Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it only transforms… but, in the process, sometimes “stains”. This could be a version of the famous saying about energy adapted to our times, in which the environmental impact of power generation is a major problem. Clean energies could come to solve this problem, with certain factors to consider.
Alternative energies to fossil fuels are, undoubtedly, the only ones that can currently curb environmental degradation that is already having serious consequences for humanity. However, it is a complex process.
Achieving sustainable development and improving future prospects requires a change in production models, as well as assuming and promoting a circular economy model. And when it comes to energy, we become much, much more efficient. This happens by giving an adequate use to each type of energy.
What are clean energies?
Clean energies are considered to be those that do not generate waste when they are obtained. It is clear, for example, that electricity is the same regardless of whether it comes from a solar panel or coal. However, the environmental impact of this energy does vary according to its source of origin. Therefore, there is some debate around the concept of clean energy.
Can clean energy and renewable energy be used synonymously? Although, strictly speaking, renewable energies are those from virtually inexhaustible natural sources or that are regenerated without human intervention, we could consider that both concepts are comparable. However, in some cases we can speak of polluting renewable energy sources and non-renewable clean energy sources.
On the other hand, the manufacture and installation of the equipment may have a certain ecological footprint, but the impact is much less than in the case of other more polluting energies. In this sense, it is important to be aware that any process of obtaining energy has some kind of impact.
Types of renewable energies
There are many types of renewable energy. In fact, there are several ways to classify them. In this article we will proceed to its classification based on the source of origin, specifying the different subtypes:
- Solar energies: they come from solar radiation. They serve both to generate electrical energy and heat energy (in this case it is called “solar thermal”) by different means, mainly photovoltaic cells and solar collectors.
- Wind energy: comes from the wind’s ability to generate mechanical energy, transformed into electrical energy using wind turbines (turbines). It is very cheap and clean, although it suffers from irregularity and landscape impact.
- Hydraulic energy: derived from water currents and reservoirs, it is very similar to wind power both in the operating mechanism and in the advantages and disadvantages it presents.
- Maritime energies: it could be grouped with the previous one, but these energies only occur in the sea. The tidal (generated by tides) and the wave (generated by waves) are the best known, but there are others (tidal wave, osmotic power …).
- Geothermal: it takes advantage of the internal heat of the Earth to generate thermal energy or, indirectly, electrical energy. However, from there the casuistry extends, depending on the type of deposit and its uses.
- Other energies: this category would include relatively clean energies, that is, they have a small carbon footprint or are clean, but can generate other wastes. It would be the case of biomass, aero thermal or nuclear.
Possible optimal uses of renewable energies
Each way of obtaining energy has its peculiarities and ideal uses. Therefore, it is essential to know which energy to choose for each use case, assuming that the impact is not always the same, and without forgetting that it is usually necessary to combine different energies.
A clear example is the use made of the sun to generate thermal energy. Passive solar energy has been used for millennia, and is now being optimized in heating processes (and other processes such as obtaining salt by drying). Minimal transformation and impact are its main advantages; however, there is also a problem: it is usually not enough.
In this context, four areas are usually identified in which clean energies have demonstrated their efficiency and still have a lot of room for improvement, both through technology and others (scale, optimization of uses and processes):
- Heat generation: heat energy is a strong point, especially for solar thermal energy. The impact in the areas of building heating (and also cooling) and the production of domestic hot water is not trivial, not to mention numerous industrial processes.
- Electricity generation: the production of energy receives a large contribution from renewable energies (around 28% in 2020). Photovoltaics are the one that grows the most and, together with wind power, the prospects are for improvement. On the other hand, biomass is still widely used.
- Transportation: from fuels such as bioethanol or cellulosic biomass to magnetic systems such as maglev, through electric vehicles (including solar vehicles), the energy transition in this area is one of the most necessary and promising.
- Independent energy systems: relating to autonomous or off the grid systems, regardless of scale, cleanly generated energy is not only the most efficient solution, but is practically a necessity (in addition to a growing market).
From LCBA Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia we support the development of new low-carbon technologies from multiple key sectors that are synergistic with each other, such as clean and renewable energies, as well as energy efficiency. If you are a European provider of this type of technology or a local company from one of the countries in which we operate (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia) with a project related to the circular and low carbon economy, request your participation, and you will be able to benefit from numerous advantages. You can do it from: www.latam.lowcarbonbusinessaction.com