Green power energy sources have the best environmental benefits
“It’s not easy being green,” laments Kermit the frog. However, for businesses, it’s gotten easier and offers two important benefits:
- Sustainable business practices improve your bottom line
- Boost to your reputation
Renewable sources of energy are derived from any source that is not depleted when used. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there’s a subset of renewable energy sources known as Green Power. These sources provide the highest environmental benefit. Some even offer a profile of zero emissions and a drastically reduced carbon footprint.
This form of green power is currently the most commercially used source on the planet. It captures the sun’s energy, and then a variety of technologies are applied to convert this energy into practical uses such as the generation of electricity.
The technology is certainly not free, but we don’t have to pay for the sun to shine. Architectural design can use this source of energy in passive ways such as sources for heating and cooling.
The most common ways businesses use solar energy is by installing rooftop solar panels to capture and convert sunlight into electricity or for heating. Often, this energy isn’t directly used. It’s stored in batteries.
A growing number of states now require utilities to offer renewable sources of energy as a percentage of their output. As a result, these utilities have created programs to purchase captured solar energy. So, while your business might not use it directly, you benefit by a reduced utility bill because of the solar energy you “sell” to your local electric company.
We owe this source of green power in part to solar energy. Wind is produced by the sun’s uneven heating of the planet’s surface. Warm air weighs less and rises. Cool air moves in to take its place, creating wind.
Wind turbines take advantage of this natural process. A growing number of businesses are investing in wind turbines to supplement their existing source of electricity. Others choose to purchase their electricity from utilities, which in turn, buy it wholesale from a national power market. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that about 6.6% of electricity generation in the country is from this source.
This is an interesting and ironic form of green power. It’s derived from organic matter from plants and animals – and it generates nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels. What transforms it into an excellent source of green power is that the replacement plants grown as biomass remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as the energy source generates. The impact of bioenergy on our planet is basically neutral.
It’s not as easy for businesses to directly use this type of green energy as it is with solar or wind. Large organizations with fleets of vehicles can choose to convert their usage to biofuels such as biodiesel or ethanol.
Volcanoes are one example of the massive source of green power deep beneath our feet. Captured, it’s known as geothermal energy, and we’ve invented effective ways to harness these heat sources to generate electricity.
To put the potential of this green power source into perspective, the EIA estimates that more than 12 million homes in the United States use heat pumps for heating and cooling. This source of geothermal energy is less than 10 feet below us.
At a commercial level, businesses can use heat pumps for the same purpose. It’s more difficult for businesses to use it directly as an energy source, otherwise. While the United States leads as the top producer of electricity from geothermal sources most of it is concentrated in the country’s western states.
This form of green power has been in use longer than the others. Hydroelectric power generated by dams are the most familiar version. The largest of its kind is China’s Three Gorges Dam, which can generate 22,500 megawatts of electricity. Compare this to the Grand Coulee Dam on Washington State’s Columbia River, which generates 6,800 megawatts.
Most businesses can’t take direct advantage of this source of green power. It often is possible to select a utility provider that gets electricity from hydropower sources.
Green power makes dollars and sense
Today’s consumers expect brands and businesses to demonstrate they’re paying attention to their impact on the planet. GreenBiz Group reports that after surveying nearly 2,000 companies, 85% of S&P 500 companies share their sustainability goals and renewable energy policies.
It’s never been easier to seek out sources of green power for businesses. Not every source we’ve explored is practical, but there are also indirect ways to go green. For example, your business can seek out utility providers that participate with the Renewable Energy Certificates program. These certificates are proof that the electricity you’ve purchased was generated by a renewable energy resource and then transported to you by the shared power grid.