What is renewable energy?
Have you been wondering what “renewable energy” really means? Renewable energy, or sometimes referred to as clean energy, is energy that comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished naturally. They are part of the planet’s physical structure, which means they are constantly being renewed by natural means. They simply cannot run out. For example, sunlight that keeps shining or wind that keeps blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather. Renewable energy plays an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Using renewable energy can reduce the use of fossil fuels, which are major sources of carbon dioxide emissions.
These sustainable energy sources are often called “alternative energy sources” because they’re considered to be an alternative to traditional fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Alternative energy encompasses all those things that do not consume fossil fuel. They are widely available and environment friendly. This is because alternative energy resources pack a much lighter environmental footprint than fossil fuels. This is why renewable energy sources are so important – they are our solution to a less polluted world. Even if we did not face the threat of climate change, minimizing pollution is basic for good health. Let’s take a look at some of the renewable energy sources that are currently available to us.
- Solar Energy
Solar energy is one of the alternative energy sources that is most widely used across the world. It was in use much earlier before humans even learn how to light a fire. Many living things are dependent on solar energy, such as plants, aquatic life and the animals. About 70% of the sunlight gets reflected back into the space and we have only 30% of sunlight to meet up our energy demands. While solar energy is used for producing solar energy, it is also used for drying clothes, used by plants during the process of photosynthesis and also used by human beings during winter seasons to make their body temperature warm.
Solar energy can be extracted by using photovoltaic (PV) cells. These photovoltaic (PV) cells are made from silicon or other materials that transform sunlight directly into electricity that will be used in generating light and heat. Distributed solar systems generate electricity locally for homes and businesses, either through rooftop panels or community projects that power entire neighborhoods. Solar energy has the least negative impact on the environment compared to any other energy source. It does not produce greenhouse gases and does not pollute the water. As long as there is sunshine, solar energy can be deployed anywhere. This is particularly useful for remote regions with no access to any other source of electricity.
- Wind Energy
This is one of the energy sources that have been in use for a very long time and for centuries. One of the biggest advantages of wind energy is that wind is an unlimited, free, renewable resource. Harvesting wind power is a clean, non-polluting way to generate electricity. Unlike other types of power plants, it emits no air pollutants or greenhouse gases. The wind turbines harmlessly generate electricity from wind passing by. A single windmill can power the crop irrigation, water pumping and electric lights. Nowadays, there are several windmills that are used to generate required energy mostly for industrial uses. Many of the wind turbines can capture much power all at once before feeding it to the power grid.
- Hydroelectric Energy
Flowing water creates energy that can be captured and turned into electricity. This is called hydroelectric energy or hydropower. Hydroelectric energy stations capture the kinetic energy of moving water and give mechanical energy to turbines. The moving turbines then convert mechanical energy into electrical energy through generators. The most common type of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam on a river to store water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. Hydropower is the largest producer of alternative energy in the world.
- Biomass Energy
Biomass energy is also another renewable source of energy that uses organic materials from plants and animals. This is the process by which an alternative energy is generated through conversion of biological materials and wastes into forms that can be used as energy sources for heating, power generation and transportation. Solid biomass, such as wood and garbage, can be burned directly to produce heat. Biomass can also be converted into a gas called biogas or into liquid biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. These fuels can then be burned for energy. Those carbon based substances or materials converted over a long period of time to fossil fuels are not regarded as biomass.