What Is Green Energy?

green-energy Credit: Thomas Jackson/Stone/Getty Images

Green energy refers to energy derived from renewable sources with a low environmental impact and includes solar, wind, geothermal, biogas and hydroelectric energy. Green energy sources don't create harmful greenhouse gases at the same rate as fossil-fuel energy sources.

Nonrenewable sources of energy such as the fossil fuels oil, coal and natural gas are finite, and elements such as the uranium used for nuclear power have limited availability. Renewable sources of energy take their power from wind, the sun, water movement, organic plants, waste material and the heat from the Earth.

Green energy encompasses the cleanest renewable sources of energy. Solar energy is derived from the Sun's rays, and wind turbines create energy by harnessing the power of the wind. Hydroelectricity utilizes the power of rapidly moving water, and energy from biomass is derived from organic materials such as human, animal and plant waste. Power sources that work by capturing the Earth's heat are called geothermal sources.

In addition to using renewable sources that reduce greenhouse gases, green energy also avoids environmentally harmful extraction techniques such as drilling, mining and fracking. The by-products from nuclear power include radioactive waste, which is expensive to store and is harmful to humans, animals and the ecosystem.