A positive way to power our planet: 

Clean Energy

  • February 2021
  • 5 Minute Read
Clean EnergyAndo Investing

6 Types of Clean Energy That Are Positively Impacting the Climate Crisis

Clean energy (or renewable power) is changing the way we fuel the world without further compromising our climate.

Clean energy (or renewable power) is changing the way we fuel the world without further compromising our climate. So, how are renewables displacing fossil fuels in favor of lowering carbon emissions and eliminating pollution? It starts with nature—and universal access and understanding of clean, affordable, and reliable energy.   

Harnessing natural resources to power our lives isn’t a “new” technology or a revolutionary idea. It’s a tale as old as time. Wind in the sails of explorers, windmills to grind grain, the warmth of the sun to grow crops before a long, cold winter. It’s what you read about in history class. It’s how our ancestors lived. But as early civilization turned into big bustling cities, so did the need for cheaper, energy sources (hello, fossil fuels).   

“Dirty” energy—including crude oil, coal, and gas—have become industry titans, major moneymakers leveraging nonrenewable sources of energy that take a long time to replenish. Not only do fossil fuels tap into our earth’s literal core, but they also endanger the environment, contributing to global warming. The negative tradeoffs of fossil fuel usage are evident in everything from wildlife extinction to weird weather phenomenons. There is hope... a clean energy future is in reach.   

As climate change takes the forefront of worldwide conversations (the UN just had a global summit about it), renewable power innovation is booming. The increase in renewable resources for power as we preserve our natural resources is helping to turn back the clock on climate change—and making eco-friendly energy more available (and affordable) for everyone.   

So, what are the renewable components that are powering a cleaner, greener future? Here are the six types of clean energy that are positively impacting the way we all live.   

Here comes the sun

Solar Energy

Did you know more energy falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year? (Now that’s some serious solar power.) Plain and simple, the sun is the ultimate source for all energy sources—and how we use (and distribute) the sun’s radiation is changing the way we consume power.   

Solar, or photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity. From heating your home to lighting up business parks, solar energy systems diversify our energy sources, improve efficiency, and save money. Solar panels aren’t just for your roof, though.   

You know those endless acres of “mirrors” you see in linear patterns across open land? Solar farms can generate power for thousands of homes by concentrating sunlight through solar cells. Plus, straight out of a sci-fi book, floating solar farms, or “floatovoltaics”,  use of bodies of water that aren’t ecologically sensitive to harness the power of the sun. They’ve even tested floating solar panels in our hometown of San Diego.    

Solar energy systems are popping up across the world. It’s forecasted that there will be a 43% increase in annual growth in the U.S. solar industry in the last year alone—and since 2010, the price of solar has decreased by 89%. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Head of Energy, Marcel Alers, “it is now cheaper to go solar than to build new coal power plants in most countries, and solar is now the cheapest electricity in history"  

By leveraging that mega-star in the sky, solar is saving the planet thanks to two main benefits: solar does not produce air pollutants or carbon dioxide and solar energy on buildings have minimal effects on the environment. And although the amount of sunlight that arrives to our earth’s surface can vary, the future looks pretty darn bright.   

DID YOU KNOW

More energy falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year.

- National Renewable Energy Laboratory :
How small changes make big differences
Gone with the wind

Wind Energy

One might say we live in a small world: wind is actually a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the heating of the atmosphere, the rotation of the earth, and surface irregularities. Without the sun, there is no wind, so these types of clean energy go hand-in-hand.   

Wind energy, or wind power, is the process of creating electricity using airflows that occur naturally in our atmosphere. There are three types of wind energy: utility-scale wind, “small” wind, and offshore wind. Utility-scale wind refers to mega-wind turbines that deliver power straight to a grid to be used by power systems (you know those uber-tall, white “windmills” dotting the desert landscape and rolling plains), while distributed or “small” wind directly powers a home, farm or small business independent of the grid. And you guessed it... the offshore wind turbines are located in large bodies of water, usually on the continental shelf. Not only are they larger than land-based turbines, but they also generate way more power.   

Whether they are out in the deep blue sea or spread across West Texas, wind turbines as tall as skyscrapers with propeller-like blades are built to withstand even the greatest gusts. Steel wind turbines use large blades to capture the energy from the wind and generate electricity. Basically, wherever there are high-wind speeds, a wind turbine can be put to work—including the top wind power states, California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa.   

Wind is not only the least expensive renewable energy source out there, the use of this power has significantly increased in the past 30 years, accounting for over 7.3% of total US electricity generation in 2019. While it might be costly to construct one of these towering structures the benefits far outweigh any cons. From no air or water pollution to the elimination of mining and drilling, the wind is doing wonders for our planet, one turn at a time.   

Water and fire

Hydroelectric and Geothermal Power

Our planet produces has some pretty amazing elements, especially in the alternative energy source space. Hydroelectric, or hydropower, harnessing the power of water, and geothermal energy handles the earth’s heat. So how do these two types of renewable energy convert Mother Nature into natural power?  

Alongside its clean energy partner, wind, hydropower, is one of the largest renewable energy sources in the U.S.—and we aren’t just talking about the Hoover Dam. Hydropower relies on typically fast-moving currents, like those found in large rivers or waterfalls, to channel the force of water into electricity via spinning generator blades. But not all hydropower facilities are as robust as the one found by Lake Mead (mega-dams aren’t always the most eco-friendly). Municipal water districts can take advantage of water flows from local rivers, for example, while some towns and cities even have “dam-less” setups that channel part of a stream before the water rejoins the river.   

Hydroelectric power is both easy to obtain and is a more common source of power than many of us realize. It costs less and it’s a clean fuel source that doesn’t pollute our environment by tapping into a resource we already have. Also, since hydropower is considered a domestic source of energy, every state can produce its own energy without being reliant on fossil fuels (like Washington, where 74% of the state's electricity comes from hydropower).  

On the other hand, geothermal energy is produced in a power plant, converting heat to electricity, much like its dirty oil adversaries' coal, gas, and nuclear power. The geothermal difference? It’s clean. Energy can be extracted without burning fossil fuels and while there is some pollution associated with this type of renewable energy, it’s very minimal, and we think that’s a step in the right direction.   

Geothermal energy is considered a reliable resource because the heated reservoirs in the earth will always be constant, but the way that steam is extracted depends on the type of plant. Dry steam plants use steam directly from a geothermal reservoir (you can thank Tuscany, Italy for that), while the more popular flash steam plants take high-pressure water from deep inside the earth and convert it to steam, condensing and returning the water to the ground. Binary cycle power plants transfer heat from super-hot geothermal water to another liquid, and in turn, the second liquid turns into steam. All three types of plants use steam to generate turbines, and in turn, produce renewable energy. Wow, that’s some pretty hot knowledge.   

Geothermal power has huge potential—but there’s still a lot of exploring to do when it comes to this type of clean energy. Location plays a big part in utilizing the planet’s heated power, but nations, like Iceland, are meeting their fossil fuel eliminating, geothermal (and geo-tourism) goals (I mean, have you seen Zac Efron bathing in the Blue Lagoon and baking bread in volcanic black sands?).  

Sustainable supply and demand

Clean Energy Storage

The effect that fossil fuels are having on the climate crisis is driving an international push to use low-carbon sources of energy. But what does storage have to do with clean energy? And how do we sustain a sustainable supply? Now that the demand for affordable, renewable energy is increasing, so does the amount of power that is being created—and we don’t want all that extra, eco-friendly energy to go to waste. Think of it this way: renewable energy is being used during periods of high demand, but natural resources, like wind and solar, might not align with peak production needs (and we don’t want to encourage fossil fuel use). Clean energy storage enables renewable energy to be stored and used at later times.   

A key component to the use of clean energy is the reliability of the power source. If your home has solar, you don’t want to be left in the dark when the sun goes down, right? The value of storing renewable energy comes in the form of its rapid response. In a world of ever-changing technology, storage facilities can power clean energy to the electrical grid extremely fast, unlike fossil fuels (which take time to “heat” up). A constant backup of renewable energy is good for our planet and good for the stability of the growing “green” electrical grid that is positively impacting the way we consume energy. You won’t run out of solar, wind, or hydropower when it’s constantly being (safely) produced to power your everyday life.   

Investing in tomorrow

Renewable Infrastructure

Renewable energy resources (we’re looking at you wind and solar) are some of the fastest infrastructure categories in the world—generating long-term, inflation-protected agreements. With the dramatic decline in cost, clean energy is now able to compete with fossil fuels. As global efforts to reduce carbon emissions gain massive momentum, investing in clean energy infrastructures enables specific nations and emerging economies to capitalize on this planet-saving trend that is here to stay.   

From South America to Asia-Pacific, why is private sector investment important in creating a clean energy infrastructure? It creates a world of environmentally-friendly opportunities that help to address the climate crisis, including eliminating older technologies that are tied to carbon, reducing fossil fuel reliance (especially in energy-importing nations), implementing cost-effective access to energy in remote areas, and creating jobs—just to name a few.   

Renewable infrastructure just makes economic sense on a global scale. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates every dollar invested today in clean, green energy can generate three dollars in future fuel savings by 2050. The transition to clean energy entails a large financial lift from both international and domestic private financing, while eliminating investment barriers, but every dollar that goes into establishing a cleaner, greener infrastructure means we are one step closer to saving our planet.   

 Clean energy is just one of the five green initiatives that Ando invests in. When you open an Ando account, you’ll have access to the Impact Center. See exactly what sustainable industries your money is funding in favor of a cleaner, greener tomorrow.  

Written by:

Brittany Spears

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