What Is Renewable Energy
Wondering what is renewable energy?
Today, renewable energy is a topic that many people talk about, but not all are clear about. Here’s our understanding of what renewable energy is about and what it can do for us.
Renewable energies are sources of energy derived from commonly-occurring processes in nature (e.g. movement of wind and water, etc). More importantly, what is renewable energy characterized by is how the energy sources are constantly being replenished (hence “renewable”), and the rate of replacement is often higher than what humans can consume.
Examples of renewable energies include solar energy, hydroelectric energy, wind energy and geothermal energy. This means that the supply of renewable energies is never ending, as long as the processes of nature producing the supply continue to take place.
What is renewable energy good for besides being constantly replenished? Renewable energies are often associated with cleaner and greener forms of energy sources, as compared to non-renewable energy sources, fossil fuels. Read about the other advantages of renewable energy.
What is renewable energy that is accessible to humans today? There are several types. Let’s take a look at them as they provide more answers to the question of what is renewable energy.
Wind power is perhaps one of the most common types of renewable energies. Wind farms are starting to spread across the plains and hills of Denmark, Portugal, Spain and in many other places all over the world. It generates electricity by moving turbines at wind farms which are connected to the power grid, generating electricity for thousands of homes. Wind power has been growing very much these last few years. In 1996, the wind energy output was about 6,100 MW. Between 2005 and 2008, the energy output doubled from about 59,091 MW (megawatts) to 120,791 MW.
Hydroelectric power is another source of renewable energy. It uses the energy of water to produce electricity, for example, technologies to harvest the energy of oceans and of rivers, or the use of dams. In a dam, which is the most common type of hydroelectric station, the water is contained and then released through a turbine which generates electricity as the water passes. In 2008, hydropower was responsible for 860 GW of energy, and was the largest contributor of all renewable energies.
Solar power is a type of energy that has been growing over the last ten years. With the advancement of technologies and with prices lowering, solar power is becoming more accessible. Several solar power stations already exist or are being built all over the world, generating electricity to the general grid. In 2008 solar power was estimated to be responsible for 145 GW of energy.
Other types of renewable energies include geothermal energy, which in 2008 was responsible for generating 0.3 GW. Geothermal power plants uses the energy trapped within the earth’s core.
Renewable energies have the ups of being “free” and never ending, so you may wonder what is renewable energy limited by. Indeed, there are some problems with their use that are limiting what is renewable energy’s potential to replace non-renewable energy sources.
The main problems with the use of renewable energies have always been how to tap efficiently on the sources and produce sufficient energy for today’s energy hungry society. The production of energy using renewable energy sources is often highly dependent on conditions in nature. For example, not all climates are suitable for tapping on solar energy; they are more suited for areas near the equator where energy from the sun is accessible all year round. Winds do not blow all the time – during these times, the wind turbines in the wind farms would be left idle.
High set-up cost is often involved in using renewable energies. Solar panels are expensive, and their efficiency in converting solar energy to electricity is currently not ideal. Dams are also expensive to build, and they can have adverse impact on the environment. Biofuels use up land for the cultivation of biofuel crops, leaving less land for food crops, and as such, the price of food could increase.
Fortunately, technology has been advancing by the day, and scientists all over the world are finding solutions to some of these pertinent problems. Renewable energies are starting to contribute more and more each year to the world’s supply of energy.
What is renewable energy contributing to the energy supply of the world today? In 1980, renewable energies were responsible for 0.02 TW (terawatts) of energy, in 2004 renewable energies produced 0.13 TW and in 2006, the number was of 0.16 TW. Renewable energies are increasingly becoming an important source of energy for human activities.
Of course, 0.16 TW is still very little when compared to the world’s consumption of 15.8 TW, but it is a growing number. There is much potential for renewable energies to have a more significant role in our modern society, especially with increasing concern over the pollution caused by the use of non renewable energies. These above figures give you an idea of what is renewable energy going to be like in 30 years time.
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