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Clean versus renewable electric energy

clean energy

With certain frequency, even inside the energy industry, the concepts of clean versus renewable electric energy are used as synonyms. However, the truth is they are not. There is an important difference between both and we will explain it in this blog post.

Renewable electric energy

According to greenpeace.org, renewable electric energy comes from renewable sources. These are the ones that can be used over and over, such as energy produced through water (hydroelectric energy). Even though that energy resource (water) comes from nature and does not pollut the environment, to build a hydroelectric plant means to modify nature.

What does this mean? To build a hydroelectric power plant you must get to a water source (i.e. a river). Then, cut down trees, modify flows, intervene in ecosystems, etc. In fact, there are renewable energy systems that emit CO2 gases to the atmosphere in order to produce energy. These typically require equipments that use fossil fuels. Therefore, it is not an environmental footprint-free energy source.

Clean electric energy

While clean electric energy also uses renewable resources, nature does not need to be modified. You simply install the system in a place where it can capture the energy source and generate electricity. Also, clean energies do not emit CO2 gases into the atmosphere.

A clean energy producer can compensate its environmental foot print before producing the energy. While the renewable energy producer will have to compensate it before and after. What does this mean?

Environmental footprints

It is no secret that in order to produce almost any type of product, there will be a negative environmental impact. For example, to produce a solar panel it requires several resources or raw materials such as minerals, water, electricity, etc (impact 1). These footprints can be neutralized or compensated by protecting water sources, planting trees, recycling, etc. However, starting the moment where that solar panel is generating electricity, it is not having a negative environmental footprint.

Continuing with the hydroelectric power plant, the installation process of it intervenes with nature (impact 1). According to the article ojoalclima.com from 2017,  hydroelectric plants tend to flood the surroundings. This makes the water excess to oversaturate forests and provoque an unbalance in the organic materia decomposition. This converts into methane gas, CO2 and nitrous oxide (impact 2). Therefore, hydroelectric plants should compensate their footprint after it is up and running, for a lifetime.

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