Around the world, renewable energy use is on the rise and these alternative energy sources could hold the key to combating climate change.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is generated from sources that naturally replenish themselves and never run out. The most common sources are: Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass. Over 80% of the total energy consumed by us humans is derived from fossil fuels, however, renewables are the fastest growing source of energy in the world.
First, it can combat climate change, because it creates no direct greenhouse gas emissions. The only emissions that they produce are indirect – meaning those that result from manufacturing parts, installation operation and maintenance. Still, even those are minimal
Second, renewable energy can decrease pollution and therefore reduce threats to our health. Wind, solar and hydroelectric systems create no air pollution emissions and geothermal and biomass energy systems emissions are much lower than non-renewable energy sources.
Third, renewable energy is a reliable source of power, because their sources are well … renewable and will never run out.
Once build, renewable facilities cost very little to operate and the fuel is often free. As a result the consumption prices tend to be stable over time.
While renewable energy has many advantages it is not without downsides.
It is difficult for renewable energy sources to generate power on the same large scale as traditional fossil fuels.
Building wind farms and dams can disrupt wildlife and migration patterns and lead to ecological destruction.
Both solar and wind energy are intermittent, they only generate a sufficient amount of power when the sun is shining, or when the wind is blowing.
Electricity storage systems can store excess energy for later use, however, they are often expensive.
What are electricity storage systems?
Those systems are the set of methods and technologies used to store electricity. The need for electricity storage is due to an imbalance in supply and demand on the electrical grid due primarily to an increase in renewable energy generation. These supply and demand discrepancies occur, because renewables are intermittent, even though consumers still require electricity in these renewable downtimes.
Currently grids distribute electricity in real time, meaning electricity is consistently produced to meet consumer demand.
Electricity storage gives grid operators the flexibility to use electricity that otherwise would be wasted. This grid flexibility is highly sought after and has the potential to transform how we produce and consume power and is therefore being widely researched and tested.
One of the remaining problems is that our grids distribution systems have to be redesigned, because they were created to transport electricity from centralized power stations. With renewables the grid have to accept power from many different points of input.
There are many different forms of electricity storage:
The most common of the storage methods are battery, pumped hydro, compressed air and flywheel.
Currently the largest difficulties in implementing electricity storage at the grid scale are the cost and the infancy of the technology.
While those technologies present some challenges, they also offer an environmentally friendly alternative to the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels. As advances in technologies keep progressing, renewable energy becomes more and more accessible, affordable and efficient. It presents a way to end climate change.