Blog from Jane Marsh: How does renewable energy impact air pollution?

Clean, renewable energy is one of the top ways to reduce the carbon emissions entering the air and causing climate change. Switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind power can decrease pollution and prevent further damage.

Americans are reducing their fossil fuel use by the year, but eliminating those energy sources doesn’t mean they won’t release any emissions through energy.

Pollution From Renewables

Renewable energy sources are objectively better for the planet, but their production and transformation still have an impact.

The amount of air pollution released depends on the power used, with some producing no emissions and others creating a significant amount.

Here are the top forms of renewable energy and details about their effect on the environment. For the most part, the good outweighs the bad, although there’s always room for improvement.

Solar

Solar panels are great for generating clean energy but can also impact the air during production and after their expiration date.

The process used to create solar panels involves some pretty toxic chemicals. Once they are out of use, there isn’t yet a sustainable way to dispose of them. That leads to carbon emissions in the air, contributing to air pollution.

Hydropower

Water used for electricity is hardly a new concept. Humans popularized it centuries ago, and it now accounts for 31.5% of renewable energy in the United States.

The consequences of hydropower are less about the air and more about the inhabitants within or near the water. This type of renewable energy can affect the aquatic habitats the equipment is stored within. The displacement of animals can disrupt the ecosystem, and malfunctions can lead to flooding, displacing people who live nearby.

This displacement disproportionally displaces native or marginalized people who rely on the area’s agriculture.

Wind

Wind is one of the cleanest forms of energy and doesn’t contribute to pollution.

The only significant environmental impacts include land use and the death of unfortunate birds that fly into the turbines.

Biomass

Biomass energy causes the most air pollution out of all renewable energy resources.

The process converts organic plant and animal material into heat and electricity. Unfortunately, burning biomass and converting it to electricity releases carbon into the atmosphere, causing air pollution.

Removing Renewable Pollution

The good news is modern technology can remove pollutants from renewable energy sources, counteracting climate change. Scrubbers remove toxins from the air by using natural processes to remove pollution.

There are two types of scrubbers: wet and dry. Industrial settings, such as wastewater treatment and paper production, utilize dry scrubbers. They use water to help wash the toxins out of the air.

There are different types of wet scrubbers. Venturi scrubbers send gases through the liquid quickly to remove pollutants. Impingement-plate scrubbers trap emissions in steam before they can reach the atmosphere.

Dry scrubbers are slightly less effective but are good for removing acid from combustion gas by neutralizing it before it becomes harmful.

The Importance of Clean Air

Unclean air is harmful to the environment and human health. Contaminated air increases climate change and premature deaths. Though the atmosphere is polluted, your home air can be as well.

Proper filtration can help eliminate the volatile organic compounds released by some household products. Improving air quality can help prevent up to 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

Embracing Renewable Energy

As people work toward creating a better planet, it’s vital to eliminate the carbon emissions that cause climate change. Green power is the way to go, even though it comes with some downsides. Eliminating pollution caused by some renewable resources will move the world toward a better future for future generations.

 

About the author: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co

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