How Green is Green?

Jun 2023Editorial, Stories

Written by Fred Porter.

As many of you would know, I’m an avid “greenie”, so finding out informed answers to these questions was important to me following recent discussions around town lately.

Can wind farms be recycled?

I overheard someone saying that the infrastructure of green energy production cannot be recycled, so I thought I’d look into it further. It turns out that wind farms and solar panels can be recycled, although the recycling processes and the extent of recyclability can vary.

When it comes to wind farms, the main components that can be recycled include the turbine blades, tower structures, and certain electrical components. The recycling of wind turbine blades, in particular, presents some challenges due to their size, composition, and the presence of composite materials. However, experts are actively working on more efficient and sustainable methods for recycling wind turbine blades. Various approaches, such as mechanical grinding, chemical recycling, and thermal processing, are being explored to break down the blades and recover valuable materials for reuse.

What about solar panels?

Solar panels consist of various materials, including glass, silicon cells, metals, and polymers. While solar panels are long-lasting and highly durable, they will eventually reach the end of their operational life. Solar panel recycling involves the separation and recovery of valuable materials, such as silicon, glass, and metals, for reuse in new panels or other industries. The recycling process typically involves shredding the panels, separating the components, and then processing them through different techniques to extract the valuable materials, much like mobile phone recycling. It’s important to note that recycling practices for wind farms and solar panels are still evolving. As renewable energy technologies continue to advance, efforts are being made to improve the recyclability and sustainability of these systems.


Not all hydrogen is created equal

Whenever you hear about hydrogen production, it’s important to check that it’s green.

Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced through a process called electrolysis, where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power. Green hydrogen is considered environmentally friendly because it doesn’t produce carbon emissions during its production. The process is often referred to as “green” because it uses renewable energy, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and contributing to a low-carbon future. Green hydrogen has the potential to be used as a clean energy source in various sectors, such as transportation, industry, and power generation.

On the other hand, when hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels like natural gas or coal without carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, it is commonly referred to as grey hydrogen. grey hydrogen production emits carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. grey hydrogen is not considered environmentally friendly because it relies on fossil fuels and doesn’t address the issue of carbon emissions.

Additionally, there are other colours of hydrogen based on the carbon emissions associated with their production. Blue hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels, but the CO2 emissions are captured and stored, reducing its environmental impact. However, there are concerns about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of carbon capture technologies.

Finally, there are colours like brown and black hydrogen, which are also produced from fossil fuels but with varying degrees of CO2 emissions reduction. Brown hydrogen is produced from coal, while black hydrogen is derived from the gasification of coal or other carbon-rich materials. These forms of hydrogen have higher carbon emissions and are considered less environmentally friendly compared to green or blue hydrogen.

In summary, green hydrogen is considered environmentally friendly because it is produced using renewable energy sources, while other colours of hydrogen, such as grey, brown, and black, have varying degrees of carbon emissions and environmental impact associated with their production.

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