Renewable energy or green energy comes from resources that will be naturally replenish within a human timescale.
What does this mean?
Well, simply put, renewable energy draws from an infinite bank of resources. Think of tides, sunlight, rain and the currents in rivers! They are not running out anytime soon, and unlike fossil fuels, using them does not entail major environmental risks.
Historically, every time there has been an increase in oil prices, the world has turn its eyes towards renewable energy. After oil prices drop, however, things have gone back to business-as-usual.
Cost and a huge interest from big oil and chemical corporations to not make it happen, mainly. The infrastructure for drawing out and using fossil fuels is already there. This does not only entail complex oil refineries and coal-powered plants, but the electricity lines, gas pipes, etc. that make it possible for you and I to use these resources. The same is not true for renewable energy.
Big corporations are already making profit from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, building the infrastructure for the production and use of renewable energy would take heaps of time and money. People who are in the money-making business have not interest in wasting these resources.
Most renewable energy comes either directly or indirectly from the sun, however alternative energy resources can be divided into more specific categories includes:
Water is about 800 times denser than air. Hydropower benefits from this, as even a slow stream of water can carry significant amounts of energy. Hydropower plants use the energy of falling or flowing water to turn the blades of a turbine. As they rotate, the blades spin a generator which transforms the mechanical energy of the spinning turbine into electrical energy.
It is the radiant light and heat —radiation— that comes from the sun. Solar farms use solar energy for generating electricity and heating living spaces. They collect this type of renewable energy through a number of different techniques. For example: photovoltaics, solar architecture and artificial photosynthesis.
The solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing fields of renewable energy, as you will see in the next section. This type of renewable energy has the potential to increase countries’ energy security. It uses an infinite and independent resource, while increasing sustainability and reducing pollution.
It is energy from moving air. The Earth is not completely smooth all the way around. It has different properties in different places and thus absorbs the heat from the sun at various rates. This causes differences in the temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, which generates winds. Wind energy is essentially solar energy that is turned into kinetic energy of moving air.
Wind turbines, convert the air flow they receive into a rotational movement, which drives an electricity generator. As the wind speed increases, so does the electricity output; hence why wind farms are located in areas with strong winds, such as offshore and high altitude sites.
It is the heat from within the Earth. Geothermal plants use the energy that comes from the core of the planet to heat houses and generate electricity.
The slow decay of radioactive particles produce very hot temperatures in the Earth’s core. Hotter even than the sun’s surface! The other layers of Earth are far cooler than the core, which generates a temperature gradient that conducts thermal energy from the core to the surface.
This generates a variety of geothermal resources, such as hot water or steam reservoirs, magma, etc. Geothermal facilities access these resources at surface level or by drilling deep into the Earth and then use them for heating or electricity at small and large scales.
Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals. It is also a renewable source of energy. Biomass contains energy stored from the sun. This energy turns into heat when the biomass is burned. However, producing heat by burning the biomass is not the most efficient way of using this resource. Bioenergy central's turn biomass into biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. These biofuels are mainly used in transportation and have the potential to meet over 25% of the world demand for transportation fuel by 2050.
One major advantage with the use of renewable energy is that as it is renewable it is therefore sustainable and so will never run out. Renewable energy facilities generally require less maintenance than traditional generators. Their fuel being derived from natural and available resources reduces the costs of operation.
However, there are others benefits of renewable energy like:
According to the International Panel on Climate Change, renewable energy generates a minimal amount of greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the life-cycle process of manufacturing, installing, operating, maintaining, dismantling and decommissioning a power plant that uses renewable energy.
This is true for most forms of renewable energy. Emissions coming from wind power represent only 2% of those coming from natural gas and 1.1% of those coming from coal. Solar and geothermal emissions represent 10% of those from natural gas and 5.6% of those from coal. Meanwhile, hydroelectric power emissions represent 25% of those coming from natural gas and 13.89% of those coming from coal.
This places hydroelectric power as the second most polluting form of renewable energy, after the use of biomass. The latter can have a wide range of greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the resource and how we harvest it. However, biomass emission footprint can be reduced if it is sourced sustainably.
Producing all the electricity we consume through renewable energy poses significant public health benefits. Plants powered with coal and gas generate air and water pollution. This is linked to breathing problems, brain damage, heart attacks and cancer. Meanwhile, the implementation of renewable energy is beneficial for both the employee and the employer. It reduces premature mortality, as well as lost work-days and overall healthcare costs.
Renewable energy does not share this issue. Wind, solar and hydroelectric energy do not generate air pollution. Geothermal and biomass energy do emit some air pollutants but their levels are insignificant in comparison to those of fossil fuels.
Furthermore, wind and solar energy do not require water to operate, so they do not pollute water sources or strain supply. Biomass and geothermal power plants do require water for cooling and hydroelectric power plants often harm river ecosystems.
Coal and oil are concentrated in few parts of the world. Now name one country that does not have wind, sunshine, plant residue or heat from the earth. The answer is none. The truth of the matter is that renewable resources “provide a vast and constantly replenished energy resource supply” (Union of Concerned Scientists). They will not disappear, and hence have the potential to provide all the electricity we need.
That is not to say that renewable energy does not have limitations. There are a number of technological and environmental constraints that have slowed down its progress. But numerous studies have shown that the world can use renewable energy, right now, to meet its present and future electricity needs.
Increasing renewable energy has the potential to create still more jobs. In 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists conducted an analysis of the economic benefits of a 25 percent renewable energy standard by 2025; it found that such a policy would create more than three times as many jobs as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels—resulting in a benefit of 202,000 new jobs in 2025
Renewable energy directly and indirectly generates revenue for countries, which can be used to support vital public services. Furthermore, renewable energy projects often are in rent land locations. Therefore, the land-owners increase their incomes through lease payments and payments for power line easements, as well as road rights-of-way. Also, rural landowners generate new sources of income by producing feedstock for biomass facilities.
Renewable energy provides affordable electricity, which can help stabilize energy prices in the future. The renewable energy facilities require a steep initial investment. However, after they are built, they operate at very low cost, mainly because their fuel is free. This means that renewable energy prices can be stable over time and that you will actually pay less for your electricity.
Using renewable energy can lower the prices of and demand for fossil fuels. This is because we will have a wide range of energy options we can choose from, instead of just one.
Global warming and climate change are increasing the risk of severe droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and storms. Renewable energy sources are more resilient than coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants in case of these extreme weather events.
Wind and solar facilities, are spread out over large geographical areas. This means that if a severe weather event damages some of the equipment, the renewable energy system will likely continue to work. Fossil fuel-dominated electric systems do not fare so well in the same conditions.
Now that you know what are the types of renewable energy and its benefits, what do you wait to begin use this “green energy” in your home?
Remember that you are the only one that can make a change in the world. So, let's do it! and enjoy the benefits of being a little greener.
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