What Is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy, also sometimes called clean energy, consists of naturally replenishable, flow-limited, inexhaustible resources such as sunlight, wind, or water. These energies, while not always consistent and limited in the amount of energy available for a unit of time, will not be used up like fossil fuels.
Society is beginning to recognize not only the limits of fossil fuels, but their impacts on the environment as well. Innovations are beginning to take over as renewable energy is integrated into the national mindset. Renewable energies often lower carbon emissions and other pollutants. Yet not all renewable energy sources are created equal. Some sources such as biomass and hydroelectric dams have some negative impacts on the environment, so it is crucial to weigh the pros and the cons of every renewable resource.
Common Renewable Energy Sources
- Wood and wood waste
- Municipal solid waste
- Landfill gas and biogas
Types of Renewable Energy Sources
The sun has always been an important part of life for humans, from growing food to staying warm. As technology improves, we are learning how to better harness the energy of the sun for other uses such as powering businesses, heating homes, and charging power devices.
Some of the best ways that solar energy is generated is through rooftop panels or solar farms. While solar energy supplies barely over one percent of the US electricity needs, it’s been recorded as holding nearly a third of the new generating capacity for 2017. Solar is also beneficial because it doesn’t produce air pollutants or greenhouse gases, and the solar panels have little environmental impact beyond the manufacturing process.
The old fashioned windmills of yesteryear have been replaced by turbines as tall as skyscrapers. These amazing pieces of technology collect energy from the wind when the wind turns the turbine’s blades. From there, the electric generator produces electricity. In many parts of the United States, wind has become the cheapest energy source and accounts for just over 6 percent of the energy generation. Turbines can be placed anywhere with high wind speeds, including hilltops, open plains, or off-shore locations.
Renewable Hydroelectric Power
Power harvested from fast-moving water is one of the largest and most reliable renewable energy sources in the United States. The fast-moving water is usually found in a large river or a waterfall, and its harnessed by turning a generator’s turbine blades. While mega-dams or large hydroelectric plants are considered nonrenewable since they often divert or reduce natural flows of rivers, smaller hydroelectric plants tend to cause less environmental damage while still providing energy.
A simple and abundant element, hydrogen does not occur naturally as a gas, but it can be produced in certain environments by some types of algae and bacteria with sunlight. When burned, hydrogen offers high energy with very little pollution. Hydrogen becomes electricity with only the byproducts being water and heat.
At the moment, hydrogen for energy use is limited by the cost. However, hydrogen is being used to refine petroleum, treat metals, process foods, and produce fertilizer. While only a few hundred hydrogen-powered vehicles exist, the number will likely increase as fuel cell production costs drop and refueling stations increase.
Organic material that comes from plants, animals, and waste wood can be burned to create chemical energy that can be harnessed through a steam turbine and generated into electricity. While originally considered a clean and renewable fuel, science has recently shown that particular forms of biomass such as forest biomass actually produce higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels. However, some biomass can offer a low-carbon energy source, such as sawdust or chips.
Some argue that bioenergy is still a clean and renewable energy source because the newly growing plants remove equal amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Bioenergy can also produce liquid fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. This makes bioenergy useful to businesses for vehicles and manufacturing.
The heat generated from the earth’s core can also be used to create electricity for the earth's occupants. A deep well brings underground hot water to the surface and can be pumped through a turbine to create energy. In most cases, geothermal plants have low emissions, especially if the used water is pumped back into a reservoir.
Still in the developmental phase, the ocean offers many different possibilities for renewable energy with its constant tides, waves, and water temperature. While tidal and wave energy is being explored as an option for power, scientists are concerned about protecting the wildlife as well since most known forms for harnessing tide and wave energy includes a dam-like structure on the ocean floor. It’s clear that ocean energy is an untapped possibility.
One of the best ways to help our societies steer toward renewable energy sources is when companies and households choose to use renewable energy options when they are available. In some cases, your power company may have clean energy source options. Individual choices can make a cumulative difference.
At Golden Arrow, we make decisions every day to ensure that our factory process from start to finish is founded in the mindset of protecting the earth. Our waste byproducts are few and reusable, and our factory is certified zero-emission. But best of all, our end products are environmentally friendly too. Discover your green packaging solutions by speaking with a Golden Arrow industry expert today at firstname.lastname@example.org.