To help you choose, we’ve picked out the top 10 renewable energy sources, rated in terms of both eco-friendliness and efficiency.
As an energy source, nuclear reactions are incredibly efficient. It’s a very cheap source compared to fossil fuels or other renewable energy sources, so why does it only make number 10 on our list?
Well, other than the fact it’s not something you could do yourself at home, we’ve all heard of disasters like Chernobyl and the more recent nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan, brought on by an earthquake and tsunami.
Nuclear energy may be renewable but it’s far from perfectly safe, and if something goes wrong the resulting damage to the environment could be far, far worse than sticking to non-renewable energy!
Sun, wind and even waves come and go, but one thing’s always a constant and that’s the tides. Pulled by the Moon’s gravitational force, we can harness the energy of this moving water with tidal stream generators (like an underwater wind turbine).
The problem? At present, it only accounts for a tiny percentage of the world’s energy production, with the first underwater ‘tidal farm’ being opened in 2010. If you know your stuff you could build a tidal stream generator at home, but only if you happen to live right on the coastal edge!
Solar power is probably the best known of all the renewable energy sources, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best. An incredibly fast-growing industry, solar energy is easy to install at home but is only really suitable for those living in a climate with permanent sunshine.
Otherwise, even covering your rooftop with solar panels will only provide you with a fraction of the total energy needed to run your home, so you’ll need to rely on other sources anyway.
7. Natural Gas
Natural gas, or ‘biogas’, is a direct substitute for fossil fuels. The gas is naturally produced and is pretty safe – in case of a spill it disperses very quickly. However, its use does still produce greenhouse gases so renewable it may be, but eco-friendly it is not.
Similar to natural gas, the term ‘biomass’ simply refers to biological material that can be turn in the place of fossil fuels like coal and oil. It includes wood, a fuel that’s been used throughout history, but also things such as hemp, sugarcane and eucalyptus.
Again, it causes greenhouse gases so it’s certainly not the best renewable energy source out there if you want to help the environment, but its usage does reduce dependence on other fuels; the New Hope Power Partnership alone uses sugar cane and wood waste, reducing our oil consumption for fuel by one million barrels a year.
We’ve all seen wind farms and whilst some think they look pretty cool, the general consensus is that they’re eyesores, ruining the natural beauty of our planet.
On the plus-side however, they make use of a 100% sustainable energy source – wind. With no nasty by-products, wind energy is very eco-friendly and hence massively popular with Denmark leading the way at 19% of its national energy coming from this source.
However, as with solar energy, you need to have the basic product there in order to create energy, so if you don’t live in a very windy area there’s little point setting up one of these on your rooftop!
Geothermal energy is incredibly efficient, and has been taken advantage of since the Roman times whose famous public baths and even their home heating systems relied on geothermal heat to warm them up.
It produces cheap energy without by-products, but the problem is that this source is pretty limited to areas around the Earth’s tectonic plate boundaries. Another one you won’t be able to do at home.
To produce electricity, what better ingredient to use than... electricity! Radiant energy is naturally occurring in the environment and simply needs harnessing, or it can be produced on demand by a process called fractionation.
It’s a little trickier to produce and handle than standard electricity, but performs the same task at less than 1% of the cost!
Hydroelectricity is produced thanks to the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It creates absolutely zero waste and is the most widely used renewable energy source, accounting for around one fifth of the world’s electricity sources.
The only downside is the giant dams which can be pretty unsightly, although there are those who think they’re beautiful to look at!
Coming in at number 1 is this fantastic renewable energy source, hydrogen! This wonderful little atom is the most abundant energy source on the planet and can be burnt to produce a super efficient energy source with next to no pollution – certainly not at a level that could upset the natural balance of our environment.
It’s a pretty expensive energy source right now but thanks to recent innovations such as hydrogen powered vehicles it’s becoming both cheaper and more common. We think that this truly is the renewable energy source of the future!
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