Did you wonder what “renewable energy sources” really mean? Renewable energy sources are found in the sunlight, in the air, deep underwater, and in our oceans. They are part of the earth’s physical structure, which is continuously being renewed by natural means. They can’t efficiently run out.
These renewable energy sources are often referred to as ‘alternative energy because they are viewed as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Just because an energy source is green does not mean that it is 100% eco-safe. For instance, dams harness the power of flowing water, but they can also damage fish and wildlife. Wind turbines use the sun’s energy to produce renewable electricity, but the production process has environmental consequences.
However, the environmental impact of renewable energy resources is much lighter than fossil fuels. This is why renewable energy sources must be our ticket to a less polluted planet. Even though we have not faced climate change, good Health needs to minimize emissions.
And what’s good for the environment is increasingly suitable for homeowners and businesses in economic terms. In certain parts of the world, solar and wind power are now less expensive than fossil energy, and prices continue to decrease annually. (Learn more in our Solar Resource Center about going solar.)
But how does electricity from renewable energy sources work? Here’s a look at seven renewable energy sources that can be tapped to help our planet go green and fight global warming, directly or indirectly. The sun plays an important role in both renewable energy sources, apart from geothermal and hydrogen.
Sustainable Renewable Energy Sources
By utilizing a natural process, like sunlight or waves, five types of alternative energy are created. Generally, these are the most sustainable sources of energy.
Sunlight is a natural resource, and its most direct use is accomplished by harvesting the sun’s energy. Several solar energy technologies are used to turn the sun’s energy and light into heat: lighting, hot water, electricity, and (paradoxically) cooling systems for companies and industry.
Photovoltaic (PV) systems transform sunlight into electricity using solar cells. By circulating water via flat-plate solar collectors, solar hot water systems can be used to heat houses. Mirrored dishes in a traditional steam-generator to boil water will generate energy by concentrating the sun’s heat. Commercial and industrial buildings may also use the sun’s energy for larger-scale requirements such as ventilation, heating, and cooling. Finally, thoughtful architectural designs will passively utilize the sun as a heating and cooling light source.
The benefits of solar power can be used in many ways by households, companies, and government entities: installing a home solar system or commercial solar panels; constructing or retrofitting a building to integrate solar hot water, cooling, or ventilation systems; designing structures from scratch that take advantage of the natural qualities of the sun for efficient heating and lighting.
Due to the variations in heating and cooling of the atmosphere, winds can be used as a source of solar energy (as well as the earth’s rotation and other topographical factors). (as well as the rotation of the earth and other topographical factors). (as well as the rotation of the earth and other topographical factors). Wind flow can be collected and converted into energy by wind turbines. Windmills are still used today, on a smaller scale, to pump water into fields.
To provide renewable energy sources, many organizations, commercial-grade wind-powered generation systems are available.
Single-wind turbines can produce electricity to complement an existing electrical supply. When the wind blows, the device’s power is used to compensate for the need for electricity supplied by utilities.
Utility-scale wind farms produce electricity, either contractually or through a competitive bid process, purchased on the wholesale power market.
Geothermal energy is produced from the earth’s sun. This heat can be obtained near the surface or from miles below our feet heated rock and hot water reservoirs.
To produce electricity, geothermal power plants use these heat sources. A geothermal heat pump system can harness the ground’s constant temperature found only 10 feet below the surface on a much smaller scale to help supply a nearby building with heat in the winter or cool it in the summer.
Geothermal energy can be part of a large-scale industrial utility energy solution or local, sustainable activity. Direct use of geothermal energy may include heating office buildings or production facilities, developing greenhouse plants, heating water at fish farms, and assisting in various industrial processes (e.g., pasteurizing milk).
Hydropower is not a modern innovation, although the waterwheels used once to work early America’s gristmills and sawmills are now largely functioning as historical sites and museums.
Today, flowing rivers’ kinetic energy is absorbed and transformed into hydroelectricity in a slightly different way. A system where dams are built to store stormwater, which, when released, flows through turbines to generate electricity is probably the most familiar form of hydroelectric power.
This is known as’ pumped-storage hydropower,’ where water is cycled between lower and upper reservoirs between low and high demand periods to regulate electricity production.
Another type, known as “run-of-river hydropower,” funnels a portion of a channel’s river flow and does not need a dam. Hydropower plants can vary in scale from large projects such as the Hoover Dam to micro-hydroelectric power systems.
Usually, the effective use of hydroelectric power is dependent on geographical location. Micro-hydroelectric plants may be built to provide electricity to farm and ranch operations or small municipalities, assuming a reliable waterway source is accessible and available.
By building moderately sized hydroelectric power systems, small towns may harness the energy of local waterways.
Oceans Renewable Energy Sources
Thermal energy from the sun’s light and mechanical energy from the motion of tides and waves are two kinds of energy generated by the ocean.
Using a few various platforms which depend on warm surface water temperatures, ocean thermal energy can be converted into electricity. The ebbs and flows of tides induced by the earth’s rotation and the moon’s gravitational effect are harnessed by “ocean mechanical energy.” It is also possible to convert and use energy from wind-driven waves to reduce one’s electricity costs.
Less developed technologies also use ocean currents, ocean winds, and salinity gradients as energy conversion sources.
Cold ocean water can be used to cool buildings from deep below the surface (with desalinated water also provided as a byproduct and seaside communities can use the methods mentioned above to tap natural ocean resources to supplement local power and energy needs.
Ocean energy is an emerging source of renewable energy sources. Depending on geography and regulatory guidelines, its future looks promising, with more than 70% of our planet’s surface covered by oceans.
Alternative Renewable Energy Sources
Instead of harnessing a natural method, these two kinds of renewable energy must be generated using mechanical means.
Bioenergy is a form of biomass-derived renewable energy for heat and electricity or the production of liquid fuels used for transport, such as ethanol and biodiesel.
Biomass refers to any organic matter derived from plants or animals that have recently lived. While bioenergy produces nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, replacement plants are grown as biomass to extract an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, retaining a relatively neutral environmental impact.
A range of systems is used to generate this form of electricity, ranging from the direct combustion of biomass to the capture and use of methane gas generated by organic matter’s natural decomposition.
How is bioenergy being utilized? Companies or organizations carrying products or individuals can convert their fleets into vehicles using biofuels such as ethanol or biodiesel.
To generate steam captured by a turbine to produce energy, manufacturing facilities can be designed to burn biomass directly.
In some instances, this method may have a dual objective by powering the facility and heating it. For example, to generate electricity and steam for heating, paper mills may use wood waste. Using tiny, modular systems, farm operations can convert waste from livestock into electricity.
Towns can access the methane gas released in landfills by the anaerobic digestion of organic waste and generate electricity as fuel.
Hydrogen is the simplest and most common element in the universe (composed of one proton and one electron), and it does not exist naturally on earth as a gas. Instead, it is present in organic compounds such as petrol, natural gas, methanol, propane (hydrocarbons), and water (H2O). Using sunlight as an energy source, hydrogen can also be produced under certain conditions by certain algae and bacteria.
Hydrogen is high in energy, but when burned, it creates little to no emissions. Since the 1950s, liquid hydrogen has been used for launching space shuttles and other rockets into orbit. Hydrogen fuel cells transform hydrogen’s latent chemical energy into electricity, with the only byproducts being pure water and heat.
However, as a natural green renewable energy source, these fuel cells’ commercialization is likely to be limited before costs fall and reliability improves. In manufacturing, almost all of the United States’ hydrogen is used to refine petroleum, treat metals, manufacture fertilizer, and process foods. Moreover, as an energy source, hydrogen fuel cells are used where hydrogen and oxygen atoms are mixed to produce electricity.
A few hundred hydrogen-powered vehicles are also currently operating in the United States, a number that may arise as the cost of production of fuel cells decreases and the number of refuelling stations rises. Large fuel cells that provide emergency electricity for buildings and remote areas, electric motor vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and marine vessels powered by hydrogen fuel cells are other practical applications for this form of renewable energy.