We live in an interconnected world that affords more people than ever access to clean water, food, education, and, of course, electricity. These modern comforts are a wonderful boost to our standard of living and allow us to pursue greater accomplishments and opportunities than our ancestors.
With all of this innovation comes a shared and collective knowledge about our current condition as a species. This is sometimes obvious, with the increasing concern around climate change and the need to make productive choices that solar power benefits future generations. At other times, our collective knowledge may seem complete, or even comprehensive, when we are actually lacking the fundamental knowledge necessary to understand a given situation.
But what does any of this have to do with solar power and renewability? It may not seem like very much at first glance, but new technologies often have a way of becoming surprisingly relevant in a short period of time.
What Does Renewable Mean?
Renewable energy is energy that reproduces naturally in the environment within a particular time span. Solar energy is considered renewable because it captures energy from the sun, which is a giant thermonuclear power source. Oil and natural gas are not considered renewable resources because they are made below the Earth’s crust in extreme pressure and temperature conditions over hundreds of thousands of years.
Renewable energy can make some people upset as they argue that oil and natural gas are renewable over a long enough period. But it is exactly this stipulation that makes them non-renewable. With our current rate of consumption, we will exhaust the world supply of these resources long before these sources can replenish themselves.
What Other Resources Are Considered Renewable?
While solar power is certainly one of the most intriguing energy sources, it is not the only form of renewable energy. Wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, and geothermal technologies all harness different components of the energy flowing around the Earth. Each of these has drawbacks and advantages just like solar energy, but most are also considered “green” options.
What Are Green Technologies?
While using renewable energy is the only path forward for advancing civilization, it cannot be the only stipulation. We must also ensure that our new power sources are made responsibly without further damaging the environment or introducing new pollutants or hazards to the natural world.
Using hydroelectric dams as an example, we can see that they are clearly renewable. Dams force a large amount of water through generator-powering turbines, usually at the highest point in a river system. However, they have not considered green technology as building them often leads to the destruction of many natural habitats. Plus, their effects continue long after they enter service as they change migratory patterns and affect upstream locales.
Solar energy, on the other hand, does not negatively impact the environment during the production of photovoltaic (PV) cells. There is some waste associated with the manufacturing process, of course, but research shows that the lack of pollution in service negates this just months after entering into service.