The most fundamental definition of “renewable resources” is energy produced using naturally occurring resources that are absolutely inexhaustible. However, the word is often bandied about and misused to cover many other types of energy systems.
As our civilization transitions to a more fossil fuel-independent environment to mitigate the effects of climate change, using renewable energy is crucial.
What are renewable resources?
Solar energy is one of the most well-known examples of renewable energy, among others. It is a source of energy that comes from the sun, whose energy will not run out in our lifetimes. A non-renewable energy source, such as oil, on the other hand, takes millions of years to develop and, after it is all mined, we will have no more for millions of years.
As the globe continues to recognize its advantages in battling global warming, the usage of renewable energy is increasing year after year. Furthermore, the price of renewable resources is falling, making it more affordable than ever.
In fact, since 2010, the cost of wind and solar energy has fallen by 40% and 80%, respectively, making both alternatives less expensive than coal.
Top five examples of renewable resources
The most well-known renewable energy sources in the United States are undoubtedly solar and large-scale wind farms, although there are other types as well.
Examples of renewable energy resources include:
- Solar energy
- Wind energy
- Geothermal energy
The majority of the aforementioned methods aren’t viable for residences, but they work well for utilities and other large-scale enterprises. For instance, a wind farm is a terrific method to supply energy to an entire community, yet solar panels are more feasible for you to power your home than a wind turbine.
It’s crucial to remember that every renewable energy source has a specific set of difficulties. However, there are techniques to increase the production of each energy source, which we detail below.
Because solar energy panels may produce energy for many years by merely absorbing sunlight, it is considered to be “renewable.” After being created and deployed, solar panels merely sit there and produce energy.
The most feasible renewable energy choice for homeowners is going solar. Photovoltaic solar panels can be attached to your roof, and you can change the size of your system based on how much electricity your house requires.
Solar panels have a hurdle because there is now no efficient means to recycle them after their lives, which is typically 25 to 30 years.
If you have a farm and can produce enough wind power to sell to utility companies, wind energy is practical. You’ll need a sizable piece of land, a lot of wind in your area, and the cash to cover the steep installation costs.
Wind farms are a fantastic way to use sustainable energy, but they must be extremely carefully planned. The biggest environmental drawback of wind turbines is that they may interfere with animal migration patterns, especially in water. Wind turbines create a weak electrical current that may be perplexing to fish and other aquatic life that are swimming past. The good news is that animals should be able to adjust once they are placed in their surroundings.
Perhaps the most underutilized renewable resource is geothermal energy. Geothermal heat pumps are used to harness the heat from the earth’s core and turn it into electricity.
It is easiest to use geothermal energy in regions with active tectonic plates and volcanoes, like Iceland or the west coast of the United States. The earth’s heat rises to the surface in certain regions where there is a lot of subsurface movement. Geysers are a good illustration of this since they release steam into the air, which is heat that has built up from the earth’s core. Geothermal energy is created using that heat.
The price of geothermal energy is a drawback; it cannot currently compete with less expensive renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Building geothermal plants and excavating far enough to reach the hottest region of the earth are quite expensive.
When you think of hydropower, you might picture the classic water wheels that once propelled grain mills. These days, these are hydroelectric power producers that are more larger and more advanced.
Consider the Hoover Dam in Nevada. Hydropower works by capturing the energy of the water as it flows through the facility and using that energy to drive turbines to produce energy.
Local human populations have been known to be displaced by the construction of hydropower plants, fish migration patterns have been hampered, and droughts have been made worse by retaining more water upstream so downstream residents receive less.
But hydropower is a fantastic source of energy when used in an eco-friendly, well-managed manner. Water will constantly flow and is fully renewable, barring periods of drought.
The term “bioenergy” refers generally to all forms of energy obtained from plant matter. For instance, corn can be used to make ethanol, a kind of biofuel, which is subsequently utilized as fuel for vehicles like cars and airplanes.
Wood pellets, often known as biomass energy or energy derived from organic material, are another use for bioenergy. Trees are used to make wood pellets, which are then burned in power plants. The fuel is technically renewable because it is formed of plants, which can be grown and replanted year after year.
If trees are felled too soon before they can regrow, bioenergy may not be sustainable. Biomass is predicated on the idea that plants grown for energy production will also absorb the carbon they release into the atmosphere when burned.
More trees must be planted than must be felled in order to ensure that CO2 removal proceeds more quickly than CO2 emissions in order for this process to be sustainable.
What are non-renewable resources?
Because they are actually made of animal and plant fossils that have been decomposing for millions of years, non-renewable energy sources are frequently referred to as “fossil fuels.” These resources are non-renewable because new reserves won’t be produced for millions of years after they are depleted. Therefore, they won’t be extended.
The most common non-renewable resources are:
- Natural gas
- Nuclear power
Natural gas, despite frequently being hailed as a cleaner-burning fuel, nonetheless produces carbon dioxide. Because it keeps the heat that warms the earth trapped in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide is a very detrimental consequence. Additionally, digging it up is becoming harder, which moves it further away from being a cheap, “clean” resource.
Oil is utilized for a variety of purposes, such as heating homes and providing airplane fuel. While coal and oil contributed to the industrial revolution, if climate change is not stopped, they could also lead to a whole new level of stress.
Coal, the most popular and highly polluting energy source in the world, is utilized everywhere because it has historically been consistently affordable and simple to dig up. Fortunately, the cost of renewable energy is beginning to decline relative to coal.
Nuclear energy is frequently promoted as a renewable resource. But in reality, it’s merely a carbon-free energy source. Although the nuclear reaction that generates energy can last for years before a plant is too old, it also generates a significant amount of radioactive waste.
Nuclear energy also requires a water source to continuously cool the reactors, which produces radioactive waste water. Water sources are contaminated by radioactive effluent, which can result in unsafe drinking water or radioactively contaminated fish that cannot be consumed.
Human cancer can be brought on by high radiation exposure levels.
Why should we use renewable resources?
The primary causes of climate change are non-renewable resources including gas, oil, and coal. When fossil fuels are used to produce electricity, they release a variety of pollutants into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that traps heat.
In actuality, CO2 is what keeps the earth’s temperature at a habitable level and does exist naturally in the atmosphere. However, when the atmosphere contains an excessive amount of CO2, too much heat from the sun is trapped there, which has a domino effect on the climate.
Switching to entirely renewable resources is one of the first changes society as a whole needs to make to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
Renewable energy use is increasing
Slowly but surely, the U.S. is starting to adopt more renewable energy sources, partly due to its decreasing cost.
Solar is anticipated to be the greatest renewable energy source in 2050, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Currently, all renewable energy sources make up only 12% of U.S. energy consumption, but this percentage is expected to rise to 42% by that time.
The future of renewable resources
Renewable energy is the best choice we have for lowering humanity’s carbon footprint, despite the fact that we haven’t quite worked out how to make it ideal. It is crucial to switch to renewable energy if we want to reduce air pollution and the amount of CO2 in the environment.
The good news is that renewable energy is becoming more affordable and that more utility companies and homeowners are deciding to use it. There are numerous ways for utilities to include renewable energy sources as solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, and biofuels.
But rooftop solar panels can provide you that choice if you’re a homeowner and want to be in command of your own renewable energy generation. The best method to reduce your costs and live a greener lifestyle is with rooftop solar.