Earth and our solar system provide us with renewable energy sources like solar and wind. When harvested in the right locations, the sun’s rays and wind can be converted to electricity. In California, solar and wind farms have been erected in places like San Lois Obispo and Tehachapi that are capable of producing a great deal of power. The Alta Wind Energy Centre in Tehachapi is the largest wind farm in the world and it capable of producing 1,020MW. Additionally, the Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo is one of the world’s largest solar farms and is capable of producing 550MW.
Solar energy itself can be used to generate electricity through a principle known as the photoelectric effect. When the sun’s rays strike a surface specially treated to receive them, the resulting excitation is captured and converted into electricity for any number of commercial and residential uses. Heat from the sun is also responsible for driving the winds on our planet, and those winds can be harnessed by wind turbines, which in turn power generators for electricity.
Solar heating also causes water to evaporate, and this water returns to earth in the form of rain or snow, which can then be used as a source for hydroelectric power. All the plants growing in our forests and elsewhere use sunlight for their development, and when this biomass begins to decay in forests, it can be harvested and used as a fuel source for the production of electricity.
There are a number of ways that renewable energy sources provide tremendous benefit to our environment, and to humans as well. By their very nature, renewable energy sources constitute a virtually inexhaustible supply of power, and with an ever increasing thirst for power from individuals and businesses on earth, this becomes a crucial point.
As specific industries grow around renewable energy sources, a great many new job opportunities have been created and a vast array of new products have come onto the market which are powered by renewable energy sources. These two facts contribute to growing the economies of nations which make the most use of renewable sources, because they are all new jobs and products. One of the most notable job creators is Tesla, as they strive to invent new products powered by solar technology and have grown from 899 employees in 2010 to 14,000 in 2016.
With several alternatives for electrical energy now available, energy prices have become more stable and more competitive, because there are more options to choose from, rather than the relative monopoly utility companies enjoyed in the past. In addition, renewable energy sources represent a more reliable way of generating electricity because their power source is seemingly endless. Both the environment and the inhabitants of Earth benefit tremendously from widespread use of renewable energy sources, with better health enjoyed by humans and less pollution of the environment.
Cogeneration is an efficient way to generate electricity. The conventional method calls for burning a fossil fuel in an enormous furnace to release heat energy, which is then used to boil water, which makes steam. That steam powers a turbine which drives a generator, and the generator is what actually produces electricity. However, the water used to make steam and drive the turbines must be cooled back down before being released into the atmosphere, which constitutes an enormous waste.
In cogeneration, the big energy savings comes from capturing the hot steam after it drives the turbines. From there, it’s piped to locations where it can be re-used to power turbines. Also called CHP (combined heat and power), cogeneration makes use of the hot water which is normally wasted and supplies it to local businesses and residences as a heat source. When CHP power plants are setup instead of conventional ones, they use different heat engines to produce the steam which drives turbines to be even more efficient, and create the maximum capture of energy.
A CHP power plant typically consists of an installation with an integrated power system that has three primary components: a unit which receives biomass and feedstock for preparation, a component for converting biomass into steam power generation, and the component for converting the steam into electrical power.
The materials used as input to the entire process are generally organic residues from forest production, coupled with food and fiber byproducts. These materials can include corn stalks, wheat straw, rice husks, sawdust, forest residue, and mill residues. Feedstock is considered to be those forests and grasses specifically grown for energy production, such as switch grass, hybrid poplars, and hybrid willows. In order to make the whole process to be economically viable, biomass sources must be relatively inexpensive to harvest, transport, and store prior to conversion into electrical energy.
Using forest biomass as a fuel source has great appeal because it makes use of materials that would be wasting away in forests and interfering with new growth. In many cases, one of the biggest expenses that Forest Management organizations incur annually is the removal of such forest biomass, as a means of reducing the number of forest fires, as well as the severity of such fires once they are underway. Putting that biomass to productive use constitutes a double savings – it helps to limit forest clutter and the fires which might result, and it can be used to fuel the generation of electricity.