Many private institutions and public bodies (such as government agencies and educational institutions) are looking for clean and renewable energy sources to meet their needs for sustainable energy solutions, driven by this due to their role and responsibility towards society and to provide alternative energy sources that are cheap and clean towards the environment compared to traditional energy sources.
Sustainable energy solutions are all around us in the air, deep underground and in the ocean waiting to be tapped. Below are some sustainable alternative energy sources that have started to be used recently.
Alternative energy types
There are many types of alternative energy, and they are:
1 – vital energy
It is a type of renewable energy derived from biomass to create heat and electricity (or to produce liquid fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel used for transportation). We refer here to the biological waste from any organic matter coming from plants or animals. And although bioenergy generates about the same amount of carbon dioxide as a conventional fossil fuel, plants grown as biomass remove an equal amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere maintaining a relatively neutral environmental impact.
There are a variety of systems used to generate this type of electricity from burning biomass directly to capturing and using methane gas produced by natural decomposition of organic matter.
We can use it depending on the specific activity of each facility, there are many ways to integrate bioenergy into private sustainable energy plans such as:
- Operating machinery can be converted to use biofuels such as ethanol or biodiesel.
- Manufacturing facilities can be equipped to burn biomass directly to produce steam that is captured by turbines to generate electricity. In some cases this process can have a dual purpose by operating the facility and using the waste to produce energy, for example paper mills can use wood waste to produce electricity and steam for heating.
- Agricultural units can convert livestock waste into electricity using small systems specially designed for this process.
- Small towns can take advantage of methane gas obtained by anaerobic digestion of organic waste in landfills and use it as fuel to generate electricity.
2 – Geothermal energy
Geothermal energy, as the name suggests, is derived from the Earth’s heat itself. This heat can be obtained near the surface, from hot rocks, or from hot water tanks located below the surface.
These geothermal power plants harness these thermal sources for us to generate electricity. On a much smaller scale, a geothermal heat pump system can take advantage of the constant temperature of the ground just ten feet below the surface to help provide heat to a nearby building in the winter, or help cool it down in the summer.
How can we use it? And could geothermal energy be part of sustainable alternative energy solutions at scale? Or be part of affordable, commercially sustainable alternative energy solutions domestically?
A direct use of geothermal energy may include:
- Heating of office or factory buildings.
- Helping to grow plants in “greenhouse” greenhouses.
- Water heating in fish farms.
- Assistance with various industrial processes (such as pasteurized milk production ).
3 – Hydroelectricity
The remains of the water sites that were formerly used to operate mills and sawmills in America are now largely historical, tourist, and museum sites. Today the kinetic energy of flowing rivers is captured in a vastly different way and converted into hydropower.
Probably the most common type of hydroelectric power is a system in which dams are constructed to store water in reservoirs and then flow through turbines to produce electricity. This is known as “pumping hydropower” as water is circulated between lower and upper reservoirs to control electricity generation between times of low and peak demand.
There is another type called ” hydroelectric power in the river” which is based on part of the flow of rivers through a channel and does not require dams. Hydroelectric power plants can range in size from mega projects such as large dams that are built by countries to various smaller hydropower systems.
The direct use of hydropower naturally depends on geographical location. If we assume that the source of the waterway is available and reliable, then it can be used in the following ways:
- Small hydroelectric power stations can be constructed to supply electricity to farms or small towns.
- Small cities can harness the power of local waterways by building medium-sized hydropower systems.
4 – Hydrogen energy
Hydrogen is one of the simplest elements in nature (consisting of one proton and one electron), and it is abundant in abundance, however it is not naturally occurring as a gas on Earth. Instead it is found in organic compounds (hydrocarbons such as gasoline, natural gas, methanol, and propane) and water (H2O). Hydrogen can also be produced under certain conditions by some algae and bacteria, using sunlight as an energy source.
Hydrogen is high energy, and there is little residue when burned. Liquid hydrogen has been used to launch spacecraft and rockets since 1950. Hydrogen fuel cells convert the chemical energy in hydrogen into electricity, with pure water and heat as the only by-products. However, marketing these fuel cells as a practical means to more facilities is likely to be limited until their costs decrease and the potential for their use is improved for all.
Uses of hydrogen energy
Almost all of the hydrogen used in the United States is used in industry to purify petroleum, process minerals, and produce fertilizers and process foods. In addition, hydrogen fuel cells are used as an energy source where hydrogen and oxygen atoms are combined to generate electricity. There are currently a few hundred hydrogen-powered vehicles in the United States, a number that could increase as the cost of producing fuel cells decreases and the number of filling stations increases. Other practical applications of this type of renewable energy include:
- Large fuel cells that provide emergency electricity to buildings and remote locations.
- Hydrogen fuel cell electric cars.
- Marine ships powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
5 – ocean energy
There are two types of energy that the oceans can produce: thermal energy from the heat of the sun and mechanical energy from the motion of tides and waves. Ocean thermal energy can be converted into electricity using a few different systems that rely on warm surface water temperatures. The “mechanical energy of the ocean” is done by harnessing the tidal flows caused by the rotation of the Earth and the gravitational influence of the moon. Energy from wind-driven waves can also be converted and used to reduce commercial electricity costs. There are also less sophisticated technologies that make use of ocean currents, ocean winds, and salinity gradients as sources for energy conversion.
Ocean energy is an advanced sector for the production of alternative energy, but its future looks promising as more than 70% of the surface of our planet is covered by the oceans. Commercial and public applications of these energy resources are limited by geography and regulatory guidelines. Other practical uses of energy from the ocean include:
- Cool ocean water from deep underground can be used to cool buildings (as desalinated water is often produced as a by-product).
- Coastal communities can use the methods of harnessing natural ocean energy described above to supplement municipal energy and energy needs.
6- Solar energy
Aside from geothermal energy and hydrogen, the sun plays an important role in all of the other renewable energy mentioned. However, the direct use of this renewable energy source is achieved through capturing the sun’s energy directly. A variety of solar energy technology is used to convert the energy of the sun and light into heat, lighting, hot water, electricity and cooling systems for companies and industry. Photovoltaic systems use solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar hot water systems can be used to heat buildings by heating the water through solar panels.
The sun’s heat can be collected in a greater concentration by means of dedicated solar panels that heat and boil water like a traditional steam generator to produce electricity. Commercial and industrial buildings can also harness the power of the sun for large-scale needs such as ventilation, heating and cooling. Architectural designs for buildings and facilities may also be thoughtfully designed to take advantage of the sun as a source of light, heating or cooling.
Ways to use solar energy
Public and private entities can benefit from the benefits of solar energy for business in a wide variety of ways, including:
- Installing a solar energy system (equipment on the roof, rows in a field, or building a garage) and both the owner and the occupant, the tenant, or the participant in the solar energy installation and investment agreement benefit.
- Purchase of solar energy that was created and implemented by employers. Invest in supplying others with commercial solar energy off-site.
- Building or rehabilitating buildings with solar energy systems to obtain benefits from hot water, cooling or operating ventilation systems.
- Employing architectural designs in designing structures that take advantage of the natural properties of the sun for heating and lighting.
7 – Wind energy
Wind can be considered as a form of solar energy product due to the wind caused by the asymmetric heating and cooling of the atmosphere from the sun (as well as the Earth’s rotation and other topographical factors). Wind flow can be captured by wind turbines and converted into electricity. On a smaller scale, windmills are still used today to pump water on farms.
Wind is one of the sustainable energy ideas for businesses that can be combined to reduce electricity use costs. Wind power generation systems are available to meet the renewable energy needs for many events.
- The turbines generate electricity as a supplement to the electricity supply of the enterprise (when the wind blows, the energy generated from the system goes to compensate for the need for electricity).
- Wind farms generate electricity that can be sold to different sectors, either contractually or through competitive bidding processes.
Sustainable energy development
There are many ways to participate indirectly in any or all of these sustainable energy solutions. There is another way for institutions wishing to adopt social responsibility by choosing alternative energy solutions provided by companies specialized in producing this energy or by investing in renewable energy systems that do not require building or maintaining any equipment.
There are international certificates granted to the systems (Renewable Energy Certificates RECs) that support the production of renewable energy systems and equipment. They are tradable commodities and the certificates granted confirm that the electricity was generated from a renewable energy resource that feeds the common electricity grid. A specification agency or agency assigns a unique identification number to each device produced by alternative energy manufacturers, which can then be sold on the open market.
Electrical utilities, companies and public entities can also purchase these devices and equipment to secure clean energy resources as part of their efforts to reduce impacts on the environment. Governmental committees concerned with the matter of supporting renewable energy adoption initiatives allow market forces to motivate more developers of green energy systems to invest in this area, and in the near future depending on where you are you may also be able to purchase renewable energy directly from a private power generation facility hidden in your area.