Renewable energy refers to a type of energy that is natural and inexhaustible. This type of energy has gained prominence in recent years due to dwindling coal, oil and natural gas (the world’s main sources of energy) reserves and continued environmental degradation caused by these energy sources. Renewable energy can be reproduced, reducing or eliminating carbon emissions – which are responsible for global warming.
The most common types of renewable energy include: solar, wind, and hydro power. Other, less prevalent, forms of renewable energy sources include: biomass, bio fuels, geothermal, radiant energy, wave power, tidal power, and nuclear power.
Types of Renewable Energy Sources
The sun is probably the most popular type of renewable energy source. This is because the sun’s radiation is completely free and occurs everywhere except in the arctic regions. You don’t have to pay any money in order to harvest solar energy. All you need is to invest in a quality photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system.
Wind is another 100% renewable source of energy. Wind turbines are used to convert the wind’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy is then fed into a generator to produce electricity. This form of energy has very low environmental impact, but some people detest the very sight of wind turbines or wind farms.
Hydropower uses the gravitational force of flowing or falling water to generate electricity. This form of energy source is very clean, and produces zero direct waste. Majority of the large hydroelectric projects supply electricity to public utilities, but there some hydropower plants that are specifically built to power industrial enterprises. Small scale or micro hydropower plants are also becoming increasingly popular as they can be built on small rivers or streams.
Biomass energy is generated from dead, organic materials such as trash, dead trees and leaves, and even dead animals. Energy can be produced by burning these organic materials so they can give off heat or by converting these materials into energy sources such as methane, ethanol or biodiesel.
Biofuels use biomass, or organic materials, to generate electricity. Organic materials, such as oil seed rape soya, or sugar beet, are converted into biofuels, like biogas, biodiesel, ethanol, and other bioalcohols. These fuels are, in turn, burned to produce electricity.
Geothermal power is extracted from the heat given off by the Earth. It’s one of the most cost-effective, reliable and environmentally-friendly forms of energy.
Nuclear energy may be controversial, but it’s still one of the most reliable types of renewable energy available today. It’s derived from controlled nuclear reactions of the atomic nuclei.
Tidal energy is the energy derived from tides. Tidal forces produced by the Sun and the Moon, in combination with the Earth’s rotation, are very powerful and can be harnessed to generate electricity. Tidal generators work just like wind turbines. They convert the kinetic energy of the swiftly moving sea water into mechanical energy that goes into a generator to produce electricity.
Wave power is produced from the rising and falling of sea waves. Ocean waves rise and fall, creating mechanical energy that can be converted into electric energy.
Radiant energy comes from magnetic waves, such as visible light, X-rays and microwaves. While electromagnetic waves exist in massive amounts in the environment, scientists are still trying to learn how to effectively harness radiant energy from these electromagnetic waves to power appliances.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth and can be burned to produce energy. The only problem is that it doesn’t occur naturally and must be separated from natural compounds such as water.