Energy consumption is a large part of our daily lives and renewable energy is something we need to take a long, hard look at. We use electricity for heating our homes, powering our laptops, and cooking our dinner. Most vehicles require gasoline or diesel fuel to transport us to and from work or school. Right now, you’re probably reading this on a device that you charge through the power of electricity.

Many countries throughout the world do what they can to move to renewable energy and alternative energy options. Fortunately, there is no shortage of renewable energies, which we’ll discuss later in the article. However, the human population continues to grow and consequently, correlating energy demands rise, which means we should seriously consider the switch to renewable energy.

What is Renewable Energy?

image collage showing solar, photo-voltaic panels wind and bamboo shoots

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If asked what renewable energy is, most people think of the most popular types of alternative and clean energies. Solar, wind, and gas are three of the more common types of renewable energies in use. These energies come from renewable resources that we can replace quickly by a natural process, like sunshine or wind. You may hear them referred to as clean energy or green energy, which is the same thing.

Some forms of renewable energy are direct and some are indirect. We use direct renewable resources most commonly to create other forms of energy. Water and windmills, geothermal heating, and solar ovens are a few of these. Indirect resources, on the other hand, typically harvest energy through photovoltaic cells (solar panels) or wind turbines.

Types of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is by its very definition endless, however, there are many different types of clean energy that rely on various renewable resources.

Solar

This is perhaps the most well-known source of renewable energy. It wasn’t until the later part of the nineteenth century that serious interest began in solar energy. When oil supplies started to become unstable in the 1970s, other clean energies came to the forefront.

You have two primary solar energy types:

Concentrated Solar Power – This type of solar power uses a large solar array with curved panels and looks similar to the other kind of solar energy, Photovoltaic. However, with Concentrated Solar Power, the array brings the sunlight into a single beam, which heats a turbine generator. The turbine generator then powers a conventional generator, which in turn produces electricity.

Photovoltaic (PV) – PV is the most widely used type of solar energy. Recent developments have resulted in tiles that you install on top of your home. With PV the tiles, or cells, capture solar energy and convert it into electrical energy. This energy can then be used to power the devices within your home.

Wind power

Perhaps the most controversial renewable energy on the list, some view the large turbines as eyesores, ruining beautiful vistas and natural wonders, but others see them as a reasonable way to put the unbridled power of the wind to good use.

Windmills are used to harness and gather the air which surrounds them, which in turn creates electricity through a turbine. Many countries in Europe make wind energy a part of their national power system They even go so far as to place windmills in the sea.

windmills producing renewable energy and

Image CC by A 2.0 Generic, by , via Wikimedia Commons

Hydroelectric

The idea of using the powerful flow of moving water as a renewable energy source has been around for centuries. Hydroelectricity is created by controlling the movement of the water through a dam. It is perhaps the most powerful source of clean energy, as it produces a substantial amount of electricity. Based on the growth of hydroelectricity, many experts suggest it may be the most common type of green energy in the next decade.

Geothermal

The term geothermal is not commonly known when referring to renewable energy. Despite its anonymity, one form of it has been around for centuries. People use hot springs as a place of spiritual enlightenment, as well as a method with which to warm houses through a continuous supply of clean, hot water. Simply put, geothermal energy gathers heat from under the surface of the Earth.

Today’s geothermal practices have become more sophisticated by comparison. Geothermal processing plants provide green energy to many local communities. Surprisingly, some of the more common states offering geothermal energy make use of volcanic processes, gathering and storing this type of renewable energy.

Why Use Renewable Energy?

There are many reasons to use renewable energy. Here are a few of the most compelling.

Diminish Impacts of Global Warming

Easily the most important reason to use renewable energy is the reduction of negative impacts on the environment. These include global warming and climate change. Carbon emissions create record highs and lows throughout the world, which result in the occurrence of catastrophic weather like hurricanes and typhoons more often.

The majority of renewable energies have small footprints and emit a small amount of carbon into the air. Most clean energy options create minimal to no impact on the environment once manufactured and installed. While it may be impossible ever to go completely carbon-free, we can turn to renewable energy where possible.

Environmental Damage

We’ve discussed the harsh impacts that carbon emissions have on the planet, which many will concede as accurate. The sad truth is that most people do not consider the steps taken to get the oil out of the earth and into their vehicle. Oil companies drill deeper and deeper into the Earth to find pockets of fossil fuel and often have a negative impact on the surrounding wildlife and environment.

Oil isn’t the only culprit when it comes to damaging our environment. Coal and fracking are just as guilty, as strip mining comes by way of blowing the tops off mountains to gain access to the minerals below. These types of explosions can result in soil displacement, which disrupts local wildlife and landscapes.

Improvement of Public Health

It is safe to say that coal mining and gas and oil drilling create high levels of pollution, which get dumped into local communities and environments, eventually spreading to broader areas. Public health is as important a reason to switch to renewable energy as is saving the environment, if not more so. As previously mentioned, no alternative energy is entirely free of emissions, but they are significantly less than the typical acquisitions of fossil fuels used today.

smokestacks over a road with cars, pluming pollutants and greenhouse gasses

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Using renewable energy more is going to improve the health of everyone. One Harvard University study found we spend an estimated $74.6 billion in health issues related to coal and oil emissions. These issues included asthma, heart attacks, neurological damage, and cancer. If you ask me, those are pretty good reasons to switch to alternative and renewable energy sources.

Don’t Lose It, Reuse It!

As you can see, there are several different types of renewable energies all around us, and available to us. Whether you choose to invest in solar panels or a windmill, you can’t go wrong by switching to alternative energy.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Global Climate, check out more of our great articles. You’ll have access to information that provides tips on renewable energies, changes that are occurring in our world today, and the latest on global warming and climate change.

 

Featured Image: CC0, by Kenueone, via Wikimedia Commons

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