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Green energy is the modern term for sustainable, natural energy that inherently is less-polluting and does not use resources that are limited in supply. By and large, the most used sources for the production of electricity are coal and nuclear-powered reactors, although there are some high-production water turbines operating through hydroelectric dams. As each year passes, it is more and more feasible to use solar and wind power to produce electricity both locally and in cooperatives that can be metered out to residential and commercial clients.
Green energy is classified by how it is produced. There are currently three generations of green energy producing devices. The first generation includes the hydroelectric plants, some of which have been used now for over 100 years. This was the first green energy and still applauded today for their efficiency and low emissions. The only drawbacks are that new dams often require that people be relocated from their homes and they also can subvert the course of rivers, changing the local ecosystem drastically. Geothermal plants are the other first-generation source of green energy. Geothermal heat is efficient, but it is too costly is some regions where the heat is too deep to tap effectively.
Second-generation sources of green energy are those with which most people are familiar, but few actually use. Solar energy is included here. It has been in use effectively since the 1980s and in the last two decades, improvements have made solar power more efficient than ever. The largest solar power station in the world is the Nellis Solar Power Plant in North America, producing 15 MW of electricity, but a massive plant in Australia is planned that will produce 154 MW and Girassol in Portugal is almost completely and it will produce 62 MW. Wind-powered turbines are also in the second generation. Worldwide, wind farms now produce over 120,000 MW of electricity and steadily growing. Approximately 20% of the total power used in Denmark is wind-generated. The other sustainable second-generation source is plant-based ethanol which can be used to replace petroleum gasoline and diesel.
Third-generation green energy sources are the newest and most innovative. The source with the greatest potential is ocean energy. Equipment has already been manufactured and is working efficiently that harnesses the power of oceanic tidal forces. The first tidal energy plant for commercial use is now in operation in Strangford Lough in Ireland.