Understanding Renewable & Sustainable Energy

wind power, costa ricaOur travels have taken us all over central america in the last few years. Currently we are in Costa Rica working on documenting EARTH2O, a sustainable study program on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. In order to create educational videos, we’ve been researching the top 5 renewable energy resources. Costa Rica is special because they utilize all five of the main renewable resources so its the perfect place to study these new technologies and the country is powered by 99.2% renewable energy.

Something new I’ve learned while working here is that there is a major difference between renewable energy sources are sustainable energy sources.

Renewable energy includes all those sources that do not cause any harm to the environment and have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. The term sustainable is a broader term and includes many types of energy sources. Sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, wave, tidal and hydrogen are renewable as well as sustainable since they have minimum impact on the environment. Nuclear energy or nuclear power is not considered renewable since it is not “clean” due to byproducts that pollute the environment. Solar, wind and hydro both require the use of an incredible amount of material to construct so some argue that they are not truly renewable. A movement that’s really interesting is DIY residential wind power as opposed to getting power from the grid. Also you have to check out Baltimore’s solar powered water wheel which devours 50,000 pounds of harbor trash every day.

Hydroelectric generates the most power, second only to fossil fuels, but dams are incredibly destructive to the ecology and there are very few new large scale dams being built. The future is in Hydrokinetic energy.

“The use of water power dates back thousands of years to the water wheels of Ancient Greece, which used the energy in falling water to generate power to grind wheat. We now are presented with an opportunity to develop a new generation of water power, one that will harness the abundant energy of our oceans and rivers.” – Union of Concerned Scientists

Making the switch from dirty energy to clean is clearly a no brainer. The people who are making billions of dollars on oil and gas are still calling the shots, however. It is possible to break free of the chains, especially in progressive countries like Costa Rica, where we can study the benefits of utilizing renewables with the hope of one day implementing these technologies at the very least, on a small scale (your off the grid home for example).   This is most certainly our future plan! The big question for us is where to build.