The Many Types of New York City Renewable Energy: Understanding the Basics
Your choices for renewable energy, or clean energy were limited in the past. Now, there are many types of renewable energy in New York alone. What’s more, the many types of renewable energy have grown more affordable, more reliable, and more readily available.
But, no two renewable energy sources are the same. Each one comes with its own strengths and weaknesses, and no single source is going to be right for every business.
Understanding renewable energy is essential to making the right choice for your business. To ensure your company goes into any energy-related decisions with the right information, we’ve covered the primary types of renewable and dirty energy, and how they’re different.
Renewable energy vs. dirty energy
At its core, renewable energy is any energy that doesn’t have a finite amount. To be renewable, the energy must come from a source that can be feasibly replenished during our lifetime.
To get a better idea of what this energy type looks like in the real world, here are some common renewable energy sources:
- Solar power: Solar power is generated by using solar panels, which collect energy from the sun. The panel turns the power of the sun into direct current (DC), which is then used by your home or business.
- Wind power: Wind power is created by harnessing the power of wind with turbines. The wind turbines are spun around by the force of the wind, which causes them to rotate and power a generator. The generator then creates usable electricity.
- Geothermal energy: Geothermal energy acts much like its natural counterpart: a hot spring. To harness geothermal energy, a well is dug deep into the ground. Water is then pulled from the Earth at a high pressure, and quickly depressurized upon reaching the surface. This creates steam, which is used to power a generator via a turbine.
- Water power: Water power is often collected using a dam. Dams use the force of water to spin turbines, which then power a generator making hydroelectric energy. This is converted into usable power and directed to businesses and homes.
- Biomass energy: Biomass energy is created by burning plant-based materials. These materials are full of solar energy, and when burned, create usable power.
Unlike renewable energy, dirty energy is finite and can’t be realistically replenished during our lifetime. Furthermore, dirty energy is often exactly that: dirty and bad for the environment.
Dirty energy, also known as fossil fuels, comes in many forms, including the following:
- Coal: Coal is a sedimentary rock that’s found deep in the planet. When burned, coal generates a high amount of heat, which is used to create steam and power turbines. Unlike wind power, however, coal generates a large amount of carbon dioxide, which has been linked to air pollution.
- Nuclear power: Nuclear power is created by using nuclear fission to generate a high level of heat. This heat is used to create steam, which then causes a turbine to power a generator, which then creates electricity. But, nuclear power generates a large amount of waste, most of which is highly toxic and difficult to properly dispose of.
- Natural gas: Like the other sources mentioned, natural gas is burned to create heat, which powers a turbine and powers a generator. Unlike the renewable energy sources, natural gas puts off nitrogen oxide, which has been attributed to causing smog and pollution.
In short, renewable energy produces little-to-no waste, is infinite, and better for the environment. Dirty energy is non-renewable and damaging to the planet.
Common questions about renewable energy
While renewable energy is by no means new, it’s still new to many people. There’s also a lot of complex technology behind renewable energy, making it difficult to understand. Here are some of the most common questions about renewable energy to clear up any potential confusion around the topic.
How many types of renewable energy are solar in origin?
There may be only one sun, but there are actually two types of solar power commonly used in renewable energy.
The first type of solar technology is known as concentrating solar power, or CSP. This form of solar power isn’t found on home, but is used by larger businesses. CSP involves a series of mirrors, which bounce the sun’s rays into receiving units, where it is then turned into heat. From there, the heat is used to generate electricity.
The more common type of solar technology is photovoltaic, or PV. PV uses solar panels to collect the sun’s energy. The photons from the sun are held in cells, which are used to create electricity across a grid. This is much like a traditional electric grid, but on a smaller scale. PV is often used on residential rooftops, but is also suitable for businesses, as the panels can be made in numerous sizes.
What’s solar’s reliability?
Solar panels can be rather costly up front. Fortunately, they’re very reliable as far as durability is concerned. The U.S. Department of Energy examined 10,000 solar panels for a year to determine their reliability. In that year, only 5 panels failed. That’s only 0.05%, making solar panels very reliable.
How does wind energy depend on the sun?
While wind turbines depend on wind to spin, the sun does play a role.
Energy from the sun is absorbed by the Earth. As the Earth warms, so too does the air. Air over land is warmer than air over water, which causes an uneven heating of the planet. The warm air above the land moves and replaces cooler air, which creates wind.
Renewable energy: your green ticket
Renewable energy is only going to get more popular as it becomes more advanced and more affordable. Learning about the basics now will ensure you’re properly equipped to enter the discussion on renewable energy, and help you make the right choice when it comes time to pick a renewable energy for your business.