What is renewable energy?

December 15, 2021

Post-Industrial Revolution, coal became a massive source of energy throughout the United States and the rest of the world. It aided countries in manufacturing things that couldn’t even be imagined in earlier centuries. However, we’ve learned as a society that although coal can help the factories of large corporations, it lacks the efficiency and environmental conscience that other sources of energy can provide.

Renewable energy is that other source of energy. But, what is it?

Since 2000, U.S. use of solar energy has increased significantly, while coal production has experienced a substantial decrease. (Courtesy of pewresearch.org)

Renewable energy is energy that derives from natural resources that constantly replenish themselves, unlike finite resources including oil, natural gas, and coal. These infinite energy sources include hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal power. Wind turbines and solar panels are often the most visible signs that a company, or even a large city, is using renewable energy to power their buildings, cellular devices, and anything else that requires electricity.

By having their corporations use renewable power, countries can lower their carbon emissions by great amounts. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 12% of the states’ energy consumption came from renewable sources just last year. Furthermore, the administration also reports that the US broke their record of least coal use for production since 1776.

The first of the aforementioned sources of renewable energy is hydroelectric power. Such a source comes from water, usually in large quantities from rivers or sizable lakes, which can quickly be turned into electricity by generator motors. As of right now, hydroelectric power reigns as the most widely used renewable energy source in the US.

Wind power is another great source of renewable energy, But, wind power no longer comes simply from windmills. Now, we use wind turbines to supply energy. The turbines can rise as tall as NYC skyscrapers, with their diameters being nearly as wide. Wind turbines are often placed in deserts, called “wind farms,” with many of them standing side by side.

Wind energy and solar energy are two of the most common and most well-known sources of renewable energy. (Courtesy of iea.org)

Another, and probably the most well-known, renewable energy source is solar power. Not Lorde’s newest album, though. Solar power actually shows itself in panels made of silicon and other materials that can transfer solar energy directly into electricity. If a homeowner wants to have renewable energy implemented into their house, they will probably use solar panels, as they are the most common form of renewable energy in homes, small businesses, and any other building that isn’t linked directly to mass production.

Biomass and geothermal energy both come from the earth and the earth alone. Biomass energy’s sources are wood and plants, which can produce heat and electricity when burned. Though biomass energy is referred to as renewable, burning materials can still produce small amounts of coal. Geothermal energy has lower carbon emissions than biomass energy, and it typically comes from water stored deep in the ground.

As renewable energy grows, countries around the world can lower their carbon footprint, slowing down climate change as we know it.

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