Advantages of Hydroelectric Energy

In earlier posts, we’ve discussed how sunlight and wind can be harnessed to produce electricity – without contributing to climate change – so it seems natural (pun intended) to wrap up our series on renewable energy resources with a talk about the advantages of hydroelectric energy: power generated by water.

In 2015, hydropower accounted for “16.6% of the world's total electricity and 70% of all renewable electricity.” It’s produced in 150 countries, is relatively inexpensive, and, in spite of its name, consumes no water, unlike coal or gas plants. And while wind and solar farms are relatively new additions to our landscape, there’s already a hydroelectric power plant that’s designated a national historic landmark: the Hoover Dam.

Of course, electricity wasn’t the first product of water power. Water was first reported to power grain mills in  Cabira, Asia Minor, before 71 BC. In 1621, America’s first grain mill was built in Jamestown, the first of many to accelerate a process that had traditionally been both arduous and time consuming.

The first use of water to generate electricity took place in 1878 in Northumberland, England. William Armstrong  made good use of the advantages of hydroelectric energy to power a single arc lamp in his art gallery. Fortunately, hydroelectric plants have become much more efficient and can generate electricity for more than just a single light bulb.

In fact, a “small” hydroelectric plant can produce enough electricity to power a small city or industrial plant. And the definition of a “small power plant” is changing to include those plants that can generate three times as much power. 

But this production is not without its risks. Like solar and wind, hydroelectricity is often at the mercy of the elements. Natural events like droughts can diminish the efficiency of a plant’s output.

In addition, hydroelectric dams can adversely affect adjacent ecosystems. Plants and animals are suddenly deprived of resources that originated upstream when dams are built.

Fortunately, these problems can be mitigated – if not eliminated – through careful planning and observation of marine life before, during, and after the construction of a hydroelectric dam.

As it stands, hydroelectric power represents 97 percent of all energy storage in the United States. That’s right: of all of the electricity we have stored in our country, 97% of it comes from water power.

How will we tap into the advantages of hydroelectric energy in the future? A study done by the U.S. Energy Department shows that by 2050 hydropower could:

When we think about renewable energy, we often think of wind turbines that stretch off for miles into the distance or solar farms with row upon row panels. But maybe the greatest tool we have in the creation of electricity – and the slow of climate change – is the source of life, the thing that covers over 70% of the Earth’s surface, and makes up 60% of the human body. 

Water. 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity#History
  2. https://www.energy.gov/articles/hydropower-vision-new-report-highlights-future-pathways-us-hydropower

If you’re a Clearview Energy customer, you can thank deregulation. But if you want to thank deregulation, you should travel back in time to the early 1990s and something calledEPACT92.

Many years ago, states were divided into regions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A single utility company was given exclusive rights over the supply and delivery of energy in each region.

Not only did gas and electric energy companies own the delivery infrastructure such as the pipes and wires used to transport energy to your home or business, but many electric energy utilities also owned the facilities used to generate electricity.

If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a monopoly.” You would be right.

The U.S. Congress thought so, too, and enacted the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT92). This legislation set goals, created mandates, and amended utility laws to increase clean energy use and improve overall energy efficiency in the United States.

It also put an end to the monopolies, building on the foundation set by the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978. If you were dissatisfied with your electricity service before EPACT92, there wasn’t much you could do about it, short of moving out of state. Now, after EPACT92, all you have to do is pick up the telephone.

The path to deregulation isn’t simple and is often fraught with bureaucracy, red tape, and special interest groups. But since 1992, twelve states have opted to deregulate, giving their citizens greater choice and flexibility in choosing a utility.

Granted, not all states handle the way the utilities can do business the same way. But if you live in, say, Ohio, you can choose who you want to provide your electricity.

When looking over all of the options, it can be difficult to see the differences between them. And, for the most part, there is no difference. Sometimes the rates or plans are identical, and you can’t just look at the electricity and judge one provider’s as better than the other.

The real difference is often the source: where the electricity comes from and how it was produced. While many providers rely on the same coal- or gas-powered utilities, there are a couple of providers who offer electricity generated by a different kind of source. A greener source.

In addition to the benefits to consumers, EPACT92 created opportunities for alternative forms of electricity generation. This paved the way for Wind, Solar, and Hydro forms to feed electricity into the grid – and for providers to offer this option to consumers.

Which is why Clearview Energy can provide you with 100% green energy. Of course, we don’t stop there. Clearview Energy is also committed to helping organizations within the community who are also fighting for a cleaner environment.

Though many may have viewed EPACT92 as a way to offer the American people a choice, it’s also helped benefit the planet. And that’s a choice we can all be proud to make.

One of the most powerful renewable resources we have is wind. The best thing about it is that it's unlimited and free. But how does the wind become a factor in renewable energy?

People have been using wind power for years, though in far simpler ways than today’s electricity generation. Wind powers sails on ships to propel them forward (without all of the rowing) or turned the sails on windmills, which was then used to mill grain or draw water.

But today’s wind turbines, those huge, white, spinning fans you’ll see in open fields or offshore areas, serve a more general purpose: they produce electricity.

Like all types of electricity production, wind energy has its advantages and disadvantages.

One of the primary disadvantages of wind power is the initial cost. It’s not cheap. Constructing and transporting the component of a wind turbine, with its tall base and long arms of the turbine, can be quite costly. Plus, there’s the cost of the land: wind farms require a lot of room in order to produce enough electricity to power entire communities. And spacious plots of land, away from the rest of the world come at a premium.

There are other disadvantages to consider, as well. There’s the aesthetic impact (Do wind turbines detract from the beautiful surroundings?), harm to wildlife (Are wind turbines a risk to flying animals?), the distance between wind farms and, well, everything else (Is the workforce in these remote areas great enough to keep them functioning?), and noise (Is the sound of a functional wind turbine enough to upset nearby residents?).

On the other hand, let’s consider the advantages. First and foremost, wind is free and unlimited. There’s no need for it to be mined, nor is there ever a possibility that we’ll run out of it.

Plus, wind currents aren’t compromised when we place a turbine in a field. There’s no less wind on the other side of the turbine.

And while the construction of wind turbines does have its initial costs, the price of maintaining those turbines and generating wind power is next to nothing.

And benefit, wind farms are usually built in low or unpopulated areas. There are no buildings to tear down and no traffic is being slowed.

Finally, and most importantly, wind power is clean and doesn’t cause pollution. We aren’t digging up acres of land, hundreds of feet deep, to look for wind. Wind turbines don’t emit air pollutants or greenhouse gases.

Compare that to burning fossil fuels for electricity, which means digging up wildlife reserves, and putting vulnerable plant and animal species at risk. And. of course, there’s the carbon dioxide that’s spewed into the air because of burning fossil fuels – creating greenhouse gases and accelerating climate change.

While the sticker shock of creating wind farms may be off putting, the reduced damage to our environment and the slower rate of climate change make wind power an viable, if not necessary, alternative to fossil fuels.

At Clearview Energy, we provide only 100% pure green energy, from sources like solar, hydro, and, yes, wind. If you’d like to support our green efforts, you can make the switch to Clearview Energy. You can make a difference and switching is easy-breezy.

We’re sure you’re familiar with Earth Day, the annual celebration of our environment. Held every April 22, Earth Day gives people an opportunity to reflect on the choices they make and how they can act to do even more for our planet. The Earth Day Network (the organization behind Earth Day efforts) hosts events around the world on April 22, bringing people together and shining a light on the different issues affecting our environment.

This year was a little different. Some in-person events went virtual while unfortunately many others were canceled. Like so many things this year, Earth Day was something we had to put on the back burner until next year. We hope.

Regardless whether there are events on Earth Day or not, the Earth Day Network continues its work to protect the environment, eliminate climate change, and ensure a clean and safe planet for future generations.

Many of the Earth Day Network’s efforts are educational, teaching others of the many simple choices they can make to clean up their planet. But the Earth Day Network also engages in political activity, sponsoring legislation and promoting candidates who back green agendas. In fact, the amount of work they do serves as a constant reminder that, in order to be successful, we can’t just focus on green living once a year. Earth Day must happen every day.

We’re optimistic Earth Day 2021 will take place as it has in the past. We also hope you’ll celebrate with us. But until then, when we celebrate over half a century of environmental awareness and action, we’d like for you to ask yourself, “What can I do to make every day Earth Day?”

As one of the nation’s largest suppliers of 100% green energy, we would be remiss if we didn’t recommend you make the switch to Clearview Energy. After all, what could be better for the environment than electricity generated through renewable sources, like Wind, Solar, and Hydro?

But, shameless plugs aside, the Earth Day Network has organized a number of other events and activities you can participate in, such as “Try a Simple Act of Green,” where you commit to making small changes in your everyday choices, or “Volunteer with Earthday.org,” where you sign up to receive updates on the latest resources, activities you can do at home or online, and ways to spread the word to your friends.

You can learn more about these and many other programs on the Earth Day Network site.

And, of course, there’s recycling, relying on mass transit, reducing your reliance on single-use plastics, and loads of other habits you can develop to help protect the environment and celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year.

These days, it seems like just about everybody is worried about saving money. And while there are some areas that you can completely eliminate (like diamond-studded anything), there are other expenses you still need to keep. For example, it’s probably not a good time to give up food.

Another necessity is your home energy. You need light, you need water, and you need heat or AC (or, in some parts of the country, you need both – on the day). But maybe you don’t need that much light, water, heat, or AC.

Here are a few tips to help you keep your expenses low. And none of these will leave you in the dark

•When purchasing appliances make sure they have the Energy Star seal of approval. These appliances are built to be energy efficient.  For example, Energy Star-certified dryers use about 20% less energy than conventional models without sacrificing features or performance, saving $215 in energy costs over its lifetime.1Energy Star approved light bulbs last at least 15 times longer and save about $50 in electricity costs over its lifetime – and that’s per lightbulb.2

•Make sure you have a digit thermostat so that you can control its usage and even program it to save energy. The ideal temperature setting in winter is 68 degrees Fahrenheit (lower when you are out of the house) and in summer 76 degrees Fahrenheit (higher when you are out of the house).

•Close doors and windows when using your AC or heat and block off the vents to unused rooms. There’s really no need to keep an empty room at cold storage levels. Save that energy for the parts of the house you do use.

•Set your ceiling fans to run clockwise in the winter and counter-clockwise in the summer. This pushes hot air down in the winter while creating a breeze during the summer.

•Turn off lights, computers, and small appliances when not in use. In fact, unplug computers and small appliances you don’t plan on using for a while. Though they may be turned off, they still may be drawing power. (That little clock on the microwave isn’t exactly lighting itself.)

•And if you’re concerned about the overall efficiency of your home, the government’s Energy Star website has information so you can do your own DIY Home Assessment. You’llfind it right here.

It goes without saying that times are tough, but we hope these tips will help lighten your burden. And, what’s more, these tips mean you’ll be using less energy, which means not only to they help your budget, they’ll also help the environment.

You’ve probably seen those large metal and glass panels installed atop office buildings or houses. Or maybe you’ve seen fields filled with these panels, all angled directly at the sun. It may come as no surprise that these are solar panels and, through some sort of scientific wizardry, they’re used to create electricity out of sunlight.

But how do they work? How expensive are they? And what good are they?

There are actually a number of different kinds of solar energy panels, like solar heating, solar thermal energy, solar architecture, molten salt power plants, or artificial photosynthesis panels that perform different solar related-tasks, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus solely on those called “photovoltaic panels (PV),” which convert sunlight into electricity.

The way they work is fairly straightforward. These systems consist of the solar panels (which are made up of solar modules, each consisting of a number of solar cells) which convert sunlight into electricity. A solar inverter then takes that electricity and converts it from a direct to an alternating current.

Not long ago, PV panels were an expensive proposition, making them cost-prohibitive for most households and businesses. But in the last few years, the cost of PV panels has dropped by a factor of 10 in some regions. In sunnier areas, solar energy sourced from PV panels may be the cheapest source of electricity.1

But solar panels don’t just work for creating large amounts of electricity. Solar panels can also be form-fitted for smaller applications, which you’ve no doubt seen, like watches, calculators (yes, they’re still around), outdoor lighting, and traffic signs and signals.

Once installed, solar systems generate only insignificant amounts of greenhouse gases. And as long as the sun is in the sky, they’ll continue to generate power. Plus, they don’t require mining or destruction of the earth to function. They won’t spill dangerous chemicals, so they’re not a threat to the ground or water. They don’t emit any form of exhaust, so they don’t threaten the air. And since they don’t harm the earth, air, or water, they pose no threat to public health.

As for the future of solar energy, here’s what Forbes magazine had to say:

“By 2030, solar will make up 20% of U.S. electricity generation. This will be buoyed by progress in wind energy, storage, and other clean energy sources. And while our goal is attainable, it is not inevitable.

“If we’re successful, the payoff will be enormous. By 2030, we’ll drive $345 billion into the U.S economy and offset 35% of all electricity sector emissions. The industry will employ more people than every U.S. company except Walmart. Americans will enjoy lower energy bills, greater energy choice, and cleaner air.”2

The future looks pretty bright indeed.

Companies offering natural gas like to make a pretty bold claim: it’s clean burning. But do a little digging and you’ll find another word adjacent to this claim:relatively.

While energy sourced from natural gas is cleaner than energy sourced from coal, natural gas is not truly “clean.”  A new, efficient natural gas power plant emits around 50 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) during combustion compared with a typical coal-based power plant (National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). 50 percent is pretty impressive, isn’t it?

But this is almost like saying, “I’m only going to eat one gallon of ice cream tonight because that’s a far healthier choice than eating ten gallons of ice cream tonight.” True, but wouldn’t it be preferable to eat zero gallons of ice cream?

And CO2 isn’t the only gas responsible for global warming. Methane is another, more potent greenhouse gas, and it’s 80% more effective at trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere than CO2. And can you guess what emits methane?

Yup, it’s natural gas.

Some may argue that while CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for about 10,000 years from now, methane has a much shorter life span, about 20 years. But methane’s negative impact on the environment is about 120 times as powerful over its 20-year lifespan. It does a lot of damage in a much shorter period of time.

But it’s not just natural gas’s byproducts that are of concern. The process by which natural gas is extracted, known as “fracking, can be harmful to the environment, as well.

What is fracking? Much of our natural gas comes through the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” In this process, companies drill boreholes deep into the earth and inject liquid into the subterranean rock at very high pressure. This forces open rock fissures and releases gas from within the rock or reservoirs below.

One of the biggest problems with this is that fracking can contaminate groundwater supplies if it’s not done properly.

Fracked gas is typically found pretty deep in the earth – much further down than the water table. But the boreholes carrying the gas back up to the surface travel straight through the water-bearing rocks, called aquifers, where many of us get our drinking water. The injected fracking fluid often contains dangerous chemicals that no one would want to drink – and if the borehole is not properly cased, those chemicals can escape into groundwater.

And it’s important to remember that natural gas development is itself far from pollution-free.

“Some areas where drilling occurs have experienced increases in concentrations of hazardous air pollutants and two of the six criteria pollutants — particulate matter and ozone plus its precursors — regulated by the EPA because of their harmful effects on health and the environment,” the Union of Concerned Scientists reports. “Exposure to elevated levels of these air pollutants can lead to adverse health outcomes, including respiratory symptoms, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”

Exposure to these pollutants can be particularly damaging to very young children.

“Given the profound sensitivity of the developing brain and the central nervous system, it is very reasonable to conclude that young children who experience frequent exposure to these pollutants are at particularly high risk for chronic neurological problems and disease,” the Center for Environmental Health’s Ellen Webb, a researcher on the neurological and neurodevelopmental effects of chemicals linked to unconventional oil and gas operations, told the Guardian last year.

So, sure, natural gas may be “relatively cleaner burning,” but it doesn’t come without its costs, some of which most people are unwilling to pay.

But there are some energy sources that are far safer because they don’t burn anything, namely Wind, Solar, and Hydro. They’re also the same sources Clearview Energy relies on to power your home or business.

This means a switch to Clearview Energy isn’t a “relatively cleaner” choice – it’s virtually spotless.

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