Renewable energy sources like wind, water and solar power are the future. This article explores the facts about renewable energy and why it is important to our planet’s future.
Table Of Content
- What Exactly Is Renewable Energy?
- Dirty energy
- Types of Renewable Energy Sources
- Other Alternative Energy Sources
- Renewable Energy in the Home
As new technologies reduce production costs and bring us closer to our goal of a sustainable energy future, renewable energy is rising. Record amounts of electricity are being produced by solar and wind power in the United States, and this new energy is being seamlessly integrated into the national electricity system.
As a result, renewable energy sources are quickly replacing “dirty” fossil fuels in the electricity sector, resulting in reduced carbon and other pollution emissions. However, not all “renewable” energy is actually good for the planet. When weighing the effects on wildlife, climate change, and other issues, the benefits and costs of biomass and huge hydropower dams present challenging trade-offs. Here’s the lowdown on alternative energy sources and how you may use some of these cutting-edge systems in your own home.
What Exactly Is Renewable Energy?
Clean energy, or renewable energy, is obtained from non-depleting resources such as the sun, wind, and water. Sunlight and wind, for example, continue to shine and blow, even if their availability varies with the passage of time and the state of the atmosphere.
Renewable energy sources are often misunderstood as a cutting-edge innovation, but in reality, humans have been using nature’s kinetic and thermal energy for a variety of human needs for centuries. Wind has been used to propel ships through the water and turn mills to process food crops. Fires have been able to burn late into the night because the sun provided warmth during the day. However, in the last few hundred years or so, people have opted for coal and fracking gas because they are cheaper and produce less pollution.
With the development of new, less expensive methods of capturing and storing wind and solar energy, renewables are quickly becoming a significant contributor to the United States’ overall energy output, already making up more than 12% of it. From massive offshore wind farms to rooftop solar panels on individual homes that can sell excess energy back to the grid, renewable energy is expanding at all scales. Many outlying areas (including those in Alaska, Kansas, and Missouri) are now exclusively using renewable energy sources for their heating and lighting needs.
A major focus will be on modernising the power grid in the United States to make it smarter, more secure, and more interconnected across areas as renewable energy usage rises.
Fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, and coal, are examples of nonrenewable or “dirty” energy. Nonrenewable energy sources are limited in quantity.When we fill up our gas tanks, we consume a limited resource that has been around since prehistoric times in the form of crude oil.
Natural deposits of nonrenewable energy sources tend to be concentrated in certain geographic areas; this makes certain countries rich in these resources relative to others. Contrarily, wind and sunshine are universally accessible. Reducing a country’s reliance on exports from countries rich in fossil fuels is one way that prioritising renewable energy can benefit national security.
The use of several types of nonrenewable energy can be harmful to ecosystems and human health. Oil drilling in Canada could lead to the destruction of the boreal forest; fracking technology has been linked to earthquakes and water pollution; and coal-fired power plants contribute to air pollution. Furthermore, all of these actions add to the problem of climate change.
Types of Renewable Energy Sources
For thousands of years, people have used sun energy for things like farming, heating, and drying food. As stated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, more solar energy falls on Earth in an hour than is consumed by the entire human population in a year, more solar energy falls on Earth in an hour than is consumed by the entire human population in a year. Nowadays, solar energy is used for a wide variety of purposes, including heating buildings, heating water, and powering electronics.
Sunlight is converted directly into electricity via solar cells, also known as photovoltaic (PV) cells, which can be constructed from silicon or other materials. Distributed solar systems are those that produce electricity on a smaller scale, either on individual rooftops or through larger-scale community projects that serve an entire neighborhood. Solar farms use mirrors to focus sunlight across acres of solar cells, producing enough energy to power thousands of homes. “Floatovoltaics,” or floating solar farms, are a good way to make use of wastewater treatment plants and non-sensitive bodies of water.
Almost 3% of America’s electricity comes from solar power (some sources estimate it will reach nearly 4% in 2022). Still, solar accounted for 46% of all new generating capacity in 2021.
As long as they are sited in a responsible manner, most solar panels have few environmental implications beyond those of their initial production.
The days of using windmills for energy generation are long gone. These days, all throughout the world, you may see turbines as tall as skyscrapers standing at attention, with blade diameters almost as large. With the help of wind power, a turbine’s blades can turn, powering an electric generator.
Wind, which now provides 9.2 percent of U.S. electricity, has dropped in price to become a competitive energy option. Although California, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas rank among the top states for wind power production, turbines can be located anywhere with strong wind speeds, including on hilltops, vast plains, and offshore in the open ocean.
Other Alternative Energy Sources
In the United States, hydropower now provides the most renewable electricity, while wind power is likely to overtake it in the near future. To generate electricity, hydropower uses the kinetic energy of moving water, such as that found in a powerful river or a waterfall’s rapid descent to the ground.
Large hydropower plants, sometimes known as “mega-dams,” are widely regarded as a source of nonrenewable energy, both domestically and internationally. River populations, both human and animal, are negatively impacted when mega-dams redirect and limit natural flows. Caution: small hydropower facilities (with an installed capacity of less than roughly 40 megawatts) typically cause less environmental harm than larger ones since they divert a smaller percentage of the flow.
Biomass, which can be anything from crops to scrap wood to trees, is an organic resource derived from plants and animals. Biomass combustion releases chemical energy as heat, which can be harnessed by a steam turbine to produce electricity.
The misconception that biomass is a clean, renewable fuel and a more environmentally friendly alternative to coal and other fossil fuels for energy generation is widespread. New research, however, demonstrates that many types of biomass, particularly those derived from forests, result in greater carbon emissions than fossil fuels. The effects on biodiversity are detrimental, too. However, under the correct conditions, several types of biomass energy could serve as a low-carbon alternative. Sawmill byproducts like sawdust and chips, which would normally decay and release carbon, can instead be used as a low-carbon energy source.
If you’ve ever relaxed in a hot spring, you’ve used geothermal energy.Due to the slow disintegration of radioactive particles in the rocks at the centre of the globe, the core of the earth is roughly as hot as the surface of the sun. Electricity can be generated from a hydrothermal resource by pumping very hot water from deep wells to the surface and turning a turbine. If the steam and water used by a geothermal plant are pumped back into the reservoir, the facility produces very few emissions. Though it is possible to construct geothermal plants in areas without subterranean reservoirs, doing so raises worries about the potential for an increase in earthquake activity in regions already known to be geologically unstable.
Although tidal and wave power are still in the research and development stages, the ocean will always be subject to the pull of the moon, making it an enticing alternative to tap into its power. There is concern that tidal energy methods, including tidal barrages, which function like dams and are placed in an ocean bay or lagoon, could have negative effects on local animals. Wave power, like tidal power, requires dam-like structures or devices anchored to the ocean floor to be placed on or near the water’s surface.
Renewable Energy in the Home
Whether using photovoltaic (PV) cell panels or passive solar home architecture, the sun’s rays can be captured on a smaller scale and used to power a whole dwelling. Homes with passive solar architecture take advantage of south-facing windows to let the sun in and use insulating materials like concrete, bricks, and tiles to keep the heat inside.
It is possible for homeowners of solar-powered homes to sell their extra electricity back to the utility company. Using batteries to store excess solar energy for use at night is also a financially viable option. Solar-powered windows and roofing tiles are only two examples of the aesthetic and practical innovations that scientists are working on.
Geothermal heat pumps
The coils at the back of your fridge are a miniature heat pump, extracting heat from the interior to maintain food’s freshness and coolness; geothermal technology is just a new spin on this familiar operation. As the earth’s temperature remains relatively constant (a few feet below the surface), residences can be cooled in the summer, heated in the winter, and even have their water heated by means of geothermal or geoexchange pumps.
In most cases, the original investment in a geothermal system will be recouped within 5–10 years after installation. Additionally, they are less noisy, require less servicing, and last considerably longer than standard air conditioners.
Small wind systems
Can you imagine a wind farm in your backyard? Small wind turbines are commonly used by boaters, ranchers, and even cell phone providers. Wind turbines for homes are already available, and dealers offer assistance with siting, installation, and maintenance (though some do-it-yourselfers are taking on the task themselves). Your requirement for the electrical grid may be diminished by installing a wind turbine, depending on your electricity demands, the local wind speeds, and the zoning regulations in your area.
Selling the energy you collect
Properties that generate their own electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar can either operate independently or link to the wider electrical grid. As a result of net metering, households in most jurisdictions only have to pay for the electricity they use from the grid rather than the whole amount they consume. When customers generate more electricity than they need, certain service providers will compensate them at full retail value.
Renewable energy, and you
The clean energy revolution can be hastened through public support for renewables and individual adoption of them. Getting electricity from a renewable resource is an option even if you can’t afford to install solar panels right now. (Get in touch with your utility to find out if they have such a service.) If your utility doesn’t provide renewable energy, you can offset your consumption by buying renewable energy certificates.
The use of green energy, which is cleaner than many conventional energy sources, is predicted to increase in global importance in the future. These renewable energy sources are beneficial for the environment, are creating new jobs, and appear to be economically viable in the near future.
Since they are not a long-term answer to our energy problems, fossil fuels must eventually be phased out of existence. Creating a sustainable future for our energy provision without hurting the earth we all share is possible if we develop a wide range of green energy options.
Explain the concept of the “green energy revolution.”
Companies in this group are working to shift the energy industry away from its reliance on fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal and toward cleaner, more sustainable options like wind, solar, and biofuels.
What is “green energy,” anyway? Why should we care about green energy?
Clean energy is power generated by renewable resources like the sun. Energy that does not contribute to air pollution is called “clean,” while energy that is constantly replenished is called “renewable,” and examples of the latter include hydropower, wind power, and solar power.
How environmentally friendly is renewable power?
Renewable energy sources offer great potential as a means to simultaneously meet the world’s energy needs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In comparison to the emissions from coal and gas power plants, renewable energy plants provide electricity with emissions that are roughly 6% lower. Emissions would have been cut by around 94% if it happened.
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