What Energy Solutions Are Most Environmentally Friendly?

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The climate is warming because of human activities, namely fossil fuel usage.

Scientists and governing bodies have pushed renewable energy solutions to reduce the population’s carbon footprint. While better than fossil fuels, each comes with pros and cons.

Which green option is the most environmentally friendly? 

Why Environmentally Friendly Power Is Necessary

People depend on energy to keep the lights on and heat homes during winter. While necessary, the rising electricity demand harms the environment.

Consuming electricity requires burning oil, gas and coal, thus leading to harmful emissions. The United Nations (UN) says fossil fuels account for 75% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2). 

How do green energy solutions fix the problem? These resources generate much fewer emissions and are more environmentally friendly. The European Union plans to reach 70% renewable electricity by 2030, reducing GHG emissions by 55%.

Solar, wind and other cleaner sources emit few or no harmful gases, making them more suitable than fossil fuels.

The switch to renewable energy is rapidly approaching for the planet’s benefit. 

What Energy Solutions Are Most Environmentally Friendly?

Moving away from fossil fuels means replacing them with renewable energy solutions that fulfill demand. These four are the most environmentally friendly options. 

1. Hydropower

splashing water at dam
Photo by Flávia Sandriany on Pexels.com

Hydropower is one of the best solutions for a clean and dependable energy source. These systems are typically on or near water, taking advantage of natural aquatic bodies.

The largest hydropower plant in the U.S. is Grand Coulee Dam, contributing 35% of the power supply in the Pacific Northwest. The Western United States contains numerous hydropower facilities, including the Glen Canyon Dam and the Chief Joseph Dam. 

Pros

  • Reliability: Water movement is consistent and provides around-the-clock power for hydropower dams. 
  • Consistency: Hydropower is suitable year-round and doesn’t depend on the season or sunlight for power generation. 
  • Minimal emissions: Hydropower dams produce fewer GHG emissions than other energy sources because their operations don’t require much power. 

Cons

  • Expensive investments: While hydropower operations are generally inexpensive, the plants may require significant investment to build. 
  • Drought conditions: Hydropower becomes vulnerable during droughts because its power generation can drop. 

2. Hydrogen

hydrogen molecules against blue background

While building energy is crucial, the world must also focus on renewable power sources for transportation. Moving vehicles away from oil and gas will reduce this sector’s GHG emissions.

What’s the alternative for cars and trucks? Hydrogen fuel has entered the mix as a potential fossil fuel replacement. Modern cars have wielded hydrogen combustion engines and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). 

Pros

Cons

  • Storage: Storing hydrogen can be complicated because it’s expensive and requires specific conditions. For instance, it must be in a high-pressure environment. 
  • Danger: Hydrogen is volatile and flammable, requiring special care and attention to ensure it doesn’t cause harm. 

3. Solar 

black solar panel near calm body of water

Solar power is among the most prominent energy solutions worldwide due to its accessibility. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) says solar power generation in the U.S. should increase by 75% between 2024 and 2025.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels harness the sun’s power and store it inside batteries. This energy source lets people live off the grid and use renewable resources.

Advancing technology will make solar more efficient and viable for users. 

Pros

  • Affordability: Solar used to be expensive but has become more affordable. Since 1975, the cost has dipped from $125 per watt to just 26 cents per watt.
  • Grid connection: You can use solar power for your home or sell it to your utility company for energy bill credits. 

Cons

  • Sunlight dependency: Solar power depends on the sun, so areas with fewer sunny days may struggle to generate enough energy.

4. Wind

white windmill

Wind is another common power source, with land and sea turbines generating tremendous power worldwide.

The EIA says wind energy has significantly grown since the turn of the century, increasing from 6 billion kilowatt-hours in 2000 to 434 billion in 2022. It produces about 10.3% of all utility-scale electricity generation in the U.S., making it a pivotal player for environmentally friendly energy solutions. 

Pros

  • Clean energy: Wind turbines don’t produce GHGs, making them one of the cleanest energy sources. 
  • Renewable: The permanent existence of wind makes turbines an excellent renewable energy source. 

Cons

  • Environmental harm: Onshore and offshore turbines can harm birds and disrupt marine ecosystems. 
  • Intermittency: Wind speeds are unpredictable, so some days might not provide enough gusts for energy production. 
  • Remote access: Wind turbines are often distant from the population centers using them, thus requiring more infrastructure to transfer the energy. 

Finding the Most Efficient Energy Solutions 

Transitioning to renewable energy solutions is critical for the planet’s future. Humans should use environmentally friendly resources to ensure future generations live healthy lives. These four sources demonstrate the potential of renewable power.

  • Emily Newton

    Emily Newton is a freelance writer with over six years of experience writing environmental articles. She’s also the Editor-In-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine sharing the latest science and technology innovations. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading a new book or building a Lego set.

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