The world is facing major changes from the overuse of non-renewable resources available in nature. The use of fossil fuels and the oil that comes from them has not only reduced their natural quantity but has also increased pollution and environmental degradation.
Because of that, we are facing environmental issues like climate change and ozone layer depletion. So, we should make proper use of the renewable energy resources available in nature.
Table of Contents
What is Renewable Energy?
The form of energy that is generated naturally is called renewable energy. This type of energy will exist infinitely and won’t deplete even after multiple uses. Renewable energy can be produced repeatedly at a short time and price and will not face scarcity of any kind. No matter how much we use them, they will be unlimitedly available in nature.
Renewable energy is harnessed from sources like the sun, the wind, the water, and the Earth itself. It can also be produced from the fossils and biomass. It is a way of having modern conveniences in an environment-friendly way.
These renewable energy sources can especially be useful today when we need to do anything we can to save our Earth. Therefore, people should know about these sources and consider applying them in their lives.
In this article, you will get to know how you can apply renewable energy in your life and what each type of renewable energy source is.
Potential of Renewable Energy
Because we humans are increasing in population, we are starting to use more energy. However, the energy we are using is more non-renewable, and that is harming the environment. Therefore, we must know what we can do to apply these sources of energy in our lives. For that, we have to understand how they work.
We can replace the gasoline and diesel we use to fuel our vehicles with ethanol. Moreover, hydrogen power cells, compressed air, or biofuels can also replace our extensive use of non-renewable fuels used for transport.
For electrics, we can use solar and wind energy, which has a vast capacity and potential to produce power, which is enough for our houses or even offices.
The other way we can use renewable energy is by using solar or even geothermal energy for heating systems in our house. This way, we don’t spend any extra energy on luxury.
Types of Renewable Energy Sources
1. Solar Energy
The energy from the sun that we receive can be a thousand times more than what is enough for the entire world. Today, we have everything that can operate through the Photovoltaic cells.
There is a high possibility that we might be driving and walking on solar roads as well. However, all of this is only possible if the solar panels get enough sunlight or at least daylight. So, it may not be practical for all parts of the world.
We now have the technology to harness solar energy effortlessly, which means it can drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Looking at it in terms of usage, in the long run, it is beneficial to the environment and in slashing energy costs. In short term use, it highly reduces your energy bills.
Nonetheless, many parts of the world have highly utilized solar energy. In 2018, solar photovoltaics was recorded to produce a little more than 2% of the world’s electricity with about 505 GW of power.
The downside to opting to use solar energy sources immediately is the hefty expense that comes with it. Despite long term benefits, it already looks to have unrealistic costs.
Installed Solar PV Capacity
Solar PV Consumption
2. Wind Energy
Like the sun, the wind is also a potent source of energy. It is essentially a form of solar energy itself. It is the second-largest energy source for power generation. Wind energy is produced by wind turbines that drive generators that supply electricity into the grid. Besides, there are also off-grid turbines for private use.
Wind energy is ideal in terms of being environmentally conscious. It is a clean energy source, which means that it doesn’t pollute the air. It doesn’t emit pollutants or harmful products that can lead to adverse effects on the environment or human lives.
Investing in wind energy is already a path that many governments have taken. In the long run, it also generates several employment opportunities that add a bonus to the benefits of utilizing this energy source. Wind turbines require service and maintenance, creating jobs, and possible job training.
For a private wind turbine, however, you must be located in a place that receives enough wind for the turbine rotor to move. The wind is a reliable source of energy and can even be used as an alternative for solar energy since it is available anywhere.
The total global capacity to produce wind energy is 591 GW, 5% of which was generated in 2018. Over the years, wind turbines have seen a constant increase in size and capacity. Many on-shore turbines can produce power ranging from 2-5 MW.
Meanwhile, the offshore models can generate 12 MW. Similarly, some turbine models are even expected to generate more than 14 MW of power in offshore projects in the future.
Installed Wind Capacity
Wind Energy Generation
3. Hydro Energy
Undoubtedly, out of all types of renewable energy sources, hydro energy is the most popular and most-used commercially.
Hydropower is versatile, and both large scale and small scale projects can generate power. While hydropower is pollution-free, very reliable, and can produce powerful and useful energy, it may cause some disturbances in aquatic biodiversity.
Nonetheless, it is highly dependent upon falling water, where there is barely any aquatic life. It is an excellent alternative for remote places where other power sources are not usable.
Hydropower contributed 4,210TWh of the total 26,700 global electricity produced in 2018.
Hydroelectric Power Consumption
Hydropower Generation by Region
4. Geothermal Energy
The heat energy that comes from beneath the Earth is called geothermal energy. Shallow ground, hot water, hot rock buried deep under the Earth, and molten rock called magma, all are the resources of geothermal energy.
Steam or hot water is produced naturally through the cracks in the Earth. When this type of steam or hot water does not find a way out, they are gushed out by drilling pipes in it. Because of the high suppressed pressure, the turbines of the connected generators turn, resulting in electricity production.
An estimated 175TWh of electricity was provided by geothermal energy in 2018. Half of it was electricity, and half of it was in the form of heat. The former was produced in a capacity of 13.3 GW and the latter in 26,700TWh.
Installed Geothermal Capacity
5. Biomass Energy
Biomass energy is a form of energy produced by using solid plant materials. Biomass produces electricity by burning organic materials. However, it doesn’t include burning wood. So, it is much cleaner in comparison to using non-renewable resources.
Biomass converts agricultural, industrial, and domestic waste into fuels in all three forms of matter and supplies power in a much less expensive and environment-friendly way. Biomass energy production creates carbon dioxide. However, plants consume the same amount of carbon dioxide, which then creates a balanced atmosphere.
The energy from biomass amounted to 5% of the total energy used in the U.S. in 2017. Hence, making biomass not only ideal for personal use but also efficient for commercial use as well. But biomass energy has both pros and cons.
Typically, a ton of garbage can produce 550 to 750kWh of electricity. According to the data of 2018, biomass was able to produce 130GW globally. Meanwhile, the U.S. had an electricity generation capacity of 16GW through biomass in the same year.
6. Tidal Energy
Although not very popular, tidal energy is still an energy source that has high potential. We can generate tidal energy in two ways. One is through tidal stream generators and the other through barrage generation.
Tidal generators mostly create power in an environment-friendly way, as its impact on the ecosystem is less. This type of energy and the potential it has is abundant. Many cities are near oceans, which makes it easier to harness this energy.
Tidal energy is very much like wind energy. It is the only source of energy directly derived from the Earth-Moon motions system. It is renewable and, if utilized well, can produce enough power for us.
Although it has a high potential of being one of the more popular sources of renewable energy, this energy cannot be easily provided to land-locked countries or states. Also, harnessing this power can create an imbalance in the ecosystem, which isn’t ideal.
Global Renewable Energy Consumption
The following chart shows the long-term consumption of renewable energy. Biofuels have been the dominant energy source–burning wood, forestry material, and agricultural waste.
Of the other remaining power sources, hydropower remains the dominant source with almost one-quarter of renewable consumption.
Modern Renewable Sources
All renewable energy sources except biomass are often termed ‘modern renewables’; this includes hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal.
The following chart shows the measured mix of renewable consumption over the last 50 years. It is measured in terawatt-hours per year.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways in which we can be a little more environment-friendly. We need to make these adjustments today more than ever before since our world is facing a terrible environmental crisis.
Therefore, we urge you to use as few non-renewable resources and as many renewable resources as possible. This way, we can both utilize the energy available and reduce our expenses while getting quality services through them.
(Last Updated on July 30, 2021 by Sadrish Dabadi)