Mission: Be a Clean Energy Champion
When you flick on the light switch at home, have you ever wondered where the power to light up the bulb comes from?
Electricity is a form of energy that is created by a wide variety of generating sources.
There are many ways to generate electricity, and some are better for the planet than others. Some sources, like coal, produce pollutants like carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, and they are not renewable – once it’s used, it’s gone forever.
But clean energy is different, as they create almost no pollution. There are many types of clean energy, including solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity and hydroelectric stations that harness the power of water. Even nuclear power, which uses tiny little uranium pellets to generate electricity, is an important source of carbon-free electricity.
Did you know?
of Ontario's electricity comes from zero-carbon emitting sources
comes from nuclear power generation
comes from hydroelectric power generation
comes from wind and solar generation
As one of Canada’s largest clean generators, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) operates a diverse and sustainable fleet of clean energy sources. The company is now working to expand this fleet with more renewable and clean technologies to continue to power light bulbs, stoves, and even electric vehicles while fighting climate change.
Types of clean energy
There are many types of clean energy. Climate Guardian Newton, an Ontario Black Bear who specializes in clean energy, will guide you through a few of them.
Have you ever gone camping near a river? Remember the rushing sound of water? There’s a lot of mechanical energy potential in that flow of water. Hydropower captures this flow and turns it into clean energy. It’s one of the oldest forms of clean energy in the world.
There are hundreds of hydroelectric stations across Canada. At these stations, you’ll see water flowing through a turbine – kind of like a large fan – which makes it spin. This spinning motion causes an electrical generator connected to the turbine to spin as well and create electricity.
Newton says: Did you know hydropower is the leading source of energy in Canada? In fact, the country is the third largest producer hydroelectricity in the world. That’s a lot of clean energy!
OPG operates 66 hydro stations in Ontario – and the company is continuing to develop and improve these stations to help combat climate change.
Nuclear energy gets down to the atomic level to harness clean power that emits almost zero pollution. Inside a reactor at a nuclear power plant, atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms – a process called nuclear fission. This releases great amounts of energy, enough to boil water to really, really high temperatures! This heated water produces steam, which is used to spin large turbines that generate electricity.
Newton says: Did you know about 60% of all power in Ontario comes from nuclear power plants? OPG operates two of those stations – the Darlington and Pickering nuclear generating stations.
Did you know it’s possible to generate energy by burning wood and even poop? Biomass energy is created when organic matter, like plants and wood chips, are burned. Special technology captures the heat and steam from this burning process and turns it into electricity.
Newton says: Did you know OPG operates a station that was converted from burning coal to biomass? The Atikokan Generating Station is now the largest 100% biomass-fueled plant in North America.
There’s nothing better than a clear blue sky and a sunny day to enjoy the outdoors. The sun gives us warmth, light, and lots of clean, photovoltaic energy. This is electricity generated by the sun’s light, or photons, shining on a solar panel. Solar panels are a bunch of photovoltaic cells stuck together, which are very good at absorbing tiny bits of solar energy and converting it into electricity. Some watches and calculators are powered by tiny photovoltaic cells. And solar panels are even used to power space stations in space! At OPG’s Nanticoke Solar facility, you will find more than 190,000 solar panels, which generate enough clean energy to power a small town.
Newton says: Did you know that the sun produces enough energy in just one hour to equal all of the energy humans need in a whole year?
Tall machines called wind turbines capture wind energy. When the wind blows, the blades start to spin, causing a motor in the turbine to generate electricity. Solar and wind energy are considered forms of “intermittent power”, as they rely on the right weather conditions to generate electricity.
Deep underground, the earth is constantly generating heat. Geothermal energy is created when special machines access heat from deep in the ground. This heat is turned into electricity that can power our homes.
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