A Comparison of Wind, Solar and Geothermal Energy Sources

The wind, solar, and geothermal energies have two important things in common. They are non-polluting and do no deplete precious Earth resources. However, there are differences in their cost-effectiveness and environmental imprint.

The wind is actually a form of solar energy. Air moves as the sun warms the irregular terrain of Earth unevenly. Bodies of water and vegetation contributes to the flow. When gusts move the “propeller” of a wind turbine the kinetic energy generated is converted to mechanical force. This can be turned into the electricity we all depend on.

There are a couple things to consider before using gusts of air as an energy source. Some parts of the globe are much windier than others. When it comes to cost effectiveness, having more current is efficacious. The turbines have a detrimental effect on local wildlife as well. The spinning blades strike unsuspecting bats and birds causing them an untimely death.

Solar panels on homes and businesses are more and more commonplace. The sun’s rays are absorbed by structures called collectors. They can provide direct energy, or it is converted into other useful types of power. For example, flat-plate collectors absorb the sun’s heat directly into a liquid, usually water. Photovoltaic cells are capable of changing sunlight immediately into electricity.

Although capturing light from the sun does not harm the environment, production of collectors and storage containers can cause pollution. It also costs more to produce electricity from the sun than from oil based fuels. That is caused by of the cost of manufacturing solar equipment and is also the result of our planet’s rotation. Light can only be harvested a half of each day. In winter climates, daylight hours are even more limited.

The Earth’s core is extremely hot. Temperatures there can reach above 9,000 degrees F. This heat flows outward and warms the planet’s rock layer, or mantle. Most of the heated rock, called magma, remains underground. The force collected there (a geothermal reservoir) can be harvested as steam or hot water from the underground via direct-use systems, deep reservoirs to generate electricity, and geothermal heat pumps. Emissions and environmental imprint are minimal. The supply of geothermal dynamism is reliable and always available, increasing efficiency.

Though renewable power appears to cost nothing, harnessing, collecting, and transporting the energy is expensive. Structures built allowing renewable energy sources to perform work affect our environment for better or worse. The best type of renewable power to use depends on financial, environmental, and geographic considerations.