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2024 Guide to Green Energy: From Solar Panels to Wind Farms and Beyond

We’re living in a time when the effects of climate change are demanding our attention. In the past, we relied heavily on fossil fuels for energy, with devastating consequences to the environment. The tides are changing and sustainable energy is moving to the forefront of global energy production. 

As we move into this new age where renewable energy reigns, we must become more knowledgeable about green energy. That includes its definition, where it comes from, and how it can improve our lives. 

From solar panels to hydropower and biomass energy, there’s a lot for us to learn. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and discover what green energy looks like today in 2024 and beyond. 


  • There are more types of green sources of energy than many people realise. We’re familiar with solar and wind power, but there are other natural energy sources used around the world. These include hydropower, biomass energy, and geothermal energy.
  • Solar and wind energy are among the most accessible and widely used renewable energy sources.
  • Homeowners can implement multiple types of sustainable energy sources, including solar, wind, and geothermal.
  • Technology advancements in solar, wind, and hydropower are making them more efficient for use on a larger scale.
  • For freedom from fossil fuels, we must move toward clean energy on an industrial/commercial scale, but also on a residential level.
  • Green energy for homeowners is budget-friendly, and there may be financial incentives available to make it more accessible for everyone across the board.
  • Planning and mitigation are essential for reducing any negative environmental impact of green energy technologies.
  • Sustainable energy is the future, with growth in renewable sources of energy happening on a global scale.

Types of Green Energy

Green energy has an important role in creating a more sustainable future. We know that choosing a green energy source over fossil fuels combats climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We’re now seeing more types of green energy being used, with each offering its own unique benefits for the environment and climate change.

Renewable sources of energy are providing us with more power than ever before. This includes a combination of solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, and geothermal energy. Here’s a snapshot of each type of renewable energy source, and how each one helps us work toward a more sustainable future.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the most popular and widely supported type of renewable energy. It’s also one of the fastest-growing energy sources. That’s due to the accessibility factor, needing only energy from the sun to generate electricity. Although solar has been on the rise since the late 1990s – we have seen a huge surge in interest in the last decade.

Versatility is another feature of solar energy. Home solar panels are one of the most affordable and practical ways for homeowners to harness the power of green energy. Additionally, it helps reduce their fossil fuel energy consumption and save money on their electric bills. Adding a single solar battery can help a household achieve up to 80% grid independence.

Solar-generated power has a wide range of applications. This includes supplying households with non-fossil fuel energy and allowing businesses to operate with a smaller carbon footprint. Not to mention changing the environmental impact of large agricultural operations.

Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

Many people are familiar with this type of solar energy system. Its main components are photovoltaic modules, more commonly referred to as solar panels.

These modules contain cells that absorb sunlight to produce green electricity. An inverter then transforms this energy into one that’s compatible with many residential or business structures. Solar batteries collect and store solar energy for future use. 

PV systems have a good efficiency rate, and it’s only getting better. Currently, the efficiency rate of PV systems hovers at about 20% for residential and industrial systems. However, we’re seeing improvements in technology that are boosting the efficiency rate to nearly 50% in some cases. 

Here is a stat that drives home the efficiency of PV systems as one of the top renewable energy sources. In 2020, solar generation made up 3.3 percent of the total generation in the United States. It might seem like a small number, but it’s actually very significant.

In the UK, that number was 4.9% in 2023. Globally, there was 139 GW of solar capacity added in 2020, solidifying solar as the current rising star of sustainable energy sources. ‘

The efficiency and costs of PV systems can depend on the type of installation. Options include both on-roof and in-roof installations. Additionally, ground-mounted systems and other options like solar tiles are available. These options tend to be more expensive but less bulky than other roof systems.

Solar Thermal Systems

Solar thermal systems share a number of commonalities with PV systems, but a couple of notable differences set them apart. Rather than using a photovoltaic effect to generate electricity, solar thermal systems use heat generated by the sun to produce thermal energy. These systems can convert solar energy into heat at an effectiveness rate as high as 70 to 80 percent.

Solar thermal systems can have broad applications in the world of natural energy sources. They can be used to supply heat to residential and industrial structures, as well as offer a sustainable method of heating water. 

Wind Energy

Wind energy takes a spot alongside solar energy as one of the fastest-growing sources of green energy today. The growth of wind energy is expected to continue on an upward trajectory in coming years, as it balances out declining fossil fuel energy production.

To create wind energy, wind power is generated using turbines with rotating blades. Wind turbines transform the kinetic energy of wind to generate clean electricity.

Wind energy offers a number of advantages as a renewable energy source. First, we’re never going to run out of wind or the potential to source energy from it. Second, wind energy is cost-effective to the point that it is becoming fiscally competitive with fossil fuels.

There are two main ways we’re able to produce wind energy to meet and exceed current demands. These include onshore and offshore wind farms.

Onshore Wind Energy

Onshore wind energy is one of the most economical renewable energy sources we have at our disposal today. We’re seeing this reflected in the growth of wind power. In 2020, wind power produced more than 6 percent of global electricity. Three years later, in 2023, wind power contributed 29.4 percent of the total electricity generation in the UK.

Wind farms are located on land, typically in low-population areas. It’s important to build these farms away from interferences like human-made structures and landscapes.

Onshore wind is considerably more economical than offshore wind production.  As a result, it’s more accessible and easier to implement on a broad scale. In 2020, the United States alone had 122.5 GW of installed wind generation capacity.

While onshore wind energy is a highly efficient renewable energy source, its counterpart offshore wind energy offers additional benefits of its own.

Offshore Wind Energy

Offshore wind energy is produced through the same mechanisms as onshore farms. However, the difference is that wind turbines are located in shallow, open bodies of water. This includes more shallow areas of the ocean. As a green energy source, offshore wind is one of the most efficient options available to us today. 

Winds coming over the water are generally faster and less restricted than on land. This translates to enhanced wind power generating potential. If you’re interested in wind power trivia, 19 November 2023 was the day we saw the highest share of wind in the overall generation mix at 69 percent.  

Higher wind speed and consistency offer significant potential for the continued growth of sustainable energy. While offshore wind does offer some challenges, mainly the cost and issues with maintenance, the benefits still outweigh any drawbacks. 

Soon, we’ll see offshore wind energy expand into more areas. Specifically deeper waters where there’s an even greater potential for wind energy generation. In 2024, it’s expected that wind energy, combined with solar PV, will generate more green electricity than hydropower. 


Hydropower is the oldest source of natural energy. As a matter of fact, the first uses date back thousands of years. In more modern history, the use of hydropower surged for industrial purposes beginning in the late 1800s. Today, hydropower remains one of the most cost-efficient and least invasive renewable energy sources. Hydropower consistently and efficiently produces green energy year after year.

With hydropower, we harness energy from flowing water. Compared to other types of clean energy, hydropower is always accessible, without the constraints of current sun or wind conditions. Also, hydropower is beneficial for the environment in that it offers a level of flood and irrigation control.

When looking at the benefits and potential drawbacks of hydropower, it’s important to begin by noting the differences between large-scale and small or micro hydropower facilities.

Large-Scale Hydropower

Hydropower facilities are defined by size and the amount of hydropower they produce. The British Hydropower Association defines large-scale hydropower as being over 1 MW. With large-scale hydropower, flowing water is fed into large turbines where it can be turned into energy. 

Large-scale operations are most often used to supply sources of green energy to municipalities, and in some cases, large-scale industrial applications. Hydropower is extremely flexible and adaptive, capable of quickly meeting energy demands at times when other sources of green energy may lag behind. 

There are some environmental considerations involved with large-scale hydropower. For example, there’s a risk to the natural ecosystems and environment when dams or reservoirs are built. Some worry that the loss of diversity and reduced water quality in these areas can actually contribute to climate change, rather than prevent it. 

Even with these considerations, large-scale hydropower can have advantages that outweigh the potential negatives. One of the main advantages is how efficiently hydropower can supply renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.

For example, the United States is the fourth-largest producer of hydropower in the world, with hydropower contributing 7.3 percent of the total U.S. electricity generation in 2020. This equates to an estimated 4,370 terawatt hours of the 26,000 TWh of total global electricity in 2020.

By comparison, the UK generated just 5,973 gigawatt hours of electricity from hydropower in 2020. Although that seems like a small percentage, hydropower is still a very vital portion of the UK’s renewable energy mix.

Small and Micro Hydropower

Small and micro hydropower operations produce less energy than their large-scale counterparts. Additionally, they’re generally found in more rural settings. This makes sense as they’re used for farming and personal domestic applications. They also provide green energy to smaller commercial operations.

Unlike large-scale hydropower, small and micro facilities fit naturally into the landscape. Because of this, they’re usually built in areas like natural rivers and streams that require minimally invasive construction. Small and micro hydropower produce less renewable energy but serve an important purpose. They can be constructed in nearly any location with good water flow while creating less of an impact on the local ecosystems.

Biomass Energy

The concept of biomass energy and how it is produced is sometimes misunderstood. In the simplest terms, biomass energy is created by harnessing the energy stored in organic matter. In other words, it comes from either plants or animals. Being derived only from organic materials means that biomass energy provides an effective way of reducing waste and creating something beneficial in return.

Biomass energy is considered one of the carbon-neutral green sources of energy. Carbon dioxide is released during the process of converting biomass energy. However, it’s still carbon neutral in the long term, compared to burning fossil fuels, which produces new greenhouse gasses.

The balance comes from the capture of carbon dioxide during the growth of the organic materials used for biomass energy. This creates what can be best described as a carbon dioxide circle of life.

Biomass Power Plants

These power plants transform organic material into green energy. The type of organic material and renewable energy sources used is primarily agricultural waste. For example, corn, soy, and dedicated energy crops, along with other sources such as municipal waste.

First, these organic materials undergo a combustion process where steam is produced. Then, it’s sent to a turbine that facilitates the generation of energy.

In 2020, biomass power plants offered a global biomass electric power capacity of 145 GW. Around this same time, biomass accounted for 11.6 percent of total global energy consumption. In the UK, biomass energy contributed 5 percent to the total renewable mix of energy in 2023.


Biofuels, which are derived from biomass, can fill the gap of fuel-based renewable energy. Unlike other green energy sources that are primarily used to generate heat and electricity, biomass can also be transformed into fuel for transportation.

Various types of biomass are used to create different biofuels. One example is biodiesel, which is used in transportation, along with fuel-driven generators. Biodiesel also has unique applications in oil spill cleanup. It’s made from biomass such as vegetable oil, recycled cooking oil, and animal fat. Moreover, biodiesel has the advantage of being non-toxic and completely biodegradable.

Another example of biodiesel is Ethanol. Ethanol is made from plant-based biomass and is used in the production of E10, which is an ethanol and gasoline mixture. The benefit of cutting gasoline with ethanol is cleaner burning fuel and fewer carbon emissions.

There’s an ever-growing demand for clean biofuels. Constellation Energy, which is based in Baltimore, plans to build modular nuclear units in an effort to meet the soaring demand for biofuels. In another part of the world, the Saudi mega-city project called NEOM, is aiming to run entirely on renewable energy with a focus on advanced biomass technologies.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy taps into the naturally occurring heat that’s stored far below the earth’s surface. Geothermal energy is an important renewable energy source because the heat that’s produced deep in the earth’s interior is continually regenerated. It has been there since the formation of the planet and will continue to regenerate into the future.

Geothermal sustainable energy is used to heat buildings and for various industrial processes. It can be an important tool for efficient heating and cooling systems, with broader applications in other industries, including agriculture.

Traditional Geothermal Power

Geothermal power plants pull water and steam from underground reservoirs to power turbines that generate energy. Not only is geothermal power clean energy, it’s also a renewable energy source. This is because operators pump the water back into the reservoir after using it.

Geothermal power is so accessible and cost-effective that there are large populations that use it as their main source of electricity and green energy. Iceland is a perfect example of this, with geothermal power providing nearly all of the country’s electricity. Globally, geothermal energy provided an estimated 225 TWh of power in 2020.

In the United States, geothermal power is also an important source of renewable energy. Current statistics tell us that nearly 17 TWh of geothermal electricity was generated in the United States in 2020, and in the same year, it accounted for 3.4 percent of non-hydroelectric renewable energy generated in the U.S.

During the same year in 2020, the UK’s efforts in geothermal energy were mostly experimental. One small scale project, called the Southampton District Energy Scheme used geothermal heat, but only contributed approximately 40 gigawatt hours a year. Although there is potential for larger scale geothermal energy projects in the UK, high capital costs and challenges with regulations have slowed the process considerably.

Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS)

There are two types of geothermal systems – natural or traditional, and man-made. Three main elements are necessary for a geothermal system to be effective. These include heat and water, but also permeability. Without the permeability, the thermal power of the water can’t be tapped into.

There aren’t enough traditional sources of geothermal energy where all three of these naturally exist together, so enhanced geothermal systems work to fix this issue and tap into the significant power of this important renewable energy source.

EGS works by injecting fluid into the earth, fracturing the rock, and making it more permeable. The development of EGS is a carefully controlled process that yields significant results around the world. Currently, Dominion Energy is working to meet the needs of new data centers in Northern Virginia by integrating geothermal solutions, and NEOM in Saudi Arabia also has a plan in place to incorporate geothermal energy as a primary source of sustainable heating solutions.

Enhanced Geothermal Systems can be one of the most important green sources of energy for large-scale industry applications and powering municipalities of all sizes.

Implementing Green Energy

Our fossil fuel resources on this earth are limited, and tapping into them at our current rate is causing climate change to happen at a continually faster pace. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the single most important step we can take at this stage in the game to make a difference.

Renewable, green energy offers us a list of important benefits. Environmental stability ranks at the top of this list, but we can’t ignore the fact that green electricity can provide us with energy security, create jobs, support economic growth, and make energy use more affordable for the average household. Both residential and commercial applications of green energy play important roles in this.

Residential Applications

Homeowners can make positive contributions toward the environment and their budget by powering their homes with renewable energy sources. Traditionally, solar panels have been the most popular green source of energy for homeowners, but technology and accessibility have made it so that even more options are available today. 

Homeowners can install small wind turbines, geothermal HVAC systems, micro hydropower systems, and solar panels that are more efficient and cost-effective than ever. If you have questions about what type of sustainable energy options are best for your home, a conversation with experienced solar panel installers can help provide the answers you’re looking for.

We’re looking to transition to a fully zero-carbon electricity system by 2050 in the UK, and so far, excellent progress is being made. 

 In 2020, we reached a record high with renewable electricity capacity additions. In the United States, renewables made up nearly 20 percent of utility-scale electricity generation in 2020. 

These are the types of numbers that tell us that residential renewable energy growth is scaling at a rate to achieve our zero-carbon goals. 

Financial Incentives

Renewable energy can create substantial savings for homeowners, but there are also significant upfront costs to having solar panels, wind turbines, and other green energy systems installed in your home. In the long term, homeowners can make big savings on electric and gas bills, and also save money in terms of upkeep and repair.

Depending on the timing and type of renewable upgrade, there may be incentive programs to help cover or offset the costs of installation. For example, the Green Deal can help homeowners make energy-saving improvements to their homes through access to special loans. Other incentives have included the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to help homeowners install biomass boilers.

Most often, financial incentives are aimed at specific upgrades and technologies, making it important to discuss your options with a qualified specialist in renewable energy home upgrades.

Commercial and Industrial Applications

Homeowners have various options that help them protect the environment and offset climate change. Whereas, there’s a heavier burden on commercial and industrial facilities to embrace green energy at scale.

For commercial and industrial applications, green energy offers benefits that include lower energy and maintenance costs, and more stable energy prices that allow commercial businesses to control their budgets and scale for growth. Sustainable energy practices offer a higher ROI, plus in many cases, there are tariffs or tax incentives for the adoption of renewable resources.

When commercial industries adopt sustainable energy, we see the benefits on a broad scale. NEOM’s futuristic eco-region aims to run completely on renewable energy as well as being car-free.

If we can begin adopting these same goals and hopes for the future across commercial industries, the positive impact on the environment will be substantial.


Challenges and Considerations in Green Energy

Of course, the adoption of renewable energy sources doesn’t come without a few challenges. Whether the discussion exists on an industrial or residential scale, there are hurdles to overcome. The high initial costs of installation, insufficient infrastructure, limitations due to geographical location, and intermittency are just a few of the challenges we face.

Understanding what these challenges are and addressing them allows us to problem solve, define solutions, and move forward toward a brighter future with green energy.

Intermittency and Reliability

Of the challenges of green electricity, intermittency, and reliability rank high on the list. The nature of renewable energy sources is such that it’s sometimes unpredictable and at the whim of weather conditions. This makes it challenging to rely fully on renewable energy sources for applications such as large-scale power grids, or even for homeowners to fully lean on renewable resources for their home. 

Energy storage solutions are an important answer to this problem. At their core, energy storage systems prevent all of the renewable energy that has been generated from going to waste. Storage fills in the gaps and provides energy resources during times of intermittency and lower output. 

Energy Storage Solutions

According to statistics, electricity that has been generated from renewable resources accounts for approximately 40 percent of the total renewable energy supply. This is a number that is only going to increase, as the cost of utility-scale photovoltaics has fallen a drastic 82 percent since 2010. Green electricity is becoming more accessible and more widely used as we move into the future.

With all of this green energy electricity being produced, having a way to capture and store it for future use is essential to the success of renewable energy. This is especially true considering that globally, we’re on track to add more renewable capacity in the next five years than has been installed since the very first commercial renewable power plant was built.

Renewable energy storage systems capture and store excess energy produced from renewable resources. Stored energy is released either during a lag in energy production or during peak energy use times. These storage systems allow us to rely consistently on sustainable energy sources and work to mitigate some of the biggest pain points.

Environmental and Social Impacts

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to environmental and social impacts of renewable resources. One of the biggest drivers of natural energy is to protect the environment and slow climate change. For example, because of the positive impact of natural energy, the UK has been able to reduce the involvement of coal in its generation mix by 97 percent, and this has only been since 2013. The progress here has been incredible.

But with this level of advancement, there are naturally other impacts we need to consider. Large conventional hydropower projects have become the provider of the majority of renewable electricity worldwide, but they can also have a noticeable negative impact on local ecosystems.

Producing natural energy requires a greater commitment to land use than fossil fuels. This can be destructive to local habitats and ecosystems, and potentially reduce the diversity and quality of wildlife in the area. Additionally, concerns such as soil erosion and noise pollution can also become problems.

Because of this, careful planning and mitigation strategies are essential. With thoughtful and thorough planning, we can take steps to protect the natural ecosystems, minimise the impact on surrounding communities, and support the land in the process.

The Future of Green Energy

Several factors impact the future of green energy, and from where we are now, it’s all heading in a very positive direction. We’re looking at a combination of reduced costs, greater accessibility, and advancing technologies that will continue to drive renewable energy forward.

Here are a couple of examples of green energy and the factors that are influencing its growth:

  1. Cost of onshore wind has fallen 39 percent between 2010 and 2019.
  2. Both wind and solar PV are on trend to surpass nuclear electricity generation in 2025 and 2026.

Advancements in renewable energy technology are a major driver of this growth. Advanced technology in renewable energy storage, the potential for hydrogen power, and bladeless wind turbines are just a few of the bright spots on the horizon we’re looking toward.

Advanced Solar Technologies

Within the future of green energy, our attention is holding steady on advanced solar technologies, and with good reason. Solar PV has been the fastest-growing technology in terms of capacity additions in recent years, and this is a trend that we’re seeing with solar technology in general.

The new technology we’re seeing translates to more reliable and efficient solar power. Overall, new technology in solar panels has made them a more efficient source of renewable energy, but other advancements are unlocking the unyielding potential of solar technology. These include storage technology, bifacial solar panels, new construction that allows solar panels to be used in more diverse settings, and smart panels.

Global Trends and Projections

Major changes are happening with renewable energy efforts. Renewable and sustainable energy is expected to surpass coal energy as the leading source of energy in the world within just a couple of short years. Overall, renewables made up 29 percent of global electricity generation by the end of 2020.

Currently, China remains a leader in terms of renewable electricity capacity additions. In 2022, they added 160 GW of electricity capacity. We’re also looking at India as a leader with their commitment to a target of 500 GW of non-fossil power capacity by 2030. In the UK, our goal is to be net zero by 2050.

Learnings Recap

  • Today, we’re able to fully utilise multiple types of green energy. These include solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, biomass energy, and geothermal energy.
  • Each type of sustainable energy source offers a unique set of benefits and challenges
  • Solar and wind energy are among the fastest-growing and most accessible sources of renewable energy in the world.
  • Green sources of energy can be implemented on a broad scale, from green residential solutions to large industrial applications, to reduce our overall reliance on fossil fuels.
  • In addition to the environmental benefits of sustainable energy, the financial benefits are driving the allure of solar energy solutions for homeowners.
  • Sustainable energy isn’t without its challenges, including issues with intermittency, adequate energy storage, and disruption caused to the immediate environment and ecosystems with the implementation of clean energy systems. Effective planning and mitigation can offer solutions.
  • The future of green energy is bright, with more nations working toward goals of independence from fossil fuels in the near future.

Final Thoughts

Renewable energy is our path toward a brighter, cleaner, and more sustainable future. Green energy reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and is a key player in our ability to  protect against climate change. Our climate and environment may seem like issues that are too large to overcome on our own, but we each can make a difference – and when we work together, we see results. 

Soly is here to help homeowners like you with sustainable, renewable energy solutions. Contact Soly today to speak directly to one of our solar specialists. We would be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a no-obligation quote.


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