Renewable energy is explained along with the definition, various types, examples, advantages or benefits, disadvantages, future perspective, etc.
Let’s explore Renewable Energy!
Renewable energy is defined as the energy that comes from sources that can be renewed in a short time. This energy is referred to as clean energy and non-exhaustible, i.e. sunlight and wind.
Renewable energy is mainly considered as a new technology, although we are utilizing nature’s power for heating, lighting, and transportation for a long time.
Wind power had been used in windmills for grinding grains and for sailing boats. The sun provided us heat to keep us warm and helped kindle fire last for longer in the evening.
The major renewable energy sources are eight in number. We will discuss the basics of all these sources and will cover their benefits along with challenges for their implementation.
They are named as;
This is the most abundant renewable energy source. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory,
‘the amount of sun’s energy that falls on the earth in one hour is more than the energy used by the whole world in one year’.
From the beginning, we are using solar energy to grow crops, dry foods, and stay warm.
In the present time, we use it to,
Solar energy is derived by capturing energy from sun rays and converting them into heat, and electricity. The solar cells present in Photovoltaic (PV) systems are responsible to directly convert sunlight into electricity.
Solar cells are made from silicone or other materials. Distributed solar systems use roof panels to generate electricity for homes and companies. Solar farms have the capability to power thousands of homes by concentrating light on solar cells covering a large area.
Floating solar panels are used on the surface of large water bodies, they are useful in areas where land is not available to place solar panels.
On the other hand, some of the limitations are the added cost to install solar setup and weather conditions.
In the past, wind energy was used to run windmills, today we turn turbine blades using the same source. The energy of wind flow is utilized to run the turbine. Wind turbines are attached to electric generators to produce electricity.
Its benefits include the availability of clean energy sources, 24/7 delivery of energy, and job creation. At the same time the transportation of energy to remote areas, noise, and threatening wildlife are the challenges.
In renewable energy, hydroelectric energy has the largest share in most parts of the world. This energy is produced by using the energy of fast-moving water. The force of that water is used to turn the turbine blades and electricity is generated using power generators.
Dams are the areas where hydroelectric energy is produced. For this, we can either use a high head where waterfalls from a high point or a high velocity of the water. Both can prove helpful to run the turbines.
The world is already producing a huge amount of electricity with the said source. This means it has a good potential to cover global energy needs. Both small-scale and large-scale production is feasible with water streams and large dams respectively.
The challenges include the requirement of a large area and water availability throughout the year. The storage systems need fossil fuel to pump water. It also disrupts natural waterways and disturbs marine life.
Two molecules of hydrogen are present in water in combination with one oxygen molecule. If we separate a single hydrogen molecule with energy, it can be used as a fuel and electricity production.
Being a clean-burning fuel, hydrogen produces less pollution. We can power electric motors where hydrogen is present in fuel cells.
We need energy for hydrogen production, therefore energy from hydrogen is less efficient.
Biomass is the organic plant material and animal waste used as a fuel. Different methods are applied to collect energy from biomass. We burn the biomass, heat is released, this heat can generate electricity using a steam turbine. A simple example of biomass is the use of wood in your fireplace.
Mainly biomass energy is considered to be a clean source, however, recent studies specify that many forms of biomass produce higher carbon emissions than fossil fuel.
There are some forms of biomass energy that produce low carbon emissions like sawdust and chips produced from sawmills.
The core of the earth is about as hot as the sun’s surface. Heat is trapped beneath the earth’s crust from radioactive decay and during earth formation billions of years ago. Sometimes this heat comes out in the form of volcanic eruptions.
A practical example of the use of geothermal energy is when you are relaxing in a hot spring. Sustainability is one of the benefits of using this renewable energy source, the used water can be returned back into the reservoirs. Geothermal energy is not very common, but it has a significant potential for clean energy production.
Its drawbacks include high setup and operating costs. Some areas being considered geological hotspots are vulnerable to earthquakes where this process is applied.
We can get energy from the ocean in two ways, tidal and wave energy. Both of them are in the developmental stage.
Different devices like wavebob (wave energy converter) etc. are used to take energy from the ebbs and flows of tides.
It is a consistent form of renewable energy as we are not relying on factors that are essential for solar and wind energy. The produced energy can be easily transferred as most of the population lives near water bodies.
Nuclear energy is the energy released in processes that affect atomic nuclei. The nucleus of an atom contains a high amount of energy that needs to be extracted.
The energy is released a significant amount by controlled nuclear fission in nuclear reactors. Another method is controlled nuclear fusion, still not perfected.
Nuclear energy produces no pollution and does not contribute to global warming. Safe process operation can produce high energy.
The fuel cost is less as a small amount of fuel can produce a large amount of electricity. Its power station has a very long lifetime.
Nuclear energy is a stable source as it’s not reliant on weather conditions.
Renewable energy offers a range of benefits. We will discuss them briefly.
Some of the renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric are popular and viable to meet global energy demands.
They can replace fossil fuels and we can have clean sources of energy in total. Still, they are not consumed according to their potential.
Following are the reasons for their low consumption.
One problem with them is the reliability. They depend on weather conditions and harsh weather may have drastic effects on the energy production process.
Lack of sufficient areas for system setup is another reason for low renewables consumption. Not everyone will have spaces on the roof to handle solar panels.
What if we need a large amount of energy? More free space is required. Well, floating solar panels provide an alternative, however, it causes issues for marine life and nature.
Not totally clean
The renewable sources are not totally clean as they still generate pollution. Burning biomass will release toxic gases into the air and cause global warming.
Manufacturing involved in the production of renewable energy technologies is using fossil fuels and emitting heavy pollution.
Renewables are considered a location-specific source of energy. A renewable source having one result at a place may not be the same in another place.
Involvement of politics
Politics plays its role in every part of our lives either positive or negative. Here politics is impacting our journey towards renewables.
We are lacking a clear policy for the implementation of renewable energies. We don’t have established technology at a commercial level for various renewable sources.
High installation cost
The initial cost to set up renewable energy technology is high. The prices of solar panels have decreased with the passage of time; however, you need a high budget to install a solar energy system on your rooftop.
This is a hurdle in the development of renewable technology.
Many countries in the world are moving fast towards clean energy. One day we will run out of fossil fuels and the alternative left then will be renewable. It means renewable energy is the future of the modern world. The statistics depict the same story.
According to the International Energy Agency 2020 report, renewable energy capacity will expand 50% between 2019 and 2024. By the year 2024, solar will become 35% cheaper, wind energy capacity will increase 57%, hydroelectric and geothermal will increase 9% and 28% respectively.
Based on the future global energy needs, with depletion of traditional resources and climate change, renewable energy will be able to provide 50% of energy needs by 2050.
With time as innovation brings down costs, the share of different renewable sources will improve. Wind and solar power are the main players.
A clean energy revolution is waiting for us in the future. Therefore, from now on efforts should be made to add renewable energy to the global energy mix.
In this way, developing countries will save money they spend on importing oil at hefty prices so, they can invest this money in the socio-economic development of their people.
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