Wind energy, solar energy, and bioenergy are all sources of renewable energy. Although they produce less pollution than fossil fuels, their impact on the environment still varies greatly.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) tracks the emissions of air pollutants. They found that coal plants emit twice as many greenhouse gases as clean renewable sources.
Hydropower produces clean electricity from water. But larger hydro plants can also emit pollutant gases.
Natural gas is considered a “clean” fuel. It is derived from dinosaurs. However, it is not listed as one of the cleanest energy sources on the Department of Energy’s list.
In the U.S., nuclear power plants produce more electricity on less land than any other clean-air source. Their capacity factor is 92.5%, whereas coal plants emit 273 times more greenhouse gases.
Hydropower is a cleaner alternative to coal. But its capacity is limited by geography. For instance, wind farms are usually built in rural areas. When they are built on a large scale, their emissions are higher than those of small hydro plants.
Nuclear power plants use fission to split uranium atoms and create energy. One pellet of uranium fuel, about the size of an eraser, has the energy of about 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.
Biomass energy uses plant and animal matter to generate power. It is one of the oldest forms of energy. As long as fuel wood is harvested in a sustainable manner, it can be a renewable source of energy.