Clean Energies – Concept, importance and examples

We explain what clean energy is, why it is important and what it is. Also, examples and what are polluting energies.

Clean energies
Clean energies seek to have a minimum ecological impact.

What are clean energies?

It is known as clean energies or green energies to those forms of obtaining energy that produce minimal or no ecological impact on the environment, during its extraction and generation processes. That is, it is about ecological or eco-friendly energies.

In practice, there is still no way to obtain usable energy that is absolutely harmless in environmental terms. However, some pollute much more than others and leave an indelible mark on their presence in the ecosystem and on the health of living beings. Those that seem to be safer and more reliable in ecological terms, are those that we consider as clean.

Although many times they are erroneously used as synonyms, clean energies should not be confused with renewable or sustainable energies. By the latter we understand those that do not exhaust the raw material of their process or that do so so slowly that nature is given room to replace it. Some of these renewable energies can be clean because they contaminate the environment minimally, but not necessarily all the energies that are clean come from renewable sources.

In particular, clean energies they often use the strength and heat of natural elements, using them as a channel to generate electricity usable in homes and human industries. And they do so by causing the least possible impact on their respective ecosystems, which does not mean that they do not have any negative impact.

Importance of clean energy

Climate change and global warming are phenomena that have begun to take shape since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (17th century). Today there is an urgent need to develop and implement an efficient but sustainable energy production system And don’t wipe out the planet in the process.

Our world requires more and more energy every day, but fossil fuels and nuclear power pose a threat rather than a solution, given its consequences on human health and on the world’s climate balance. In this context, clean energy is extremely necessary.

What are clean energies?

clean energies
Wind energy is generated by the action of the force of the wind.

The clean energies that are used the most today are related to the main four elements present in nature: air (wind, wind energy), water (hydraulic / hydroelectric energy), fire (sun, solar energy), and the earth (geothermal energy).

  • Wind power. It is that generated by taking advantage of the passage of the wind through wind turbines, which are capable of transforming the movement of air into electrical energy. When air passes with force over the blades of special mills, they are activated by rotating gears and a dynamo, thus generating electric current. Despite being one of the least expensive clean energies, wind power has some ecological disadvantages: it requires extensive fields of mills to generate a relatively small current load, thus spoiling the landscape and sometimes generating annoying noise. Furthermore, the impact of mills and turbines on the environment is still uncertain.
  • Hydraulic / hydroelectric energy. It is based on the production of energy thanks to water, taking advantage of the gravitational potential energy and the kinetic energy of large bodies of moving water, such as rivers or natural falls (waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls, etc.) through a system of turbines. mobilized by the liquid in its path. This type of energy has been used for centuries, first on a small scale with water mills, and now on a larger scale in hydroelectric power plants.
    Although it is a safe and constant source of energy at a relatively cheap price (the costs of the initial investment that must be made are offset in the future), this source of energy also has some disadvantages: the construction of dams generates alterations in the natural course of the rivers, changing the currents and the temperature of the water, which considerably affects the ecosystem, including the aquatic fauna and flora. Additionally, flooding can occasionally occur due to modifications made to the terrain during construction.
  • Solar energy. It is based on the use of solar radiation, through specialized technologies that allow the photons from the sun to be captured and transformed into electrical energy. There are three main ways in which solar energy can be harnessed: using photovoltaic panels (which take light and convert it into electricity), using solar collectors (which allow solar energy to be captured and used to produce thermal energy, that is, to heat devices that are powered from this source) and using concentrated solar power plants (which indirectly convert solar energy into electrical energy, based on a thermodynamic cycle).
    Solar energy is a good alternative as it is inexhaustible and also clean. However, it also has its downsides. First of all, the cost of solar panels is still very high compared to other forms of energy available. But also, with current technology it is not possible to capture solar radiation at night or when the sky is very cloudy.
  • Geothermal energy. It is obtained by taking advantage of the heat inside the Earth (where the pressure and temperature are high), to make water boil and power the turbines of a generator through steam, or to redirect the heat of the gas to give it other uses. It has the disadvantage of requiring thermal reservoirs or geysers, that is, a minimum of volcanic activity (so it cannot be used in any region), and geothermal activity has sometimes been linked to microseisms. In addition, the costs for the exploitation and obtaining of this type of energy are high.

Examples of clean energy

clean energies
Tidal power station on the River Rance in Brittany, France.

Some examples of these energies are:

  • The Rawson wind farm. Located in Chubut (Argentine Patagonia, where the continuous wind that sweeps the plain is used), it is the largest wind farm in Argentina and is among the most important in Latin America.
  • The Guri reservoir. Located in the Bolívar state of Venezuela, it is the second largest lake body in the South American nation, where the Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric Plant is installed, which provides electricity to almost the entire country.
  • Tidal power station on the Rance River. Located on the estuary of the Rance River (in Brittany, France) it is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world. It is capable of satisfying 9% of the energy needs of the region from its 24 turbines.
  • Villanueva solar plant. Located in Coahuila, Mexico, it is the largest photovoltaic plant in Latin America and has 2,300,000 panels that move throughout the day from east to west following the sun.
  • The Nesjavellir geothermal power plant. Located in Iceland, it is the second largest in the country and provides electricity and hot water to the capital district.

Polluting energies

Polluting or dirty energies are those that, during their production, distribution and consumption process, have high environmental costs and causing considerable environmental damage. These energies can have devastating consequences for human and animal life, and for the planet’s climate balance. They are usually obtained from the burning of fossil fuels (such as coal, gas and oil), although there are also others that are based on other sources, such as nuclear energy.