As climate change continues to be a worrying issue for global leaders and activist groups and the quest for environmentally-friendly forms of energy continues, many of us have probably heard about the importance of switching to solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy. But how do these newer forms of energy work – and why are better than their traditional counterparts?
Hydroelectricity is one of the most ubiquitous forms of sustainable energy and one of the oldest. Large-scale dams can produce enough electricity to entire power cities. The largest one, the Three Gorges Dam in China, can produce more than 88.2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy per year. For context, that’s enough electricity to power a small country. Hydroelectric dams use kinetic energy, the energy of motion, from flowing water to push rotors connected to generators. These generators can then produce electricity for the power grid. Wind energy works similarly, but rather than the kinetic energy coming from running water, it is sourced from power gusts of wind. When wind causes the wind turbine to spin, generators can turn kinetic energy into electricity.
Solar energy works differently from hydroelectricity and wind turbines because it utilizes energy from light rather than motion. When ultraviolet light from the sun hits solar energy cells, the photoelectric effect causes electrons to become charged and knocked out of position. These charged electrons are then sent through an electric circuit, generating electricity to be used in homes, buildings, and even in cities’ power grids. Solar energy is poised to be one of the most commonly found forms of renewable energy. The European Union proposes bills to ensure that all new buildings on the continent come with solar panels installed.
However kinetic energy, like the type used in hydroelectric and wind energy, isn’t entirely out of vogue yet. Although solar energy primarily harnesses light and radiation energy to create electricity from the sun, storing that energy is just as important. Because the sun doesn’t shine all the time – and many places in the world don’t get much yearly sunlight, storing whatever solar energy is harvested is incredibly important. This is where kinetic energy storage solutions come in.
With traditional batteries being environmentally unfriendly in their ways, leading to corrosion and decay of dangerous chemicals, Amber Kinetics found a new solution to energy storage – the flywheel. Flywheels work by converting energy from an initial source into kinetic energy offering an efficient and sustainable alternative for storage.
From huge dams that can power countries to solar panels that come attached to houses, new forms of renewable energy technologies are being invented every day. It’s up to governments all over the world to implement them now.