5 Fastest-Growing Renewable Energy

feature image - renewable energy

With fossil fuels running out, people are already looking for alternatives. Good for us that we have abundant sources from which we can choose.

With so many energy sources with zero carbon emissions, quitting fossil fuels and promoting renewable sources will benefit the Earth and its people. The five fastest-growing Renewable energy around the world are listed below:

1. Hydropower

hydropower - renewable energy
Holyoke Dam, United States (source)

About seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered. Earth has abundant water sources to produce energy. Hydropower is the most widely-used renewable source of energy.

The global hydroelectric installed capacity exceeds 1,295GW, accounting for more than 18% of the world’s total installed power generation capacity. 

There are many types of hydropower facilities. One way is to build a dam in a naturally running river. The flow of water drives the turbine to produce power.

The river’s kinetic energy is converted into electricity, sent off to businesses, industry, and houses through the electrical grid.

Other ways include a dam and the water stored in an artificial reservoir. This process is carried out whenever required as the operator releases the water. In the same way, it drives the turbines and creates power. 

The pros of hydropower include that it is a very efficient way to produce energy. The efficiency of today’s hydropower plants is at a whopping ninety percent.

Hydropower is considered the best alternative to fossil fuels as the days to use fossil fuels are about to end. Hydropower does not produce any carbon dioxide or any other atmospheric pollutants. 

However, there are still a few cons of hydropower. Hydropower does not pollute the atmosphere, albeit it does have environmental impacts.

The area where the dams and reservoirs are set up will affect that area’s land, homes, and wild habitat. It could modify the aquatic life habitat and block the passage.

It takes a lot of resources to build a single dam. Hydropower is dependent on the Earth’s water system that fluctuates from time to time which could cause a loss in the projects. 

China holds the largest hydropower plant (the three gorges) that can produce 22.5 GW of energy. China has an enormous hydropower generation capacity in the world.

Some other countries that have the most extensive hydropower installation are the USA, Canada, and Russia.

2. Wind energy

Wind farm - renewable energy
Rampion offshore wind farm, United Kingdom (source)

Wind energy is a renewable source of energy that uses wind to produce mechanical power through wind turbines. In 2019,  wind produced 1430 TWh of electricity, 5.3% of worldwide electrical generation.

The global installed wind power capacity reached more than 651 GW increasing 10% over 2018. In 2020, wind power capacity increased to 733 GW. 

There is a simple principle on how wind power works. The wind is a form of solar energy caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotation of the Earth, and the Earth’s surface irregularities.

The wind turbines are set in such a place where there is enough wind to move the blades of a wind turbine. When the turbines start to rotate, the generator spins and can produce electricity. 

Wind turbines are categorized based on where they are installed and how they are connected to the grid:

  • Land-based wind turbines are grouped into wind plants, providing power in huge chunks.
  • Offshore wind turbines are installed and generate immense energy capturing the strong winds from the ocean.
  • The distributed wind turbines are the smallest used in agriculture, residential sites within proximity.

The electricity produced by wind turbines is extremely cheap as it requires wind, which is unrestricted, as its fuel. Wind energy is one renewable energy that has a much smaller impact on the environment than fossil fuels.

Wind energy has a zero carbon emission rate that benefits humans as humans are susceptible to various diseases caused due to toxic air.

Wind energy consumes significantly less water to operate and degrade the hydrological resources, unlike hydropower projects. 

With advantages, there are still a few disadvantages to look at in wind power projects. Wind power is not produced consistently. When building a wind powerhouse, there are factors to be considered.

The electricity is produced only in the presence of wind. Though wind energy does not cause environmental problems, it indeed creates a threat to wildlife.

Studies have estimated that between 140,000 and 500,000 birds die from wind turbines each year. Wind energy creates noise pollution in its vicinity.

Wind energy is only operated at limited locations where there is enough production of electricity. Hence, it could damage the environment, such as cutting trees, as it is suitable for wind energy.

China has the largest capacity for wind energy globally. It produced 288 GW of power at the end of 2020.

Just behind China in the USA at the capability of producing 122 GW of wind energy. Germany, India, and Spain stand in third, fourth and fifth positions respectively.

3. Solar energy

Solar - renewable energy
Solar panel at Zion National Park, Utah (source)

Solar energy is the conversion of energy from sunlight to electricity. In 2021, The international energy agency mentioned that by 2050, solar power would contribute twenty percent of worldwide energy consumption, which means solar will be the most significant energy source.

In 2019, power generation from solar energy increased by 22 percent, to 720TWh. In 2020, energy production reached 145 TWh, with a year-on-year growth rate of 18 percent.

Solar panels are placed in the places where there is the presence of sunlight. Solar panels are made up of silicon in a metal panel frame with a glass casing.

When the particles of light hit the silicon layer on top of the panel, they knock off the electrons from the silicon atoms.

Then, the photovoltaic produces the electric current; the DC is captured and converted into AC by the inverter. The AC is the one that is used.

The raw materials required to produce energy from solar panels are unlimited. Solar energy does not produce carbon gases which is why there is no threat to the environment.

Solar power is also suitable for remote places not connected to the energy grid. Solar energy contains no moving parts thus, causing no pollution, unlike wind energy.

The international energy agency said that “renewable energy will have huge longer-term benefits.” Using solar energy will enhance sustainability, lower the cost to tackle global warming, and keep fossil fuels prices lower. Hence, early investment should be considered as the future of energy will be solar energy.

While discussing solar energy’s advantages, we cannot ignore the minor flaws; solar power is inconsistent and reliable. The following things can limit the availability of sunlight in some places.

  • Latitude: although sunlight is found everywhere on the planet, efficacy falls when the distance from the equator increases. It puts some countries that fall away from the equator at a disadvantage.
  • Night: during the night, electricity is not produced. Hence, the biggest problem is the night. 
  • Cloud: clouds can block the sunlight reaching the panels diminishing the productivity of the solar powers. 

Even to produce enough electricity for a building, a vast solar array is required. It requires a lot of space. The electricity will cost significantly less than other energy, but installing the plants can be costly.

Few elements such as cadmium will cause no harm when it is packed inside the solar panel, but by chance, it leaks out of the solar panels, then it will cause some severe environmental damage.

China has the most solar installations producing 204700MW of energy. Just behind China stands the USA creating 75900MW of solar energy. Japan, Germany, and India stand in third, fourth, and fifth positions respectively. 

4. Geothermal energy

geothermal - renewable energy
Geothermal energy at Iceland (source)

Geothermal energy is a renewable energy that absorbs the heat from the sub-surface of the Earth’s crust. In 2019, 13,900 MW of geothermal energy was available worldwide. Geothermal energy is growing at a fast pace.

Research projects that by 2050, 1400 TWh of electricity per year could come from geothermal power. Wells are dug deep into the underground reservoir to access the hot water and steam.

The steam and hot water are used to drive the turbines connected to the electricity generators. Three types of geothermal power plants are described below. 

  • Dry steam: it is the oldest geothermal power plant. It takes the smoke out of the fractures in the ground that drives the turbine generating electricity. 
  • Flash power plant: Flash plants pull deep, high-pressure hot water into cooler, low-pressure water. This process produces streams used to generate electricity.
  • Binary: hot water is passed by a secondary fluid with a lower temperature than the boiling point of water. The secondary fluid turns into a vapor which drives a turbine. The binary power plants are predicted to replace other plants soon. 

Geothermal energy produces relatively less pollution than burning fossil fuels. The heat coming from the Earth will last until the world stays.

Thus, geothermal energy can be replenished quickly, making the energy both sustainable and renewable. Geothermal energy is reliable, unlike solar and wind power, which is unusable whenever necessary.

No fuels are required to produce geothermal energy, unlike fossil fuels which require a lot of processes like mining to be found. With recent development in technologies, the process is getting easier to produce geothermal energy. 

The disadvantages include that the location for geothermal energy is specific. Though geothermal energy is present everywhere, the resources above the Earth’s surface are at stake and cannot be harmed.

The process of producing geothermal energy can trigger earthquakes, which further creates havoc on the surrounding.

The process cannot produce greenhouse gases, but the toxic gases trapped in the Earth’s surface can be released during digging. This process is costly as well. 

Having a capacity of 3,639MW in 2018, the US produces the most geothermal energy worldwide, producing 16.7 Kwh of geothermal energy per year.

Indonesia stands at the second stop, with a geothermal capacity recorded of 1948 MW in 2018. The Philippines, Turkey, and New Zealand stand at third, fourth, and fifth positions.  

5. Tidal energy

Tidal Power. Copyright: Student Energy

Tidal energy is renewable energy harnessed by converting tides into proper forms of power. Although not widely used, tidal energy has potential for electricity generation as it is more predictable than solar and wind energy.

The total energy plausible to produce from tidal power is 3000 gigawatts. However, only 21,000 terawatt energy is produced.

Experts speculate that with the recent advancement of technology, large amounts of energy production are possible.

Tidal generators work like wind turbines, except that they are planted on oceans. The waves turn the tidal turbines and are connected to a generator which produces the electricity. The electricity is sent through a wire to the required area. 

Tides are easier to predict, which makes them a reliable source of energy. Tidal energy is not expensive to maintain. It is a zero-carbon emission process, thus not contributing to the greenhouse effects.

Offshore turbines are cheap to build and do not impact the environment. Tidal energy has 80 percent efficiency making it higher than solar or wind energy generators. 

Initial construction costs can be huge. It causes Habitat destruction of the animals living near the stations. It could disturb the migration of aquatic creatures. Only a few countries have access to oceans; thus, not all the country’s optimal options are tidal energy. 

The largest tidal energy project is the Schwa Lake tidal power station located in South Korea. It produces energy of 254 MW. The oldest and second-largest tidal power station is the la rance tidal power plant, located in France, with an output capacity of 240MW. 

Wrapping Up

Renewable sources are the future of energy. Fossil fuels are used up so quickly that the research implies they will run out in the next 40 years. It leaves us with renewable energy that can replenish very soon.

Moreover, more renewable resources could heal our mother earth from the prevailing global warming issues. The use of fossil fuels should be plummeted, while the use of renewable resources should be encouraged.

An analogy of Earth with stone would be appropriate to list the problems created by fossil fuels and non-renewable sources. Thus, investment in renewable sources is an envision to live a quality of life.