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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Top 5 Cool Things About Clean Energy You (Probably) Don’t Know

Photo of a dog wearing sunglasses

There’s a lot of buzz around clean energy these days. As the climate warms, and dramatic weather events increase, even more people are interested in decreasing their carbon footprint. In fact, most Americans—regardless of what political party they affiliate with—support developing alternative energy strategies over fossil fuels. 

Many people understand the general concepts behind clean energy: Solar panels collect the sun’s rays and transform them into electricity, and wind turbines harvest the kinetic energy of moving air.  But, that’s just the basics. There’s so much more to know about these renewable energy technologies, so we’ve dedicated this blog to sharing some less commonly known fun-facts. 

So, without further delay, here are the “Top 5 Cool Things About Clean Energy that You (Probably) Don’t Know! 

Solar Panels Work When It’s Cloudy 

The fossil fuel and coal industries have a lot invested in convincing people that solar panels only work in perfectly clear weather. While solar panels are most efficient and effective on sunny days, even on cloudy days they can operate at between 10 and 25 percent of their optimal capacity. Every little bit of energy generated by clean sources helps combat climate change driven by carbon dioxide pollution. 

In fact, there are some advantages to cloudy days when it comes to solar operations. During cloudy days, the panels aren’t as hot as during full sun, which helps prevent solar panels from overheating. Cloudiness can also help reflect or magnify sunlight, and solar panels actually function better than during hot sunnier days. That’s part of what makes famously cloudy places like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco so successful with solar energy. 

Renewable Energy is as Efficient as Fossil Fuels 

Wind and solar farms operate more efficiently than fossil fuel energy plants do. That’s because gas, oil, and nuclear make so much heat during production, while wind and solar do not. As one expert puts it, for fossil fuel sources“…it’s arguable that we are paying for 300% of the fuel but only getting 20% to 50% out of it.” 

That said, the notion of efficiency is a complex topic. The argument regarding renewables and efficiency may actually be overrated because, “with wind and solar, marginal operating costs are much cheaper than coal and gas plants.” 

Meanwhile, every day, scientists are working to make renewable energy even more efficient because it’s the right thing to do.

Wind Turbines Are Not Noisy 

How loud is a wind turbine, really? Depending on the size—small turbines spin faster and are usually a bit louder—wind turbines at maximum operation produce between 45 and 55 decibels of sound

To put that in perspective, the background noise of residential areas is between 40 and 45 decibels. A normal conversation takes place at about 60 decibels. Your refrigerator produces around 40 decibels, and your air conditioner produces between 50 and 75 decibels. 

Wind turbines are usually at least three football fields from the nearest house, meaning that for the vast majority of people, wind farms are nearly silent. And wind researchers are working to make them even quieter. 

Solar and Wind Farm Land Serve Multiple Purposes 

Increasingly, developers are creating pollinator-friendly solar farms. That means that the land around the solar and wind installations are planted with native local flora to attract bees and other pollinators like butterflies. Since pollinators are at risk for extinction, solar farms can do double duty by combating climate change and providing safe refuge and food sources for these creatures who upon which much of our food supply depends

Wind and solar farms can also be sited to help farmers get a double harvest off of their land—both solar power and a crop—or to take advantage of otherwise unusable land like toxic sites

Wind Turbines are Safer for Birds than Climate Change, Fossil Fuels, and Cats 

Wind turbines are often cited as being dangerous for birds. However, the risks to birds from other factors, like climate change, fossil fuel production, domestic cats, and inanimate objects are far greater. 

All told, wind towers are responsible for less than 0.1 percent of bird deaths. With climate change threatening the existence of nearly half of 314 North American bird species, wind turbines are a much safer alternative than continued use of fossil fuels. Still, any bird deaths are too many, so researchers are researching ways to site wind farms out of migratory pathways and to discourage birds from flying too close. 

If this blog has intrigued you even more about clean energy, please share it with your friends! The more we all know about the benefits of clean energy, the more that people will adopt it and create a cleaner future together. 

Here at CleanChoice Energy, we’re a green electricity supplier with a mission to make clean energy accessible to everyone. Learn more about how to switch your home or business to 100% pollution-free renewable energy today!

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