At some point, the Earth’s supply of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels are going to disappear. But why wait until then when we have alternative energy sources that are essentially infinite, such as sunlight & wind? The cherry on top is that renewable energy creates far less greenhouse gases and pollutants that can contribute to climate change. Who wants more greenhouse gases and pollutants?
There are several ways we can utilize renewable energy; some are familiar, others sound almost futuristic. Here in Washington, you can find many of these renewable energy sources throughout the state. In fact, the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s (PUD) electricity is 98% carbon-free! Overall, more than 3/4ths of the state’s net generation of power comes from renewable energy.
Let’s take a look at the different types and the pros/cons of each:
- Solar: By using solar panels, we can transform light into usable energy. This, in turn, can be used directly or fed to a grid needed to power a populated area. Since most of Earth has access to sunlight, solar energy is one of the most widely accessible renewable sources around the globe. This allows countries and communities to be more “energy independent”. The downside is that solar panels are expensive to purchase and install, though prices continue to drop every year.
- Wind: Depending on its size, a wind turbine could harness enough air movement energy to power a home or business. Have you ever driven by one of those “wind farms”? Those could power entire cities or even a small country! Wind is easily accessible and sustainable, plus they create job opportunities as the turbines require regular maintenance. The bad? Wind turbines aren’t exactly aesthetically pleasing. Here in Washington, you can visit the Wild Horse Wind Facility located in central Washington. The 149 wind turbines located here can generate up to 273 megawatts of electricity.
- Hydroelectric: Similar to wind power, hydroelectricity is derived from building turbines in – wait for it – water. The water spins the turbines which in turn generates electricity. Since moving water can be a consistent source of energy, a hydroelectric plant can generate energy all day, every day. The drawback is that these plants are restricted to rivers which could interfere with fish and other wildlife. You know where the largest hydropower producer is located? Yep, it’s right here in Washington at the Grand Coulee Dam. Constructed on the Columbia River, it supplies power to eleven western states.
- Ocean: We can also harness ocean energy by using thermal & mechanical methods. By using heat from the ocean’s surface and cold water from the ocean’s depths, we can run an engine to create electricity. And those tubular waves? Yep, we can use the natural ebb & flow of the ocean’s tides to capture energy. Since tides are constant and fairly predictable, they help coastal regions reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, if you are in a land-locked city, it makes it difficult to access ocean energy.
- Geothermal: Now this one is interesting! So, when the Earth cooled off billions of year ago, a tremendous amount of heat was trapped beneath the Earth’s crust. By digging tunnels into the ground, we can use this heat to turn water into steam, which in turn can provide power to generate electricity. The problem with accessing geothermal energy – it is extremely expensive to construct the plants needed to harness this power source.
- Biomass: Straight out of “Back to the Future”, we can use biomass, which generally comes from plants, to create bioenergy. Organic materials can be burned to produce heat or be allowed to decompose, which creates methane gas that can be captured and used for fuel. However, since the most popular forms of biomass are plants, it takes a bit longer to replenish the energy source once it has been used.
- Hydrogen: This one is an interesting byproduct of using renewable energy. When renewable electricity is produced, the excess can be used to run through tanks of water. This causes hydrolysis to occur where water molecules are split into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be captured and used in a multitude of applications. Hydrogen burns clean and can also be stored in fuel cells similar to batteries. Since this is a byproduct of other renewable sources, it can only be achieved through other sources, such as solar or wind.
With so many options to create renewable energy, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and create a more sustainable planet. Some of these renewable energy sources are even readily available to use in your own home! Here at the Stump Farm, where White Raven Financial is located, we aim to create more awareness on environmental impact and pledge to be better “eco-heroes”.
Thanks for reading!