Traditional methods of harvesting energy (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) are far from the best solutions to our energy problems. They produce by-products and emissions that have been proven by research to have adverse effects on our environment and our health. Though no energy source is completely benign, there are safer, cleaner alternatives. The following address health implications for a variety of renewable energy sources.

Energy Efficiency


When looking at solutions to energy problems, one of the first steps is decreasing your own energy consumption. This can be done in numerous ways, many of which are actually quite affordable and they can be very effective. Some examples include insulating your house with plastic sheets over the windows or buying more energy efficient light bulbs. The effects of these measures are largely dependent upon what materials are used and the processes that create those materials.

Solar


Solar energy involves harvesting the power of the sun to generate electricity. The process of electricity creation using solar panels produces no pollution; though the manufacturing process of the panels does pose some potential hazards involved in most other manufacturing processes, some of this harm (and especially that related to the inhalation of particulates) can be mitigated by the use of respirators or masks.

Hydroelectricity




Hydroelectric plants harness the force of falling or flowing water through a hydraulic turbine that is connected to a generator. Typically, the water exits the turbine and is returned to its source. Dams using this technology do not release any pollution into the air or water. Only routine maintenance is required, so occupational hazards are quite low.

Wind

Photo credit: TVA


Electric power derived from the wind is all about harvesting the natural force of the wind and using it to rotate large blades that themselves act on a turbine which produces the electricity. Wind turbines require little maintenance after they are installed and produce no pollution. The manufacturing process poses similar occupational hazards to that of many other metals manufacturing processes.

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