Renewable Energy

What Are the Different Types of Renewable Energy Farms?

January 4th, 2023   |  5 min. read
What Are the Different Types of Renewable Energy Farms? Blog Feature

Renewable energy farms are facilities that generate energy from renewable resources such as biomass, solar power, wind power, geothermal energy, and hydropower. They turn plant and animal matter, sunlight, wind, heat from the Earth, or water into electricity or motive power.

In 2021, over 12% of the U.S.'s total energy consumption and 20% of its electricity generation came from renewable sources. The industry continues to grow, and new energy farms are being constructed worldwide.

Below is an explanation of how these facilities operate. This information is integral to understanding why renewable energy farms require blast resistant buildings and hazmat containment buildings in order to meet safety standards and protect the people and property on-site and nearby.

 

Biomass Facilities

Biomass facilities convert plant and animal matter into heat, electric power, and transportation fuel. The materials used for biomass energy production include wood (including sawdust and paper mill pulp), animal waste, agricultural residue, or even dedicated biomass crops.  

 

Renewable Diesel

Renewable diesel is a renewable fuel that is chemically comparable to petroleum diesel. It is a hydrocarbon that can be produced via hydrotreating, gasification, pyrolysis, or other technologies. It was previously referred to as “green diesel.” 

 

Biodiesel

Biofuel, including biodiesel, is made from biomass materials such as vegetable oils (such as soybean, palm, and sunflower), recycled cooking grease, or animal fats. Biodiesel facilities convert this biomass into liquid fuel for transportation needs. The biofuel is typically blended with regular diesel before use.

Producing biodiesel requires a process called transesterification and a blending procedure, after which biodiesel and diesel fuel are loaded into tanks for transport.

As biodiesel facilities compete with oil refineries, they have experienced rapid growth followed by relative stagnation. However, as financial incentives are increasingly offered, they are expected to experience another growth spurt in the next few years. Since these facilities use highly flammable chemicals in order to complete the transformation process, the safety of workers is critical.

 

Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)

Renewable natural gas is pipeline-quality gas that can be used in natural gas vehicles. RNG facilities are responsible for processing and purifying matter that originates in places like wastewater treatment plants, livestock farms, municipal solid waste landfills, and from food production.

These facilities perform extensive treatment of the biomass used in order to remove moisture, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen, oxygen, VOCs, and other contaminants.

 

Biofuel

Biofuel plants convert biomass directly into liquid fuels that serve as renewable substitutes for fossil fuels. They're typically produced from plants such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and sugarcane. However, animal fats and household food waste can also be used.

Facility infrastructure will depend on the biomass being used but involve receiving the biomass, processing it via the process of transesterification, and then blending and exporting the fuel.

 

Biopower

Biopower facilities convert renewable biomass fuels into heat and electricity. They do this by releasing the energy stored in biomass via burning, bacterial decay, gasification, or pyrolysis. As a result, these facilities may produce methane, high-pressure steam, and other byproducts and use high temperatures with very little (or no) oxygen present. That makes biopower facilities prone to toxic gas release, fires, and explosions.

 

Solar Power Facilities

Solar technology converts sunlight into electrical energy using either photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors and lenses. Most solar power facilities use heat-transfer fluid to produce steam, which is then converted into mechanical energy in a turbine. The turbine energy powers a generator to produce electricity.

 

Solar Power

Solar power plants may use photovoltaic (PV) cells made from silicon alloys to convert sunlight into usable electricity. The direct current (DC)  produced by this photoelectric effect is then converted to alternating current (AC) via an inverted before being stored in batteries or fed into the electrical grid.

 

Hot Water

In solar thermal facilities, hot water runs under mirrors or lenses and is heated by the sun. It acts as a heat transfer fluid, which then flows into a heat exchanger to boil water in a conventional steam-turbine generator.

 

Wind Power Facilities

Wind is the largest source of renewable power in the United States. Wind turbines were operating in all 50 states in 2021 and generated over 9% of the net total of the country's energy.

Wind power facilities must be located in windy areas, such as hilltops, mountain gaps, open plains, or offshore. They consist of turbine blades that rotate with the wind, which turns an electric generator in order to produce electricity.

 

Geothermal Facilities

Geothermal facilities use steam to produce electricity. This is accomplished by routing the steam through a turbine connected to a generator.

 

Geothermal Power

Geothermal power plants may use dry steam from underground wells or pull steam from geothermal reservoirs. In the latter case, there will be drilling on these sites.

If the water needs to be further heated, geothermal facilities will use an intermediary fluid with a lower boiling point, which is then vaporized in a heat exchanger and then used to power the turbine.

 

Geothermal Heating

Small-scale geothermal heating involves circulating fluid through underground pumps where it absorbs heat. But for commercial enterprises, two wells are drilled on a site. One is used to inject fluid deep into the Earth's surface, and the other is where the water and steam displaced from underground are collected.

The collected heat can be used directly or used to warm up a secondary fluid before the cooled-off water is allowed to flow back into the Earth.

 

Water Power Facilities

Water power facilities can work in various ways, but in general, they use the movement of water to create energy. Many - but not all - use dams or other diversion structures to control the water.

 

Hydropower

There are three types of hydropower facilities: impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage.

Impoundment facilities use dams to create reservoirs, where the water goes through a controlled release to spin a turbine and power a generator. Diversion (or "run-of-river") facilities channel river water downward through a canal and take advantage of the decline of the flow to power a generator. Pumped storage facilities pump water up from a reservoir to a higher elevation.

 

Hydrokinetic

Hydrokinetic plants generate electricity from the movement of water without building dams or water diversion infrastructure. These facilities may harness power from the Earth's tides, waves, and ocean currents or the movement from free-flowing rivers.

 

Blast Resistant Buildings and Hazmat Containment Buildings for Renewable Energy Farms

Because of the increasing importance of renewable energy farms, more facilities are being built monthly.

The safety process on construction and worksites in the energy industry often requires using blast resistant buildings and hazmat containment buildings to stay compliant with regulations.

While new energy solutions aim to be more sustainable, they are not without risk. For example, occupational risks at biomass facilities include air pollution and exposure to combustion products. These worksites have already seen fires and explosions, many of which the causes are still unknown or the result of spontaneous combustion.

At solar power farms, hazmat containment buildings can be used as energy storage buildings. On wind farms they are often used for battery storage. Because these units contain hazardous materials, if a blast were to occur, it would be diffused by redirecting it upwards to minimize damage to the surrounding environment. 

Blast resistant buildings are often used as mobile offices and control rooms at hydropower facilities. These buildings protect workers from potential explosions so that they can work safely on-site in hazardous areas. 

Like any other industry, renewable energy can pose risks to workers. Compliance management, risk assessments, control process guidelines, and worker training are crucial. However, when unexpected and uncontrollable events occur, renewable energy farms will be glad they invested in blast-resistant buildings and hazmat containment buildings to protect their people and property.

RedGuard Sales & Marketing

RedGuard Sales & Marketing

The RedGuard sales and marketing team curates and writes on a variety of topics regarding blast-resistance and modular buildings. To inquire about any of the topics you read about on our blog, connect with us.

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