Types of Renewable Energy
When you walk out of a room and flip off the light switch, where does that electricity go? If it’s coming from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, the answer is that energy is gone forever.
But if the source of that electricity was renewable, that room can light up again using the same resource.
While some 89 percent of the world’s marketed energy comes from non-renewable resources, some 11 percent comes from a source that is renewable. And because human energy consumption will one day rid the planet of its natural resources, it’s imperative that we develop the technology to create energy sources that can be used again and again.
There are five different types of renewable energy resources that will play a pivotal part in the future of mankind.
Wind energy is among the least expensive types of electricity to generate. Large propellers, called wind turbines or windmills, are connected to a generator and positioned in high-wind areas. When the wind blows, the propellers on the turbine spin which then powers the generator to produce electricity.
Fact: The use of windmills can be traced as far back as the year 2000 B.C.
The sun is the world’s largest – and least tapped – source of renewable energy. Panels containing photovoltaic cells are used to absorb the sun’s rays which are then turned directly into electricity with no need for a generator.
Fact: Solar energy is expected to become the largest global source of electricity by the year 2050.
Instead of burning irreplaceable fossil fuels, organic material such as plant matter, animal waste and even garbage can be burned to create a source of energy that is both effective and renewable. When converted properly, biomass (or bioenergy) is extremely clean. But because biomass technology lags behind that of other types of renewable sources, it remains one of the more expensive forms of renewable energy.
Fact: Bioenergy is considered to be the oldest form of renewable energy as fire has been used to cook food and stay warm since the dawn of man.
The earth’s core produces a lot of natural heat which can be harnessed in the form of water and steam in geothermally active areas. This natural heat is converted into electricity at a geothermal power plant.
Fact: Around 87 percent of the homes in Iceland are powered by geothermal energy.
Naturally flowing water from a stream or river can be used to move turbines and produce electricity through a generator, similar to wind energy. Dams are also used to produce flowing water from lakes and slower-moving rivers.
Fact: Hydroelectricity, also called hydropower, makes up one-fifth of the world’s electricity.
Understanding the different types of renewable energy resources is the first step in understanding our options for future energy consumption and conservation.