Reducing our reliance on finite fossil fuels that negatively impact the environment has increased our awareness of renewable energy sources. Recognizing how they fit into an eco-friendly future that protects our planet is key to developing a sustainability mindset.
Bringing awareness to this and the many other issues our planet currently faces is why I joined the Climate Change Collective; a group of environmentally-minded bloggers who want to share climate action news that motivates and informs — keeping the subject at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Created by Michelle from Eco Boomer Crusader and Jamie of Jamie Ad Stories; each month a different member of the collective takes turns to write a lead/focus post that shares key details, concerns and/or unique perspectives about climate change. Once the post is published, the rest of the group will link to it in a response-style blog on their own sites; discussing any thoughts and ideas about the information/issues raised.
The collective is currently open to any other bloggers who want to join; if you’re interested, get in touch.
Collective Climate Action
The seventh installment and most recent lead/focus post for the collective was written by Krista from A Sustainably Simple Life (an informative blog run with her friend Alison). It’s here she shares a useful breakdown of what it’s been like to have residential solar panels since 2019 and the ups and downs of using this type of renewable power.
In study after study, it has been found that our planet is warming. And a significant part of the emissions that are causing this change in climate can be traced to the energy used to warm and cool our homes. | Residential Solar Panels: 2022 Year In Review – A Sustainably Simple Life
Krista’s honest look at her family’s experience of installing and using solar panels made finding out about the whole process accessible and easily understandable. For those curious about whether solar power really encourages energy independence, offsets costs and reduces environmental impact, her post is well worth a read. The information Krista explored piqued my interest about the potential pros and cons of other forms of renewable energy. With this in mind, I decided to include some of the key things we should know about energy sustainability …
What Is Renewable Energy?
Whether it’s used to generate electricity or heat and cool buildings; renewable energy is obtained from natural sources or processes that are/can be constantly replenished. As a highly effective way of reducing carbon emissions and dependence on harmful fossil fuels, renewable energy offers us a more sustainable option. However, this does not mean that harnessing them produces no negative impact on the environment; land development for energy production and disruptions to wildlife will still occur. It’s critical therefore that policymakers (and individual households) make sure active and rigorous wildlife and ecosystem conservation underpin all sustainable energy efforts.
If working apart we’re a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it. | Sir David Attenburough – COP26
Generated by utilizing the power of the sun, solar energy is created by converting thermal or solar radiation into heat and/or electricity — which, despite misgivings, are still both effective on cloudy and rainy days. Solar power is currently one of the most widely used renewable energy sources as it has some solid climate-friendly credentials; it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases or pollutants when operating.
On an industrial scale rather than residential, turning to solar power nonetheless comes with some ecological challenges. Building solar energy facilities require substantial amounts of land which will disrupt and even endanger wildlife, soil quality and air quality (particularly when being constructed). It’s vital we make sure policymakers and solar energy companies invest in keeping harm to a minimum with everything being done to stabilize and support all afflicted wildlife.
The planet’s oceans contain a substantial amount of energy; potentially capable of meeting 100% of current global demand for electricity (if fully harnessed). Still a relatively new technology that requires more research and investment; tidal currents, waves and thermal conversion can be developed to produce clean electricity and heat using an array of wave energy converters (shoreline, inshore or offshore devices) — the power of the ocean could prove invaluable.
There are a few potential negative environmental impacts of ocean energy production. This includes noise pollution caused by underwater turbines and pumps which can disrupt the natural behavior of marine life. Additionally, the construction and installation of underwater structures required for ocean energy production can inhibit marine animal migration pathways; there’s also the potential for oil and fuel spills from production equipment. It’s the responsibility of those funding, building and running these resources to protect ocean life as much as possible.
One of the oldest forms of energy production, hydropower utilizes water in rivers and reservoirs that move from higher to lower elevations. This widely used system not only generates electricity, it can serve as a drinking and irrigation water source and act as flood/drought control. Hydropower uses water flow through turbines to spin generators that then create electricity; it remains an extremely popular sustainable resource in many countries around the globe.
While hydropower doesn’t emit waste heat and gases that pollute the air or fuel global warming; the infrastructure required to build and develop these systems can contribute to this. Dams and reservoirs often alter a river’s natural environment; including obstructing fish migration, changing silt loads and altering water temperature/chemistry. It’s essential all adverse effects on river and lake ecosystems are mitigated and managed — creating fish ladders that allow access to spawning grounds is one effective example of this.
Using the wind to rotate the blades on large turbines erected on land or placed in the sea; this type of renewable electricity generation can power homes, businesses and industrial level facilities. Even with fluctuations and variations in wind speed (depending on weather conditions and location); wind energy can be made use of around the world. Additionally, like ocean energy, the potential of wind power could be a global game-changer for electricity production.
Wind energy is definitely a climate-friendly, sustainable resource as it produces no air or water pollution; however, it can cause other environmental problems. Typically spread over large areas of land, wind turbines may cause some noise pollution and negative visual impact (even when offset by siting them in remote areas). They are also estimated to contribute to hundreds of thousands of bird and bat deaths each year — which includes threatened and protected species like eagles, white-tailed kites and burrowing owls. Our airborne relatives can suffer internal injuries from exposure to rapid air pressure changes around the edges of a turbine’s moving blades or die from collision with them. Thankfully, responsible land use and safeguarding bird and bat populations can be established alongside wind energy introduction.
Created by the natural heat of the Earth’s core and harvested through drilling into the ground to access hot water and steam; geothermal energy can generate electricity for industrial facilities as well as homes and other community buildings that doesn’t rely on burning fuels that release harmful emissions into the atmosphere.
However, geothermal energy does naturally release some air pollutants (hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide); but they’re at levels considerably less than what’s pumped into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels. There’s also the possibility that seismic activity is triggered through the steam removal process if a power plant is near fault or fracture lines (therefore causing instability) — not to mention construction of the facility itself adding to environmental pollution. This is why maintaining responsible land use, construction practices and routine operations that reduce environmental risks should remain a priority for all geothermal power industry leaders/supporters.
Modern bioenergy that produces heat and electricity is derived from burning organic materials (biomass) like agricultural crops, trees, charcoal, manure and other organic waste. Although it’s technically renewable because sources for it can be replenished, it’s not ecologically sound or sustainable long-term.
The large-scale land use, deforestation and industrial systems required to manufacture biomass — along with its burning — emits greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Even though carbon dioxide levels from bioenergy remain lower than fossil fuels; it ultimately needs to be phased out to fully tackle climate change.
Overcoming bioenergy reliance will involve a collective worldwide effort to share research, knowledge and resources; particularly with countries that don’t currently have access to the infrastructure changes and new technologies needed to effectively implement more sustainable options.
Useful Article | How Colonialism’s Legacy Makes It Harder For Countries To Escape Poverty And Fossil Fuels Today – The Conversation
Embracing climate-friendly energy involves careful and thorough oversight. Reducing dependency on fossil fuels that facilitates a future based on sustainable energy requires implementation that mitigates and manages any ecological harm. Environmental progress will not be without its challenges; it’s up to world leaders, policymakers, renewable industry innovators (and us) to make sure that switching to power generated by nature protects our planet as much as it advances it.
Is your country meeting its renewable energy goals? What do you hope sustainable energy will look like in the future?
Tackling Climate Change – The Nature Conservancy
Our Pathways – Indigenous Climate Action
28 thoughts on “A Better Understanding of Climate-Friendly Energy”
Very interesting, I know a lot only about solar energy. So, it was nice to know about others. Thank you for sharing!
It’s great to hear this was informative!
I would love to see the ocean utilised. Great variety.
It certainly has a lot of potential; I hope if/when ocean energy is further utilized it’s done responsibly. Thanks for reading!
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This is a fantastic breakdown of renewable energy options, Molly! I often think about the fact that there are potential negative impacts of renewable energy, but have never looked in depth into it. It’s so important to have these realistic conversations as we’re embracing new forms of energy production.
Exactly; I think many people assume that renewable/sustainable means perfect and it is not the case. There will always be things to consider and weight the good against the bad — and use this understanding to mitigate as much potential harm as possible.
I would love to see more home use solar panels! I wish it were an option for renters. Apartments should invest in solar energy.
I agree! I have always rented and would love to find something with solar as an option.
We didn’t know that much about ocean energy and the potential it has. We’re going to do more research now. Thanks for sharing!
There is a lot of potential for it as a renewable resource; hopefully if it’s used more then any ecological harm implementing it is kept to an absolute minimum. Thanks for reading!
There are so many options! I wish it was more affordable to get solar pannels on a home. It was so expensive!
I hope that the cost comes down and it is more manageable; renewables is where we have to go and fossil fuels must be phased out so hopefully affordable alternatives become the norm!
I loved learning more about the different types of renewable energy. Ocean energy sounds very interesting and I hope it’ll be done responsibly! Thank you for sharing Molly!
It was great to research all the different types of energy; very illuminating!
Living in Iceland has really opened my eyes to climate friendly and renewable energy! I continue to be amazed by it and am so glad you’ve made a post highlighting the different types!
I have also contacted you about the climate change collective as it sounds something I could be interested in.
I can imagine that living there does really focus attention on climate care and sustainable energy — it would be great to have you as part of the collective! I’ve sent an email back and have asked that you be joined to the group Twitter chat where we co-ordinate all the posts, etc!
Such an informative post – thanks for sharing. I am on the lookout for sustainable alternatives and to do everything we can as a family to reduce our impact on the environment.
It’s great you are making a point of doing what you can to become more sustainable; any changes you can make will be worthwhile!
I definitely learned a lot more about climate friendly energy after reading this post. Thanks so much for sharing all the info!
I’m happy this proved useful; thanks for reading!
Thank you for sharing this guide Molly. I didn’t know much about climate-friendly energy 🙂
I am go glad this was informative and useful; thanks for reading!
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I wish government makes policies to reduce the cost of solar panels and actively encourage people to use it at homes and offices. Great informative and inspiring post 👍
Some governments are offering some programs like that but the cost remains higher than maybe a lot of people want to spend. I hope eventually prices on all renewables reduce and that they are environmentally managed.
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This is such an informative piece and I actually learned some things. I think it is so important for us to be having discussions. Thank you for sharing.
The more informed we are the better we can make decisions and support climate action — it was great researching for this post!
A very interesting post. There is a lot to think about with eco-friendly energy. There are a few opinions. Thank you for sharing.
There is definitely a lot to consider so I hope this information helps anyone wanting to find out more!