings through geothermal heat pumps, generating electricity through geothermal power plants, and heating structures through direct-use.
The main concern with this technology as per National Geographic, Geothermal plants can release small amounts of greenhouse gases such as hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Water that flows through underground reservoirs can pick up trace amounts of toxic elements such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium.
6. Marine Energy
Marine technologies are devices immersed in the earth’s ocean capturing the energy from waves, tides and the heat stored in the water. They offer huge potential, as the resource is largely untapped so far. This is a relatively young branch of renewables.
Unlike other forms of renewable energy, wave energy is predictable and it’s easy to estimate the amount of energy that will be produced. Instead of relying on varying factors, such as sun and wind, wave energy is much more consistent.
This type of renewable energy is also abundant, the most populated cities tend to be near oceans and harbors, making it easier to harness this energy for the local population.
7. Ethanol Based Flex Engines
This is another form of Biomass where the ethanol-based ‘flex engines’ produces required energy using local farm produce and not fossil fuels.
The current Indian government has allowed to use Ethanol based Flex Engines to be in race after US, Canada, and Brazil. The government targets the usage to reach 20% by 2025 from the existing 7.5%.
A switch to locally-produced ethanol will be helpful for a country like India which relies majorly on crude oil imports for powering the transport sector. Also, it will be less polluting and cost-saving as it can be up to 40% cheaper than the petrol price in India.
8. Waste to Energy
Methane is a greenhouse gas which is mostly emitted from decomposing waste in U. S. landfills. It has more than 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide and is ranked as a dangerous contributor to climate change. Waste to energy facilities avoid the production of methane while producing almost ten times more electricity from each ton of waste compared to landfills. And, waste to energy facilities are the only solid waste disposal option with state-of-the-art air pollution control technology.
9. Rechargeable Battery
Machines, electronics, vehicles etc rechargeable products can be used over and over, fewer batteries need to be manufactured (and transported) than with single use varieties. In fact, rechargeable batteries consume up to 23 times less non-renewable natural resources than disposable batteries.
Most people don’t realize the extent of single use batteries’ environmental impacts. Heavy metals, corrosive materials, and other nasty chemicals combined with (all-too-common) improper disposal spells bad news for the environment. But rechargeables have 28 times less impact on global warming, 30 times less impact on air pollution, 9 times less impact on air acidification, and 12 times less impact on water pollution! Check out this study for more details about environmental impacts and savings. These are main features of rechargeable batteries that makes it sustainable energy.
10. Energy from Pedaling Bicycles
By pedaling mechanical energy can be converted to electrical energy by using either dynamo or alternator. This may not be big source of energy to be feasible for bigger electric consumption or industrial use. However, small powered lighting devices can be charged using dynamo and can be used in the night by students for study purposes. This principle can be extended to power mobiles, iPods, laptops etc.
When an individual pedals the bike, the action drives a flywheel, which turns a generator and charges a battery. This means from just one hour of pedaling, a rural household can be supplied with energy for 24 hours.
The biggest advantage as self explanatory is people doing workout on bicycle can get free energy basic uses at home. So, isn’t it a great idea people cycling for health as well as electric energy for their domestic uses?
The purpose of this article was to make people aware of sustainability and be responsible towards our natural resources and environment. Hopefully above 10 sustainable sources of energy may be helpful for you to shift to 100% sustainable energy. Please do let us know if you know about any other sustainable source of energy. We would love to see your remarks in the below comment section.