Renewable energy comes from sources that nature is constantly replenishing.

Non-renewable energy is from sources that will eventually run out. Renewable energy, also called "clean" or "green" energy, it generates almost no waste or polluting emissions.
2 major natural sources of renewable energy
The sun
origin of the water cycle, tides, wind and plant growth
The Earth
which gives off heat and should be the same length as sun

Wind

Wind turbines use a generator to transform the force of the wind into electricity.

Although still relatively new, wind energy has been gaining popularity in many countries for several decades.

The kinetic energy of moving air is converted into electricity by wind turbines installed in locations where the weather is most favourable.

Wind turbines can be used individually or grouped into wind farms.

Advantages

  • Clean (and renewable)
  • Requires no fuel and produces no pollutants or greenhouse gases
  • Part of the energy transition plan and the fight against climate change
  • New sources of income, employment and partnerships for host communities

How a wind turbine works

  • The wind flows across the turbine blade surfaces.
  • This creates a pressure difference between the top and bottom surfaces of the blades, which generates the thrust to turn them.
  • The kinetic energy resulting from this wind is transformed into mechanical energy, then transmitted to a generator located in the nacelle of the wind turbine.
  • The current then travels through underground cables to the substation, where it is converted to a higher voltage for the transmission or distribution grid and then to the consumers.

Solar

Photovoltaic cells, mainly composed of silicon, capture sunlight and transform it into electricity.

Solar thermal energy uses the sun’s radiation to heat a fluid (liquid or gas). Energy is received and held by the fluid for direct (e.g. heating) or indirect use.

This technology is based on the principles of thermal absorption and conduction.

Advantages

  • Clean (and renewable)
  • Emits no greenhouse gases
  • The raw material, the Sun, although more than 150 million km away, is free, unlimited (on a human time scale) and available everywhere in the world
  • Silent and has very little impact on the surrounding ecosystems

How does a solar installation work?

Three stages are involved for a photovoltaic installation to recover the energy transmitted by the Sun, transform it into electricity and then distribute it to the customers connected to the grid:

  • Solar panels convert light directly into a continuous electric current.
  • The inverter then transforms this electricity into an alternating current compatible with the network.
  • The transformer increases the voltage of the electricity so that the energy can be introduced into the transmission or distribution network, then to customers.

Photovoltaic system

A photovoltaic system consists of a set of cells mounted on a module that are connected in series, in parallel or in combination.

It uses the photoelectric effect to convert electromagnetic waves (radiation) emitted by the Sun into electricity. The interconnected cells constitute a photovoltaic solar module. These modules grouped together form a solar installation.

Electricity can be consumed or stored directly on site, or transported through the electricity distribution and transmission network.

Technological advancements in recent years have improved the energy return rate of the photovoltaic system: it now produces 20 to 40 times more energy throughout its operational life than the amount used for its manufacture.

Hydroelectric

Hydroelectricity uses the power of water (rivers and other watercourses) to make electricity in hydroelectric power stations fed by dams or flowing water.

Hydroelectric power is generated by the force of moving water, i.e. the hydraulic energy of currents or waterfalls (rivers, lakes and seas).

In a hydroelectric plant, the force of the water activates the turbines which in turn drive the alternators.

As they turn, the alternators transform the mechanical energy into electrical energy as the electrons move quickly back and forth.

Advantages

  • A renewable and limitless primary energy source (water current)
  • Consumes neither water nor fossil fuels and produces no CO₂ emissions, polluting discharges or waste

Two main categories of hydroelectric plants

  • Flowing water: the force of the current drives the turbines continuously. This type of plant allows the actual river water to pass through.
  • Reservoir: water is stored in an artificial lake generally confined by a dam. When electricity is needed, the valves are opened and the water flows through the turbines. This method makes it possible to match electricity production to consumer demand.

Boralex has mainly run-of-river power stations providing many advantages, such as:

  • Constant and reliable production (except in case of drought)
  • Safe source of energy (no risk of water spill or flooding, because little water is held in the reservoir)
  • Source of locally consumable energy that can supply isolated sites in rural areas
  • Helps limit network losses by being located close to consumers and avoiding transportation over long distances
  • Local jobs created during construction and operation of the plant along with revenues to municipalities
  • Low environmental impact: plant operations cause no water-level fluctuation and very little change in the hydraulic regime (allows the actual flow of water in the river to pass through), which represents minimal impact on aquatic flora and fauna.

Thermal

Biomass uses thermal processes (such as gasification) or biochemical processes to transform plant organic matter into electricity and heat.

1. Biomass

Biomass is the oldest form of energy, used by humans since the discovery of fire in prehistory.

Electricity is manufactured from the heat released by the combustion of renewable materials (wood, plants, agricultural waste, organic household refuse) or the biogas resulting from the fermentation of these materials in biomass plants.

Waste is burned directly, producing heat, electricity or both (cogeneration). This operates with wood, waste wood processing industries and agricultural plant waste (straw, sugar cane, peanuts, coconut and others).

Advantages

  • Emits almost no pollutants.
  • The amount of CO2, a greenhouse gas that biomasses release, equals the amount that the plants have absorbed during their growth and that would have been released during the natural process of biomass decomposition. There is no impact on the greenhouse effect.

2. Cogeneration power station

A cogeneration power station combines a natural gas cycle and a steam cycle, with each cycle generating electricity. This power station uses natural gas exclusively to power its gas turbine and drive the generator. The exhaust gas produced by the gas turbine is used to create steam without burning any fuel. The steam drives the steam turbine, generating additional electricity.

Storage

Storage allows some of the electricity generated to be stored and saved for future use.
Boralex is taking its 1st steps in this sector: It considers that storage is a complementary option to fostering the widespread use of renewable energy and accelerating the energy transition.

Its advantages:

  • Ensures balance between the electricity generated and consumed on the networks and, in particular, mitigates the variability of renewable energy production. Fosters the penetration of renewable energies, and at the same time ensures the stability of the power grid.
  • Keeps the surplus energy generated at certain times (e.g. on an extremely sunny day) for reuse in the evening.
  • Provides the energy needed when there are consumption peaks or supply system failures.
  • Improves the reliability and flexibility of the power grid, thereby limiting expenditure on new infrastructure, such as stations and lines.

Lithium-ion batteries are among the most commonly used technologies today for storing energy:

  • Their high energy density is an asset compared with other technologies, as they encourage utility-scale deployment while reducing the amount of space needed.
  • A reliable and recognized technology, lithium-ion batteries are already used in millions of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as in our main electronic devices.