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A complete guide to Green Energy: Definition,Types & Examples

Green, clean, and renewable energy can all seem confusing, especially to a layman.

Despite the subtle differences, they are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

However, the true nature of these energies is rather different. And in this post, we shall clarify the same.

 

Definition of Green Energy

In simplest terminology, green energy refers to any type of energy that comes from natural and renewable resources such as wind, water, and sun.

 

Importance of Understanding Energy Sources

We’ve all heard about the two major energy sources known to man as renewable and non-renewable.

While the latter includes nuclear energy and fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil, renewable resources are those that are constantly replenished on their own like wind or solar.

What sets them apart, aside from the sourcing, are factors such as cost, security, and environmental impact. And that’s why it is important to understand the available energy resources.

 

What is Green Energy?

Green energy is a type of renewable energy that comes from natural resources such as wind, water, sun, biogas, biomass, and geothermal.

As the most beneficial form of renewable energy, green energy does not emit any significant amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere thus becoming a good source of clean energy.

 

Differences between Green Energy, Renewable Energy, and Clean Energy

Albeit similar in many aspects, the major difference between green and renewable energy is that while most green energy sources are renewable, not all renewable sources of energy can be called ‘green.’

For instance, the construction of a large-scale hydropower plant can’t be considered green as it eventually leaves a significant environmental impact in the process.

In essence,

  • Green energy does not cause any notable harm to the environment during its creation or use.
  • Renewable energy sources replenish themselves over a relatively shorter period compared to non-renewable fossil fuels.
  • Clean energy, on the other hand, is any energy source that emits minimal to no greenhouse gas emissions at all.
 

Types of Green Energy

Green energy can be obtained from several renewable resources including:

  1. Solar Energy (which uses sunlight to generate electricity or power).     Solar Energy
    • How it works?
      • By using photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight and turn it into electricity.
      • Through solar thermal systems that absorb and transfer heat for water heating and electricity generation purposes.
    • Benefits and Applications

      (Benefits)

      • Renewable and sustainable sources of energy.
      • Minimal environmental impact.
      • Energy independence from the power grid.
      • Cost savings.
      (Applications)
      • Residential, commercial, and industrial use.
      • Large-scale solar power.
      • Transportation, agriculture, and public infrastructure.
      • Emergency and disaster relief.
  2. Wind Energy (utilizes the flow of wind/ air to power turbines which in turn generates electricity).
    • Mechanism of wind turbines

      Thanks to their aerodynamic design, height advantage, and sophisticated mechanical and electrical processes, wind turbines harness the flow of air or kinetic energy to produce clean and renewable electricity.

      Advantages and usage
    • Advantages and usage

      (Advantages)

      • Renewable and sustainable.
      • Environmentally friendly.
      • Cost-effective.
      • Easy to deploy.
      • Energy independence.

      (Usage)

      • Electricity generation.
      • Hybrid systems such as wind-diesel generators and wind-solar panels.
      • Wind farms.
      • Industrial and agricultural use.
      • Water pumping and desalination.
  3. Hydropower (aka hydroelectric power). Hydropower
    • Utilizing water flow for energy

      Hydropower uses the flow of fast-moving or falling water in rivers, streams, dams, falls, etc to produce electricity by rotating the water turbine blades.

    • Environmental impact and efficiency

      As one of the largest sources of renewable energy for electricity, hydropower does not emit any greenhouse gases during operation. However, it can still alter the flow of water, local ecosystems, and the overall quality of water.

      Regardless, hydropower is an efficient source of renewable energy as it can

      convert over 90% of available energy into electricity which is way more than fossil fuel power plants which can only generate energy at 40% efficiency.
  4. Biomass Energy is produced by burning organic waste that comes from plants and animals. biomass energy
    • Generating energy from organic materials

      The type of material and the burning process decide whether the energy obtained is green or not. That is, while some organic materials such as wood waste, sawdust, and agriculture waste do not emit harmful gases while burning; others, especially forest fires, have higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels.

    • Pros and cons

      (Pros)

      • Carbon neutrality.
      • Waste reduction.
      • Energy supply and security.

      (Cons)

      • Deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
      • Carbon neutrality.
      • Water consumption.
      • Soil degradation.
      • High initial costs.
  5. Geothermal Energy refers to the thermal energy or heat that is captured inside the earth. geothermal energy
    • Harnessing Earth’s heat

      Sophisticated drilling procedures are employed to tap into huge resources of geothermal energy such as the heat beneath the earth’s crust and steam from hot groundwater reservoirs.

      Depending on the drilling procedure, it is further established whether the energy is green or not.

    • Potential and limitations

      Hydropower uses the flow of fast-moving or falling water in rivers, streams, dams, falls, etc to produce electricity by rotating the water turbine blades.

      (Potential)
      • A huge source of sustainable energy.
      • Low carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
      • Highly consistent and efficient.
      • Relatively lower running costs.
      (Limitations)
      • Geographic limitations.
      • High initial cost.
      • Regular monitoring and maintenance.
      • Environmental risks.
      • Water consumption.
 

Recent Advancements in Green Energy

In the light of rapidly depleting resources, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the need to fight climate change, green energy has shown to be a promising alternative.

Aside from addressing our environmental concerns, it also comes with numerous economic advantages for businesses and users alike.

On top of that, digitalization and the integration of energy-efficient systems have paved the way for many remarkable advancements in the green energy sector. For instance,

  • Innovations in Solar Panel Efficiency

    As one of the leading renewable energy sources, solar panels are being continuously developed with better designs to ensure maximum efficiency and productivity.

    Some of the latest developments include integrated PV, floatovoltaics, and agrivoltaics. Other than that, better PV materials and thin-film cells are being developed to make solar panels more efficient, lightweight, flexible, and environmentally friendly.

  • Offshore Wind Farms Development

    Wind is yet another leading and also the oldest method of harnessing the forces of nature. And since it all depends on the flow of air, more and more floating turbines are being placed in deeper waters where the current of wind is much stronger and consistent.

    Not only are these offshore wind farms more efficient than land-based turbines, but can also be integrated with solar power and tidal/ wave energy.

  • Advances in Biomass and Biofuel Technologies

    As the single largest source of renewable energy today, bioenergy including biomass and biofuel is getting more efficient and eco-friendly as we speak.

    E.g., new ways of producing biofuel from algae and non-food plant materials and waste are on the rise.

    Processes such as fermentation and gasification are employed to convert organic waste into bioethanol and synthetic gases which can be further used to generate electricity or low-cost feedstocks.

  • Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)

    Enhanced geothermal systems are being made to extract geothermal energy from areas that lack natural hydrothermal vents and reservoirs.

    Furthermore, supercritical geothermal systems are being developed to access the energy trapped at higher temperatures and pressures.

  • New Materials for Energy Storage

    Energy storage is one of the biggest challenges in the adoption of green energy. Which is why many companies and startups have come up with a wide array of solutions including flow batteries and battery-less storage systems.

    For instance, DESS or Distributed Energy Storage Systems that localize and regularize the production and storage of green energy.

    Or, Power-to-X (P2X) technology which converts the surplus energy to other forms of energy that are easy to store thus reducing the overall loss of energy.

 

Benefits of Green Energy

There is a reason why the adoption of green/ clean energy is a well-documented goal (No. 7) in the Sustainable Development Goals.

As a subset of renewable energy, it has a myriad of economic, environmental, and health benefits. Let’s take a look:

  1. Environmental Impact
    • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as compared to non-renewable sources like fossil fuels helps mitigate the carbon footprint and fight climate change.
    • Preservation of natural ecosystems as it does not need a lot of drilling or mining as is the case with fossil fuels. At the same time, green energy technologies need little to no water to generate power or run.
  2. Economic Benefits
    • Job creation in the green energy sector is booming across a number of fields including manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and research and development.
    • Cost-effectiveness over time as renewable sources of energy have marginally lower operating costs than fossil fuel plants. It also reduces the need to import fuels by investing in locally available sources of green and clean energy.
  3. Health Advantages
    • Decrease in air and water pollution is one of the most important benefits of using green energy since it does not leave a significant amount of air or water pollutants. As a result, we get cleaner air and lack of exposure to harmful carcinogens and particulate matter.
    • Improved public health outcomes are yet another social benefit of reduced air pollution which leads to fewer respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, lower healthcare costs, and increased life expectancy.
 

Enciser’s contribution to saving green energy

enciser help in green energy

With the rise of energy-efficient appliances and objects, the need to have a smart energy-management device is at an all-time high.

Meeting all your energy-efficiency requirements is our smart energy-budgeting device Emerald, powered by our user-friendly mobile app Enciser!

By combining the two, you can get real-time data on your energy usage and be in a better place to make informed decisions about your electricity consumption.

Easy to attach with your smart meter and all the energy-efficient products, it is the only thing you would need to manage your household’s energy usage from anywhere 24/7.

 

Challenges and Considerations

Despite being a promising alternative to non-renewable resources, the implementation and integration of green energy comes with several challenges and considerations, especially technical and economic.

  • Reliability and Weather Dependence Green energy sources such as wind and solar are largely subject to weather conditions and thus somewhat unstable. As a result, it can compromise the grid stability and reliability in the face of inadequate systems.
  • Efficiency and Space Requirements

    Emerging green energy technologies require further development to become more efficient and cost-effective.

    Apart from that, there is an increasing need to upgrade the infrastructure and space that is required to accommodate these green energy units.

    Additionally, proper awareness and education can help us overcome the ‘Not In My Backyard’ or NIMBY syndrome that arises due to concerns about our curb appeal as well as noise.

  • Initial Costs and Investment

    High initial costs for installing green energy equipment and projects is a major hurdle in acquiring green energy.

    However, many governments across the world have launched several subsidies and incentives to help the public afford the initial cost of investment.

    For e.g., India, which stands 4th in the list of global renewable power contributors.

  • Storage and Generation Capacity

    Another key challenge in the adoption of green energy systems is the matter of storage and production capacity.

    To tackle that, efficient and cost-effective energy storage solutions are required to ensure a continuous supply of green and sustainable forms of energy.

 

Conclusion

As the most beneficial form of renewable or sustainable energy, green energy is already transforming the world around us.

Although wind, water, and solar have long been used by humanity to meet the ends, unconventional sources such as green hydrogen and oceanic waves are revolutionizing the green energy sector.

  • The Future of Green Energy

    With the advent of advanced technologies such as advanced photovoltaics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Big Data, and Distributed Energy Storage Systems, the applications of green energy are anticipated to grow like never before.

    Furthermore, grid integration, advanced robotics, and blockchain are proving to be game-changing for the entire renewable energy sector.

 

FAQs

Q 1. What is the difference between green energy and renewable energy?

Ans: While both refer to natural renewable sources of energy, not all renewable sources are green. That is, green energy does not have a significant environmental impact as opposed to some renewable sources.

 

Q 2. Can green energy completely replace fossil fuels?

Ans: Despite the rise of green energy solutions, the scenario of a complete replacement of fossil fuels depends on several factors such as technological progress, economic burden, social acceptance, and environmental aspects.

 

Q 3. How is green energy economically viable?

Ans: Green energy can prove to be highly economical considering the lower operational costs, job creation, and incentive offers.

 

Q 4. Which type of green energy is the most efficient?

Ans: Hydropower or hydroelectric power has the highest rate of conversion of about 80% to 90%.

 

Q 5. What are the best sources of green energy?

Ans: After hydropower, the best sources of green energy are wind and solar power.

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