Green energy is touted to be ‘the next big thing’, and it is anticipated that converting to alternative renewable sources of energy will reduce atmospheric emissions and thus benefit the environment as well as our health. Yet, some people are still rather skeptical, largely due to misinformation and myths surrounding green energy. Let’s examine some of these myths a little closer.
Myth 1: Solar Energy Systems are not Effective in Cold Climates
Solar photovoltaic systems work in any area no matter what the climate as long as the sun shines. In fact, they are known to be even more efficient in areas that have a cold climate as they harness sunlight rather than heat from the sun, so temperature is irrelevant.
Myth 2: Solar Energy Systems do not Work on Cloudy Days
While it is true that concentrated solar technology is best suited to areas that experience a significant amount of direct sunshine, like that experienced in the Southwest, solar photovoltaic systems are effective even in overcast conditions. The reason that solar panels can still generate energy from the sun on cloudy days is because they harness sunlight rather than heat, and even though there are clouds blocking out the sun, there is still ample light.
Myth 3: Wind Turbines are an Eco-friendly Source of Green Energy
Wind energy is one of the cleanest energy sources, as it produces no toxins or atmospheric emissions. However, it does have an impact on wildlife. According to a study conducted by USDA in 2005, wind turbines kill approximately 28,500 bats and birds annually. However, these figures are relatively low compared to the estimated 130 million birds killed by overhead power lines every year; the 550 million birds killed by collisions with buildings, windows or cellphone towers; and the millions upon millions of birds and other wildlife killed by vehicles, domestic cats, and pesticides. This by no means justifies the deaths caused by wind turbines – these impacts should be noted and mitigating measures taken to minimize the hazards posed to bats and birds. However, small scale wind turbines for home use have a negligible impact on birds, and are a much more environmentally sustainable option.
Myth 4: Hydroelectric Dams are an Eco-friendly Source of Green Energy
Hydroelectric dams utilize the water cycle to generate electricity by harnessing kinetic energy created as water flows downstream. Hydro-power is generally considered to be a clean and green source of energy, but in fact it is neither truly clean nor truly green. Firstly, while it is true that hydro-power does not produce carbon emissions, rotting vegetation that accumulates on the dam floor behind the dam wall releases significant amounts of methane during the decomposition process – methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Secondly, erecting large dams that control the flow of water downstream can have severe ecological impacts that negatively affect fish, wildlife and local human populations. With more than 250 hydroelectric projects in the Northwest alone, one has to consider the cumulative ecological impact of hydroelectric dams, and question whether all these dams are really necessary.
Myth 5: Geothermal Heat Pumps Don’t Work in Cold Conditions
If you think that geothermal heat is an energy source that is only available to people who live near a larva flow, think again. While standard air source heat pumps tend to perform poorly at extremely low temperatures, geothermal heat pumps are not air-to-air heat pumps, but rather pump heat that is retained underground. Even when air temperatures drop below freezing, the temperature beneath the ground remains constant at around 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequently, geothermal heat pumps are not dependent on air temperature, and will not lose their efficiency when the temperature outside drops below freezing. No matter whether outside temperatures are 10 degrees or 90 degrees, they will perform just as well, keeping you warm and cozy.
Future of Green Energy
Alternative green energy sources are generally recognized as being renewable sources of natural energy that produce no toxins or atmospheric emissions. However, these do sometimes come with other environmental costs. To ensure that they live up to their reputation of being green sources of energy, these environmental costs need to be recognized so that mitigating measures can be implemented to reduce their impact. By doing so, we will ensure that they can indeed provide a renewable source of energy to power our green homes well into the future with minimal impact on our ecological systems and wildlife, making them a truly sustainable alternative source of energy in the long run.
Featured Image By fb foto|Fotograf [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons