• Question: what is the most sustainable source of energy? (windmills, solar panels etc)

    Asked by rt123 to Olga, Madhumidha, Connor, Canice, Aruna, Anthony on 2 Mar 2020. This question was also asked by Girlpowerforstem.
    • Photo: Aruna Chandrasekar

      Aruna Chandrasekar answered on 2 Mar 2020:

      To answer you question, I will first answer the question, “what is a sustainable source of energy?”

      As the name suggests, anything that SUSTAINS for a long period of time could be termed as sustainable.

      Solar, wind, hydro, waves, geothermal energy are all termed as sustainable since these forms of energy co-exist with us and are never going to stop.

      However, the “most sustainable form” is hard to define as there is no measure of sustainability. Depending on the location in the earth, wind/sun/hydro could be a preferred sustainable form of energy.

    • Photo: Anthony Newell

      Anthony Newell answered on 2 Mar 2020:

      In Ireland, because it’s so windy we get almost all of our renewable energy from wind. We prefer this method to solar panels because it’s not as sunny here so it would be much more expensive to get the same energy from solar panels. However, in a very sunny place with not much wind, it would be better to use solar panels.

      In terms of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere for different renewable sources, wind, solar thermal and hydro are all about the same and a bit better than solar cells because there’s a lot more energy used for making the pure silicon needed in the solar cells.

    • Photo: Connor McGookin

      Connor McGookin answered on 2 Mar 2020:

      When I was in college I remember one of my lecturers telling us that “the most sustainable source of energy is the energy we don’t use”. Reducing the amount of energy you consume saves money, reduces emissions and won’t involve the use of any materials to build new power sources.

    • Photo: Olga Ormond

      Olga Ormond answered on 3 Mar 2020:

      It is a good question! It really depends on your location and what you want to power when (e.g. a typical household, a large farm, a factory, large collection of computer servers). And as Conor mentioned one of the most sustainable energy actions we can take is reducing the amount of energy we use or reducing the energy that is needed to power something (by redesigning it!).

      The typical weather in your location will effect the amount of energy that you can generate (e.g. lots of wind, or lots of sun etc). How much space you have available for the wind generator or solar panels will also have an impact. For the solar panels the direction they are facing and whether they can track the sun and move to always catch the best light would also effect the amount of energy you can get from them. Also how you store the energy for use during the night or when you need it, is something you also need to consider.