Businesses Play a Key Role in the Renewable Energy Transition
Climate change is already here and businesses will play a major part in reducing its effects. One way corporations can reduce their carbon footprint and energy expenses is to switch to renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric power.
Types of Renewable Energy
In 2020, industry was responsible for 24% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — primarily from burning fossil fuels — which doesn’t even include agricultural and forestry companies. In fact, big business is responsible for emitting 6.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Instead of relying on oil and gas, many companies are switching to these alternatives.
Harnessing the wind’s power, wind turbines use an inexhaustible resource. There are two types — offshore and onshore. Onshore wind turbines are situated on land, while offshore turbines are in the ocean, sometimes so far out that people can’t see or hear them. They both generate electricity.
Onshore wind turbines are easier to build and cheaper, although they don’t generate as much power. But because they’re closer to communities, onshore wind turbines have lower energy transportation costs than their offshore counterparts.
The upfront cost of renewable energy is one of the main barriers to its adoption. However, the price of solar panels has fallen by 50% since 2008, making it an attractive option to many companies looking to go green.
Businesses in sunny climates can benefit enormously from installing photovoltaic panels on their roofs or connecting to nearby solar farms. Solar panels last an average of 30 years. During that time, they often significantly lower a company’s energy bill or eliminate it entirely.
The climate plays a massive role in the effectiveness of solar and wind power. Overall, the reliability of sustainable energy could decrease by as much as 16% during extreme weather events, but geothermal energy comes from underground, making it less affected by surface-level conditions. Numerous types of businesses use geothermal heat systems, from health care to hospitality.
Geothermal energy uses the heat from steam, boiling water or molten rock to do one of two things. It can directly warm buildings — a process known as geothermal heating — or generate electricity called geothermal power.
Geothermal power can come from dry steam power plants that use natural steam to power a turbine connected to a generator. Flash steam power plants create steam to carry out the same process.
Binary cycle power plants pass lower-temperature liquids through a heat exchange with a secondary fluid. Because the secondary fluid has a lower boiling point than water, the underground liquid’s heat makes it evaporate and the resulting steam drives turbines connected to a generator.
Hydroelectric power is one of the world’s most prominent renewable energy sources. It accounts for 31.5% of total renewable energy generation in the United States.
Hydropower harnesses the energy from water stored in dams and flowing through rivers to create electricity. Many people consider it less sustainable than other types of renewable energy due to its environmental effects — dams can block fish from reaching spawning beds and disrupt natural flood cycles. Its efficacy also depends heavily on rainfall.
Nevertheless, hydropower is still greener than oil and gas, and many small businesses build microhydropower stations to generate electricity. A microhydropower station consists of a turbine, pump or waterwheel to turn the energy of flowing water into rotational energy. Then, a generator converts it into electricity.
Renewable Energy: The Way Forward
Fossil fuels won’t last forever. As businesses seek to mitigate their environmental impact, renewable energy is becoming mainstream. Solar panels, wind turbines and more can help companies achieve their sustainability goals while simultaneously lowering energy costs, benefitting both the environment and the economy.