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Renewable Energy comes from sources that are not permanently depleted by their use i.e.,they are naturally renewed. Learn which forms of energy are ready to be used today, and which ones are still in the R&D phase.
Renewable Energy and its Many Forms
Today there are several forms of alternative renewable energy, including hydroelectric,
biomass, geothermal, wind and solar power. Thanks to scarcity of nonrenewable fossil
fuels and increased interest in lessening our negative impact on the environment, there
has been a greater push towards making these alternative sources of energy more
viable. Many of these alternatives can also greatly decrease the cost of utility payments
needed to power homes and business across the world.
But which forms of energy are ready to be used today, and which ones are still in the
R&D phase? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of these various
forms of renewable energy.
Hydroelectricity, also known ask hydropower, is produced by harnessing the power of
moving water found in Earth’s lakes, rivers and oceans. Imagine a dam blocking fast-
moving water in a river. The water doesn’t just stop at the dam; that would cause it to
overflow. Instead, the water is guided through pipes that turn a turbine and let out the
other side of the dam. The turbines then spin as a result of the water and rotate the
generator. This generator then creates electricity that’s sent to power lines.
Hydropower represents 19 percent of total electricity production, and the United States
ranks fourth highest as a producer of such power. It is a relatively clean source of energy
that does not require the burning of any fossil fuels and emissions are lower than from
other forms of energy.
However, it is very expensive to build a hydroelectric dam and they can only be built in
areas with the right conditions. There can also be some negative impacts on the
surrounding environment, such as habitat destruction. But perhaps the largest drawback
is that it cannot be adopted on the micro level; individuals and businesses trying to
lessen their fossil fuels consumption cannot simply decide to go hydro. The dams must
already be in place serving their community.
Biomass means natural material. It is used worldwide. Generating biomass energy
requires the use of any organic matter like plants, trees or animal waste. The leftover
wood or crop waste left behind by factories can be used to produce electricity. To get a
general understanding of the process, imagine farms and manufacturing plants
collecting wood scraps and sawdust. The burning of that waste heats water to create
steam that is sent to a turbine in order to spin and power a generator that creates
electricity sent to transmission lines.
Biomass produces around 1.5 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S.
Unfortunately, while it seems like burning trash that would otherwise go to waste,
biomass is also a major contributor of unhealthy air because the process releases an
alarming amount of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. And again, it is not
something the individual can easily adopt to power their home.
This type of energy requires using the heat from the Earth’s core. Due to the amount of
heat the Earth’s core produces, it creates magma that heats the Earth’s crust. By drilling
deep into the Earth’s surface, wells can capture the rising hot water and steam. This
captured steam rises to the surfaces and pushes a turbine that rotates a generator that
can produce electrical power. The process is somewhat similar to the way hydroelectric
energy and biomass energy are produced.
While geothermal energy is prevalent in underground reservoirs, it’s also found by the
formation of volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. Because it is generated continuously,
geothermal energy is a considerably reliable source of energy. The United States has
geothermal power plants in seven states. Geothermal produces .4 percent of the total
energy in the U.S.
Despite the fact that geothermal power can be safe, clean and environmentally friendly,
it is expensive. High costs have prevented the form of energy from taking off in a
widespread way. It must also be done in specific locations, as the excavation process
can release harmful gases.
How does wind power work? By using the energy of wind and converting it into
mechanical energy, which turns giant turbines that control generators that produce
electricity. For centuries, people have used windmills to pump water, ground grain and
complete other chores. The wind turbine has become a highly evolved product today.
By seizing the wind’s kinetic energy, wind turbines convert that energy into electric
energy that will later be used to power plants and homes. There are three major types of
winder power: utility-scale wind, distributed wind and offshore wind.
Wind energy has increased dramatically since its was first adopted. In the 1980s,
California was the leader in installed wind energy capacity, making up to nearly 90
percent of the market. In 2012, the United States made up 22 percent of the world’s wind
energy capacity. By the end of 2013, over 46,000 wind turbines in over 30 states were
active in the U.S. Despite the wider spread adoption of wind power, it is still difficult for
homeowners to make the switch on their own.
Solar energy works in two ways. The more common application of solar energy is
through PV panels, or photovoltaic panels. PV cells turn sunlight into electricity instantly
with the help of semiconductors like crystalline silicon or other thin film materials. PV
cells are one of the most well known forms of energy generators.
Powered by the sun’s rays, solar energy is an inexhaustible resource. It can produce
great amounts of energy in a very short time and with very little input, making it much
more affordable than other forms of alternative energy. It is also one of the cleanest
forms of energy with very little waste. Perhaps the greatest advantage of solar is that it’s
market ready; businesses and families are already using solar across the US.
The cost of installing your own home solar power system is significantly lower than the
cost of switching to another system, and the cost continues to decrease over time. Plus
there’s no need to wait for the utility company in your area to start offering solar; you can
make the switch on your own. The design of solar panels continues to improve as well,
and today they are robust and require very little maintenance. Individuals and business
owners who are ready to lower their impact on the environment and their monthly bills
should consider installing PV panels today.
There are many exciting advancements taking place in the world of sustainable and
renewable energy. Hopefully soon we will no longer have to rely on fossil fuels at all.
However there are advantages and disadvantages to any type of energy production, so
do your research to find out which form of energy you should invest in.
Revolve Solar is a leader in the solar industry. Located in Central Texas and Northern
California, the focus is on customer service for both residential and commercial
clientele. Saving the world and your money one system at a time. For more information
visit their website today.