Alternative Green Energy Sources: 3 Key Developments in Technologies

Wind and solar are only the tip of the green energy technology iceberg
Wind and solar are only the tip of the green energy technology iceberg

Nuclear

Nuclear energy may be the most controversial of the green energy solutions. The processing plants are unsightly and require a significant amount of space. And after the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, global citizens are wary of the technology. But in the face of rapid climate change, nuclear may be necessary in order to meet carbon neutral targets.

The State of Nuclear Energy Worldwide

Nuclear technology was first developed in the 1940s and works by harnessing the energy released when an atom in an element is split. Today, 440 nuclear power reactors are providing energy to 31 countries as well as an estimated 50 further reactors under construction. When these nuclear reactors are up and running, 15% of the world’s energy will be generated using nuclear power.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Nuclear Energy

The first (and possibly most important) advantage of nuclear is the minimal amount of pollution it produces. Although nuclear energy production can lead to a small amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon being released, it is not anywhere near as much when compared to fossil fuels.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen energy employs the use of hydrogen and other compounds that contain hydrogen such as oxygen to generate energy. Approximately 95% of hydrogen is produced using fossil fuels by steam reforming, and a small quantity is produced by the electrolysis of water which is the process of separating oxygen and hydrogen using electricity. This is termed ‘green hydrogen’ as it has no other by-product apart from oxygen and hydrogen, thus does not emit greenhouse gases.

The Significance of Hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel will be an essential tool for fighting climate change. First, its only by-product is water, which won’t have a negative effect on the environment. Fossil fuels generate copious amounts of excess carbon into the environment, and nuclear energy’s by-product is radioactive waste. Hydrogen, however, poses no such threat and thus, it is extremely significant as it can help nations not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also avoid handling potentially dangerous substances.

Hurdles and Disadvantages of Using Hydrogen

Recent research shows that the main hurdle to overcome when using hydrogen is that despite being easily split, hydrogen can very readily recombine with oxygen. If the hydrogen recombines with oxygen, it can no longer be used as fuel. Using a catalyst to keep the two elements separate can prevent this from happening.

Storage

Hydrogen is an effective storage option, but it may not be the most efficient (or affordable). Storage isn’t a new obstacle to the renewable energy movement, or for the industry for that matter. But it will play a crucial role in abandoning natural gas and coal for 100% green energy options.

Importance of Energy Storage

Electric grids require a balance between power demand and supply. This involves constantly adjusting the supply to meet the potential changes in demand.

Development of Storage Solutions

Of the six storage types listed in the table “Different storage systems currently used around the world,” research shows that pump hydropower is the most common and popular storage system in the world. This system stores the potential energy produced from pumping water from a lower reservoir to a high reservoir.

The More, the Better

After wind and solar, the most popular renewable energy sources are nuclear and hydrogen, which produce significantly less greenhouse gases and have the power to reduce the carbon footprint of many sectors. While wind and solar are arguably the least environmentally damaging when compared to other sources like nuclear, which produces radioactive waste, the simple fact is that nuclear energy is just more reliable than wind and solar.

Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable and green energy.

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