Renewable energy is predicted to be the way of the future. So what exactly is renewable energy? Renewable energy is broadly defined as energy that is collected from naturally occurring resources that are replenished on a human timescale. Some examples of renewable energy resources include sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and heat from the ground. Fossil fuels on the other hand are finite resources, meaning that there is a limited supply of them. In general, renewable energy resources are much cleaner for the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, they do not emit a large amount of carbon dioxide when converted into energy. There are four main types of renewable energy which include solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower. Biomass and nuclear power are sometimes considered renewable energy sources but are much more controversial.
Solar power is created when sunlight is converted into electricity. The most common way to create solar power is by using photovoltaics, commonly referred to as solar panels, to convert light into an electric current. Solar powers can be placed on homes or directly on the ground. The energy from the sun can also be used to heat homes—a process called passive solar. Homes can be created to manipulate light to both warm and cool indoor spaces.
Wind power is created using a wind turbine that spins when wind passes through it. The spinning of the wind turbine creates electricity. Wind turbines can be both onshore and offshore. Small wind turbines can be installed near or behind homes but large scale wind turbines are normally installed away from residential property because of the noise and force they produce.
Geothermal energy utilizes the earth’s natural heat as an energy source. Geothermal energy can be used to heat homes or to produce electricity. Small geothermal systems can be installed to heat homes. These systems use heat produce in shallow ground. Water deep in the earth can also be used to produce heat on a larger scale.
Hydropower is power created from fast running water or from falling water. The energy of the moving water is typically used to spin a watermill which produces electricity. Hydropower is usually produced on a large scale at hydroelectric power plants.
Written by Alyssa Lemire, Class of 2016
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