As the world is changing, how we use energy is also changing. Unlike previous decades, as a society, we are becoming more and more aware of the damaging effects fossil fuels have on our environments.
Thus, people are making a conscious effort to live sustainably.
With so many buzzwords around the topics of ecology, food, and fashion, it can sometimes be difficult to negate which ones are worth researching and the ones that will eventually fade out in popularity over the coming years.
One of these buzzwords is “sustainable”. This is a term used over and over again to describe materials from fashion, cosmetics, and food companies. However, you may be wondering what sustainability suggests in terms of energy?
To help you understand, this article will be looking at the top 5 sustainable energy technologies.
What Is Sustainable Energy?
The term sustainable energy refers to the use of energy that can meet the demands of the population without any concerns of running out of resources.
These sources of energy only cause minute effects on the environment and will never exhaust. They provide sustainability through long-lasting, safe, self-replenishing, and healthy energy sources.
When looking at this through ecological terms, sustainable refers to anything that poses the least amount of threat to the environment and can be replenished or reused in a short time.
For instance, living sustainably ensures that you’re making the intentional choice to reduce material, water, energy, and food waste.
Utilizing renewable energies may be a small but vital part of living sustainably, ultimately; it is one of the easiest ways to make a difference.
Why Is It Called Sustainable Energy?
The reason it is called sustainable energy is that this energy can sustain itself over a long period of time.
For instance, if you had one house that was powered by a coal fire to create heat and another that utilizes a wind turbine to generate power for electric radiators.
If you were to exclusively use coal to heat up your home, you would ultimately burn through the whole bag with nothing left in the end. If this were to happen you would either have to be cold or purchase another bag just to use up again.
On the other hand, if you were to implement a wind turbine to generate power for your electric heater, you would be able to do so freely. Once installed, a wind turbine can generate enough power to last decades.
As long as there is wind, your turbine will be generating power. As a result, you have sustainable energy. This is sustainable because the source (wind) is endlessly available to us, as opposed to coat, and doesn’t harm the environment to produce.
5 Sustainable Energy Technologies
Sustainable energy is set to become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives due to its reliable, low-carbon properties that not only allow the consumer to pay less for electricity but also reduce the impacts of climate change.
Currently, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are five major sources of renewable energy: wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower.
Solar power utilizes the sun’s daily cycle by converting the sunlight into energy through photovoltaic panels. This is an easy and cheap way to generate electricity. Likewise, it is one of the largest forms of sustainable energy available.
In 2018, solar panels produced 570 TWh of electricity globally, with an aim to expand this capacity up to 50% by 2024.
Solar panels have been utilized to electrify rural communities, drive sustainable development, and are the leading technology that is transitioning the replacement of fossil fuels.
Efficient power production, low carbon emissions, the rise of batteries, and low operating costs have made solar energy technologies a force against utility companies – even those who are the most restrained to adopting renewable energy.
In addition to the utility industry, the aviation industry has also begun implementing innovative solar energy technologies to reduce its carbon footprint.
The investment in solar is rapidly increasing, with nations such as China taking the full lead on the implementation of solar energy projects on a large scale.
Solar energy is readily becoming the most accessible and affordable form of sustainable energy as a result of years of development and investment in the industry.
In addition to the continual innovation of the lithium-ion batteries field, solar power has globally become a major source of electrification and employment.
Dating back several thousand years, hydropower is among the oldest forms of sustainable energy technology and comprises many forms of water-based power generation.
Dams are among the most acknowledged forms of hydropower. For instance, the Three Gorges (China) or the Hoover (USA) where electricity is produced by water flowing through generators downstream.
Currently, the world’s largest form of sustainable energy, Hydropower is responsible for 16% of the total energy production globally.
Energy is produced through the medium of water movement, this is known as hydropower. This includes a wide range of sources including wave power, dams, and tidal which highlights its versatility and ability to be implemented almost anywhere.
This technology is a dominant form of sustainable energy. In 2018, hydropower was responsible for 4,200 TWh of energy production.
Likewise, it is one of the most mainstream models of sustainable energy available within the energy market, featured on the electrical grid in several different countries.
For instance, in Costa Rica, hydroelectric dams are performing a lead role in allowing the country to run near-exclusively on sustainable energy.
While in Orkney, wave power innovation has been further researched pertaining to the development of sustainability. Hydropower enables the storage of energy through pumped storage facilities, providing both storage options and alternative energy.
In addition to other forms of sustainable energy technologies, hydropower is anticipated to expand its capacity to help in the transition away from the dependence on fossil fuels.
This is another form of sustainable energy that has been implemented for millennia. Windmills have advanced from pumping water and grinding grain to evolving into wind turbines that are capable of distributing large amounts of sustainable energy.
Wind turbines are composed of large blades that are driven by the wind to rotate and power the generator found inside the turbine to ultimately produce energy.
These are among the fastest growing sources of sustainable energy and can be implemented on both land and sea. Wind farms have played a crucial role in the transition away from fossil fuels globally.
Wind power is a sustainable energy technology that is continually being innovated and developed. Notably, these are becoming increasingly popular with utility companies due to generating cost-effective power.
When placed in areas exposed to wind, these turbines capture the wind’s power by utilizing their large, powerful blades which power the generators, and thus; create sustainable energy.
In the United States, China, and Europe, wind power capacity has largely increased in recent years. In 2018, the installed capacity was reported to be approximately 600MW. This capacity is judged to triple by 2030.
With the ability to be constructed on both land and water, wind turbines are able to produce a large amount of power for many communities situated in coastal areas.
Developments in the turbine’s battery storage have allowed for the reduction of intermittency issues wind turbines faced. This makes them among the most sustainable options that are able to power energy grids with enhanced consistency.
Geothermal refers to the energy that has been harnessed through naturally occurring heat found on the Earth that has been traveled to the surface through the form of steam.
Then, geothermal power plans collect this steam and transform it into electricity through drilled wells.
Since its first introduction in 1913, the technology behind geothermal power plants has been optimized and refined to become a vital component in power grids across many countries such as New Zealand, Iceland, and El Salvador.
For thousands of years, geothermal has been a means to generate heating and power, as a result; it is among the oldest models of sustainable energy available.
Contrived of the naturally occurring heat from the Earth’s core, geothermal power is accountable for energy production at a large share for counties like New Zealand, Iceland, and Kenya.
Since the endorsement of the Paris Agreement, many countries have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions. As a result, geothermal power is submitted as a reliable source of sustainable energy from nations across the globe.
Worldwide, geothermal energy has an installed capacity of 14,900MW and is believed to continue this growth. In 2050, it is predicted to shoulder 3.5% of the world’s electricity demand.
Since geothermal power relies on the temperature of the Earth’s core, it does not pertain to any intermittency issues.
Although, it requires advanced infrastructure to accommodate power generation and there are concerns about the impact it will have on the environment.
Compromising a mix of both modern and traditional energy technologies, bioenergy is obtained from a variety of different biological materials including wood pellets or food waste and can appear in different forms and shapes.
Through either liquid biofuels to generate vehicles or combustion of biological material to ensure energy, bioenergy has been a fundamental aspect in the development of sustainable energy technologies.
It is popular in nations featuring growing waste, rapid demands for power, and agricultural sectors; bioenergy features the versatility needed for different energy requirements.
In terms of energy generation, it pertains to an installed capacity of 130GW globally, while also aiding in powering vehicles across the world.
There has been a steady growth of bioenergy in both Africa and the Pacific which influences the transition from fossil fuel dependency.
5 Up-and-Coming Sustainable Energy Innovations
Bladeless Wind Turbines
Vortex Bladeless is a Spanish startup that has designed wind turbines that utilize the wind’s energy without requiring moving blades.
The company’s bladeless wind turbines are erected vertically from the ground at 3m tall featuring an elastic rod.
To generate electricity, the turbine is constructed to oscillate or sway, from the wind’s power which creates vibrations that are then transformed into electricity.
According to David Yáñez, the inventor, the advantage of these bladeless turbines is their potential ability to be implemented in residential or urban locations, which contain a shortage of space needed for traditional large wind farms.
As such, they can also be constructed alongside residential solar panels. These two technologies complement each other due to solar panels generate electricity throughout the day, whereas wind is generally stronger throughout the night.
In addition, the main benefits include reducing environmental impacts, improving visual impact, as well as limiting the costs of maintaining such turbines.
In the United Kingdom, the company behind the world’s first microwave-powered boiler hopes to implement these products as a replacement for heat pumps to power gas boilers.
The company, Heat Wayv’s boiler, utilizes electricity in order to heat water, this is then pumped and transported throughout existing radiators, as well as hot water faucets, baths, and showers.
While the initial product remains a prototype, they hope to establish home trails over the coming years.
This microwave-powered boiler is the same size as a traditional gas boiler and would cost approximately the same, as well. This would be within the range of £3,500 which would be appropriate for a household with three or four bedrooms.
The company declares 84% of efficiency when converting electricity into hot water, a further 12% of leftover heat is then recycled back into the system.
The main advantage of the microwave-powered boiler is that it was designed to be completely adaptable to pre-existing home radiators, therefore; it was easy to maintain and install without any damaging emissions.
While these sustainable energy technologies haven’t received much mainstream attention as recently, according to a U.K. energy analysis conducted by Cornwall Insight, these static compensators are the current technology to watch as grids are endeavoring to integrate with large amounts of renewable energy.
Essentially, their role is to imitate the function of rotating masses conventionally supplied through thermal turbines, as a result; aiding in the maintenance of a consistent frequency throughout the electricity network.
Generally, renewable-heavy grids are insufficient in natural frequency-response mechanisms, thus; they require compensators alternatively.
Equipment manufacturers are beginning to realize the potential found within this market. For instance, GE has proclaimed contract wins from both the U.S. and Brazil.
Dynamic Export Cables
The big news of Equinor’s October determination to go forward with the project 88-megawatt Hywind Tampen was a great message for floating offshore wind, a nascent technology that professional’s suggest could have a dwarfing effect on bottom-fixed markets as of today.
However, floating wind positions a dispute: How can floating platforms be able to connect with static cables from a seabed? The answer is through ‘dynamic export cables’ that are not only able to carry high voltages but can move with the platform.
Hydrogen which is a renewable product is steadily moving away from ‘emerging’ to ‘established’.
We have already seen approximately 10 countries shouldering leadership opportunities in a project that is seen as the next big thing in sustainable energy. It has ample capabilities to decarbonize heavy transport, industrial processes, and gas heating.
Why Is Sustainable Energy Important For Our Future?
While we are determining the need for sustainable energy to maintain our futures, it’s important to understand how this current energy crisis is affecting our planet.
Since the industrial revolution, the Earth has become 1.5 degrees hotter – compared to pre-industrial revolution times, this is a staggering amount – with the main culprits being human activity and the burning of fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the leading greenhouse gas that is provoking global warming.
While carbon is a requirement within Earth’s ecosystem, it needs to be balanced – which at the moment is not.
Although humans have contributed irreversible damage to the environment, there still remains hope that we can maintain and prevent further repercussions to allow future generations to thrive.
Therefore, the solution lies in reducing our emissions which will prevent our atmosphere from being flooded with carbon dioxide.
Efforts can already be seen through efforts moving away from the reliance on fossil fuels.
Sustainable energies generate little to no global warming emissions. By making the conscious decision to choose sustainable energy options and pleading for clean energy, humans have a chance to slow down the effects of climate change.
As we have outlined above, there are a number of different efforts being made in order to combat this.
The ways in which we are utilizing energy are making a necessary change. As a society, we are moving away from the reliance on fossil fuels and replacing them with sustainable energy technologies.
We are now taking advantage of the Earth’s natural resources to produce sustainable energy that doesn’t affect our environment. Hopefully, this guide has informed you of the top 5 sustainable energy technologies.