Renewable Energy is defined as energy resources which may be easily replaced without the intervention of man. This energy can be derived from resources which are naturally around us and which replenish themselves, such as geothermal heat, water, wind, and the sun.
Traditionally, man has depended on wood, oil, and gas for the supply of energy needs. However, the finite reserves of the earth are rapidly diminishing, and there is growing global concern for our environment and the damage we are doing to it.
With conflicts growing around the globe as well as financial issues, our traditional sources of energy are seen as vulnerable to exploitation and stock market volatility. This is why there has been an upsurge in interest and demand for renewable energy sources.
The most commonly harnessed type of renewable energy is sunlight. Technology has evolved rapidly in the past decade which is making photovoltaic arrays lighter, cheaper and easier to maintain. These passive collectors convert the sun’s energy into electricity, which is stored in batteries for later use if it is not used immediately. Solar ‘farms’ where vast arrays are interconnected to the grid are now becoming a viable commercial opportunity because of economy of scale and government incentives.
Water energy, or “hydro”, has been used for many years as a driver for generating electricity. Vast dams have been created for this purpose such as the Hoover Dam. This produces about 4 billion kilowatt hours of power every year, which is used primarily in California, Arizona and Nevada. This readily replenished resource is an excellent example of how we have created a renewable energy source which is clean, efficient, and reliable!
Wind drives large propellers which in turn drive generators. These turbines are being built at a rapid pace as they are mostly constructed to take advantage of schemes which subsidize their building and maintenance. The disadvantage of this type of generation is that it relies solely on the wind which is not reliable or constant. Better storage options can minimize this issue; Tesla is on the forefront of big battery storage.
Geothermal heat is being increasingly used to heat buildings and to commercially produce electricity supplies. As this is a source of heat derived from the core of the earth, it is limitless. This makes it especially appealing compared to the others mentioned above as it is not affected by the sun, wind, or droughts. Collected by boring deep into the earth, geothermal energy is also not unsightly or invasive. The disadvantage at the moment is the cost involved.
A recent report showing the growing trends in commercial production in geothermal electricity generation shows the hope that this renewable energy source brings to us all.
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