Renewable energy is defined as energy that is renewed at a fair good rate by natural processes. Sunlight, wind, flowing water, and biomass are examples of renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy represents the world’s ability to adapt the mix of resources required to meet the world’s energy demands for current and future generations while also enhancing the environment, national economic viability, and human equality.
Renewable energy isn’t a brand-new, unverified innovation of modern civilization. Humans have relied on renewable energy for the majority of our existence since the earliest human-like animals walked the earth over three million years ago. Seeds, fruits, and roots contained the energy that allowed us to develop our first civilizations.
Plants, like other renewable resources, can regenerate from seeds, roots, or tubers. Plants, on the other hand, rely on three other renewable natural resources: soil, water, and air.
Our ancestors and practically all other living creatures on the planet got their energy from plant components, but our plant gets their energy from soil, water, and even air.
For many years, coal was the most abundant fossil fuel on the planet. Oil and natural gas, on the other hand, have largely replaced coal as the world’s leading energy source.
Petroleum now accounts for 35%, Natural gas accounts for 34%, coal accounts for 10%, nuclear electric power account for 9%, and the remaining 12% of energy consumption in the United States is met by modest amounts of renewable energy like hydropower, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal.
Despite the fact that fossil fuels currently dominate the energy landscape, their era is coming to an end. Natural gas and oil are both nearing the end of their useful lifetimes. Unless we shift to clean, economical, reliable, and enough renewable energy substitutes, the party is over for them and for us.
Choices Among Energies
We must first know which energy resources are at risk in order to make the wisest decisions as people — and as a community. We must also identify which energy supplies must be phased out for social, economic, and environmental reasons, given the destructive impact and high cost of climate change and other energy-related environmental challenges on human civilization.
Alternatives to oil and natural gas will be required to meet our needs in the near future. In terms of ecology, coal, too, calls for alternatives. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, despite its abundance in North America and around the world, and its use is predicted to skyrocket after oil and natural gas output peaks.
Burning coal produces not just sulfur and nitrogen oxides, which contribute to acid rain and snow, but also large volumes of particles, which induce asthma and other respiratory problems. Coal combustion also generates millions of tons of ash, which contains a number of potentially harmful contaminants.
A significant amount of this ash is disposed of in conventional landfills. Perhaps most critically for our future, coal combustion produces vast amounts of carbon dioxide, far more carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated than any other fossil fuel currently in use.
When choosing an alternate fuel, consider the environmental impact as well. For building a sustainable future, we must select fuels that fulfill our energy demands without jeopardizing an equally essential, but frequently neglected, the requirement: our desire for a healthy ecosystem.
The availability of resources is also critical. From a long-term viewpoint, it makes sense to pursue the most plentiful resources. What could be more plentiful than a renewable energy supply?
The development of energy resources with the highest net energy output, the most plentiful supply, and the lowest overall social, economic, and environmental cost is required.
Sources of Renewable Energy
The extraction of energy from the ground around us is what geothermal power is all about. Geothermal energy harnesses the heat contained in the Earth’s core, which is produced by the gradual decay of radioactive particles in the planet’s core rocks.
The geothermal gradient, defined as the temperature difference between the planet’s core and surface, causes thermal energy to be continuously transmitted from the core to the surface in the form of heat.
Geothermal energy, as a non-carbon-based energy source, may become increasingly important in our global energy landscape. It’s a large resource with the potential to make a big contribution to the world’s energy needs. It can be used in a number of different ways. Turbines are driven by high-temperature water or steam from a geothermal reservoir to generate energy.
When geothermal energy is converted to electricity, it is transmitted across long distances by power lines to heat and power homes and businesses. It has the potential to play a key role in the transition away from fossil fuels to low-carbon green energy sources.
Solar energy is produced via nuclear fusion, which occurs in the sun. It is necessary for life on Earth and can be used for human purposes like power generation. Solar energy is considered green energy that does not harm the environment because it emits no pollutants into the atmosphere.
The total amount of solar energy on Earth much outnumbers the world’s current and future energy requirements. If effectively tapped, this widely scattered source has the potential to supply all future energy demands.
Solar energy, in contrast to the limited fossil fuels coal, petroleum, and natural gas, is expected to become more desirable because of its limitless supply and nonpolluting nature.
Wind is the movement of air across the surface of the Earth. The kinetic energy of the wind is converted into mechanical or electrical energy via wind turbines. Wind energy is considered a renewable form of energy.
The quantity of energy carried by the earth’s winds is enormous. Wind energy distributes heat through interacting with objects and the environment. Wind energy is a substantial and growing component of the world’s energy supply, despite its dispersed and variable character.
With almost 63 GW of new wind power capacity added in 2015, wind-generated electricity satisfied roughly 4% of worldwide electricity demand. Wind energy was the most important source of additional energy in Europe, the United States, and Canada.
Hydroelectric power is electricity generated by generators driven by water turbines, which transform potential energy in falling or fast-flowing water into mechanical energy. When flowing water is collected and converted into energy, the process is known as hydroelectric power or hydropower.
Hydroelectric facilities come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they are all driven by the kinetic energy of moving water downstream. Turbines and generators transform energy into electricity, which is subsequently sent into the electrical grid and used in homes, businesses, and industries.
In 2010, hydropower was created in 150 countries, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for 32% of global hydropower generation. Hydroelectric power stations were among the first to create electricity, but as fossil fuels became more prevalent, their use began to decline. Despite this, they account for roughly 7% of all energy produced in the United States.
Deconstructing the molecules that make up plants and producing new molecules from the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen present in them is a common part of biomass energy generation. A conversion that creates hydrocarbons with two to four hydrogen atoms per carbon atom would be ideal. These products have the potential to replace oil and natural gas completely.
Because it can be replenished by growing more trees and plants, biomass is a renewable energy source. However, it may not be as environmentally friendly as anticipated. Some researchers believe that burning biomass creates a “carbon debt.” Biomass feedstocks may produce three types of energy: heat, electricity, and biofuels such as biodiesel.
Since humans first started burning wood to cook and stay warm, biomass energy has been used. Wood remains the most important biomass energy source today. Other sources include food crops, grassy and woody plants, agricultural or forestry waste, oil-rich algae, and the organic portion of municipal solid waste. Even landfill gas can be used as a source of biomass energy.
It’s a form of renewable energy that harnesses the natural rise and fall of the tides to generate electricity. Tides are caused by the combined effects of gravitational forces produced by the rotation of the Moon, Sun, and Earth.
Tidal energy is consistent since it is not impacted by weather conditions but rather by the cycles of the moon, sun, and earth, resulting in a predictable bi-week, biannual, and yearly cycle.
Tidal energy is currently not the most cost-effective kind of renewable energy, and the full environmental impacts of tidal power are unknown. Tidal power is a well-known renewable energy source that produces no greenhouse gases. It also takes up little space.
Nuclear power is an efficient and clean method of producing energy by boiling water to generate steam, which spins turbines. Nuclear energy emits practically less CO2 when compared to fossil fuels such as coal and gas.
In terms of efficiency and dependability, no other power source can match nuclear. For several months at a time, nuclear power plants may generate vast amounts of electricity on a continuous basis.
Nuclear power plants may be built for a variety of reasons, including a lack of local energy supplies, a goal for energy independence, and a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using a carbon-free energy source.
A key environmental problem related to nuclear power is the development of radioactive wastes such as uranium mill tailings used as reactor fuel and other nuclear waste. These elements can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years.
In the future, hydrogen gas is expected to be the favored energy system. Hydrogen fuel is a carbon-free fuel that is burned alongside oxygen. Natural gas, nuclear power, biomass, and renewable energy sources like as the sun and wind can all be used to generate it at home.
These characteristics make it an appealing fuel alternative for transportation and power-generating applications. It may be utilized in automobiles, homes, portable power sources, and a variety of other applications.
In the long run, hydrogen energy is projected to be used in a variety of situations, and hydrogen fuel sources will supplant many current technologies. As hydrogen technologies become more extensively employed, their economics will improve, and the extra benefit of reduced pollution will raise the value of such systems even more.
The main downside of this alternative energy is that it is primarily produced using natural gas and fossil fuels. As a result, it’s possible to argue that the emissions generated in order to obtain it outweigh the benefits of using it.
Benefits of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy sources do not have the same negative impact on the environment as fossil fuels. This is because they do not pollute the environment and remain steady once activities begin. They’re usually dug out of the ground or mined hundreds of feet underground.
Renewable energy converts natural resources directly into electricity. Renewable energy, unlike coal, oil, and natural gas, which require a lot of technology, processing stations, pipelines, and transportation, never runs out. Renewable energy is derived directly from the natural world. The sun, wind, tides, and the core of the Earth will never run out of resources. They are abundant and long-lasting natural resources.
Wind, solar, tidal, and thermal power facilities scattered across a large geographical area help to reduce power shortages. The security of fossil-fuel-based energy generation is a major concern. War, trade wars, energy policy changes, and political instability can all disrupt the easy supply of fossil fuel energy.
Renewable energy, on the other hand, can be supplied without any obstacles, and every country has renewable resources; all that is required is government initiative to utilize them.
Zero Carbon Emissions
Renewable energy sources emit minimal or no greenhouse gases or pollutants. As a result, there is a decreased carbon footprint and a positive overall impact on the environment. Fossil fuel consumption emits toxic chemicals that cause respiratory and cardiovascular issues. You can help minimize pollution while also boosting your overall health by using renewable energy.
Less Dependent on Foreign Energy Sources
Renewable energy technologies enable each country to create its own energy. The more a state uses renewable energy from its own sources, the less it relies on foreign energy imports and the more it contributes to the country’s total energy independence.
Low Operating Cost
Renewable energy technology requires fewer overall repairs and maintenance expenditures than traditional fuel generators. This means that the plants’ owners would profit handsomely while providing low-cost power to the public.
Some renewable energy sources are cheaper than traditional fuels. Wind power on a large scale, passive solar heating and cooling, solar hot water, and solar electric manufacturing are now often cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
Disadvantages of Renewable Energy
Because certain renewable energy sources are uncertain, battery storage is in high demand. While storage technologies are available today, they can be expensive, particularly in big renewable energy projects. It’s worth noting that as technology progresses, energy storage capacity grows, and batteries become more affordable over time.
Huge Infrastructure Cost
The commercial viability of nuclear energy is frequently questioned. Because renewable energy is typically found in rural areas, power lines to transfer the generated electricity to towns and cities add to the cost.
Renewable energy takes up a lot of space. Various types of renewable technology are better suited to various landscapes and climates. There is no such thing as a universal solution.
Renewable energy technologies are still relatively new on the market, which means they are insufficiently efficient to meet public and corporate demand. Due to a lack of basic information on how to capture diverse sources of energy efficiently, the installation and maintenance costs for such facilities are quite high. This complicates predicting, and investors may be unwilling to invest for fear of not getting a return.
Commercially Not Viable
Politicians and governments may benefit from renewable energy to stay in power. Innovation suffers in favor of non-renewable alternatives if renewables are not given government priority. To make it economically applicable in our daily lives, massive investment is required, and the private sector does not take such risks on its own. A government with genuine intentions should take the lead in making it work.
Luckily, there is an abundance of renewable energy in many locations. Numerous renewable energy technologies, like solar hot water and residential-scale solar power, are accessible to homeowners like you. Others, such as large-scale wind generation, will need the vast finances of private businesses as well as the foresight of local, state, and federal governments.
In our quest for a better, brighter energy future, we must never lose sight of two truths. First and foremost, there is plenty we can do to improve our homes’ energy efficiency. Furthermore, we may be able to improve energy efficiency without sacrificing the services that we expect.
We may live simply while still enjoying ourselves! Former President Ronald Reagan famously declared that conservation did not mean “freezing in the dark.” Conservation implies living comfortably at a fraction of the cost of our wasteful lives.
Conservation will result in a better life for us if we are smart. A considerable amount of renewable energy is available. They outperform nonrenewable energy resources by such a large margin that your head will spin.
You might be surprised to learn that renewable energy, such as sunlight, can be used to meet practically all of your family’s needs – even in the most remote parts of the country!
Renewable energy and conservation are the keys to a sustainable future, and you and millions of people have the key.
Aspects of Sustainable Energy
Renewable energy aspects can be studied under the economic, environmental, and social categories.
The first influence is economic, and it evaluates each energy source’s viability. There should be no energy source developed that causes a net economic loss to society. There are two sections under the economic implications of sustainable energy.
Direct expenses: include capital, operational, and labor costs associated with installing, manufacturing, or producing green energy sources.
Potential Hidden Costs: These are the liabilities costs associated with any energy source’s production. For instance, legal costs paid as a result of environmental disasters and employee accidents, or penalties imposed by the US government for failing to comply with discharge restrictions.
Government subsidies may have an impact on energy sources. The energy source may become unprofitable if the subsidies are no longer accessible.
The second impact category, environmental impact, evaluates any energy source’s environmental problems. There are two subcategories under the environmental dimension of sustainable energy.
Usage Impact: This environmental subcategory assesses the effects of the energy source’s production and uses on the land, water, and energy. It also determines whether or not the energy source is renewable.
Environmental Burden: This subcategory assesses the environmental issues connected with generating, utilizing, and implementing any energy source, such as smog formation, acid rain, global warming, eutrophication, and biodiversity loss.
The final effect category, social impact, assesses the societal impact of any energy source. The social dimension of sustainable energy is divided into two sections.
Quality of Life: This social dimension of energy determines if a certain energy source will lead to enhanced energy security and job growth. It also evaluates any health and safety risks associated with a particular energy source.
Perception and Peace of Mind: This subcategory assesses social perceptions of an energy source. It also considers additional hazards, such as the possibility of a terrorist strike.
Geopolitics of a Greening Economy
With oil reserves scattered unevenly over the world and geopolitical concerns regarding access and transportation routes, geography was destiny in the geopolitical war for oil.
Creativity and industrial expertise are going to play a big part in the new world of clean energy, perhaps offering a new group of enterprises with energy advantages they did not previously have. Controlling access to raw resources may be less important in the geopolitics of clean energy than controlling access to knowledge, patents, and labor.
In the emerging clean energy environment, the ability to fund, construct, and operate electrical infrastructure will be crucial, with power transmission lines, electricity storage, and dispatch capabilities possibly becoming the geo-economic instruments of the future.
However, the ability to build and operate smart electricity grids and 5G autonomous vehicle transportation networks will not be determined solely by which nations can reduce fossil fuel dependence or win increasing export markets for attractive new technology.
It will also result in a geopolitical competition to see which countries can safeguard the integrity of those critical platforms from cyber infiltration and which countries are best positioned to strike them covertly.
In the new geopolitics of renewable energy, the dominant nations maybe those best ready to withstand cyber disruptions to their digital energy and transportation networks or those with the most credible power to threaten to bring down others’ systems.
Many of the critical digital technologies that will determine the geopolitical victor in clean energy are still dominated by American corporations, but Chinese businesses are rapidly catching up, with the Chinese government’s full support.
Beijing has committed to a massive industrial effort in order to gain control of the market for disruptive digital energy technologies, particularly those with dual-use military applications such as automation, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.
The United States must maintain its leadership position as a new era of innovation reshapes the world of green energy, fueled by the confluence of automation, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and big-data analytics.
Leading digital energy nations will benefit militarily and economically. Green technological superiority will also bring geopolitical influence in the form of international norms for cyber intrusion and environmental practices.
The United States must reclaim its ability to lead by example by ensuring that the technology governing the transition to a new digital energy industry protects privacy, individual liberty, and the environment.
In the era of clean energy, more energy consumption will shift to electrification, and renewable energy trade commonly stimulates electricity trading because system stability may benefit from cross-border demand and supply balancing.
This is the situation in Northern Europe’s Nord Pool, where electric power is exchanged on a market basis, enabling a higher concentration of variable renewable energy to be included in the nine-nation linked power system.
When the wind isn’t blowing, Denmark can export excess wind power to neighboring countries, mainly Norway, and buy more flexible surplus hydropower. Vermont and Canada, both in the United States, have developed similar synergies.
India and Bangladesh already trade electricity, and hydropower plants in Laos support Thailand’s power grid balance. Europe has also looked into connecting its grid with North Africa and the Middle East. China is seeking to develop ties throughout Asia as it works to expand its own energy industry.
In the digital future, consumer energy culture will be different since all countries will be sellers and buyers at the same time. Furthermore, countries that import electricity will be able to construct their own rooftop solar and other localized renewables and storage technologies to improve their energy security.
Germany and Ukraine are considering strategic positioning in the management of electrical infrastructure. Power conflicts may arise over who owns and has decision-making authority over international grids and their administration.
China’s planned Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), which is supported by the country’s State Grid Corporation and promotes the notion of a global grid, has failed to gain momentum. ASEAN nations are collaborating to develop a regulatory framework to support a cross-border electricity grid in Southeast Asia.
Green energy geopolitics may be a better place if regional entities manage transmission and policy. To solve the challenge, powerful regional and international organizations would require that can control trade and enforce global laws.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Renewable energy, despite being a great answer to environmental problems, still faces considerable challenges to mainstream adoption. Some are related to present market realities, rules, and infrastructure, while others are due to diverse renewable energy technologies.
Additional infrastructure is required to supply renewable energy sources to country and it needs extra budget for the government. Solar costs roughly 19 cents per kWh more than gas or coal, according to research. Wind power comes in second, and any of the other renewable technologies will be very expensive to implement too.
The situation has changed dramatically. Nonrenewable energy were previously cheaper for users, resulting in increased global consumption. However, due to environmental concerns, many industrialized countries are focusing on renewable energy and investing heavily in infrastructure, lowering renewable energy costs dramatically. As a result, renewable energy has a more promising future.
Though the return on investment for renewable energy is now small, it is progressively increasing as the government moves toward a sustainable environment. According to the survey, around 20% of the 400 companies that invested in renewable energy saw a 15% return on their investment.
Renewable energy has been used as a source of energy by human ancestors throughout history, and science has now developed means to transform renewable resources into electric energy for use in homes and offices.
These renewable energy options are quite promising in terms of what they may do for us in the future, not just in terms of the clean energy they provide, but also in terms of economics by providing job possibilities for unemployed people. According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy will account for 30% of worldwide energy consumption by 2024, with solar and wind accounting for the majority of this.
In terms of renewable energy output, China already leads the globe. It is presently the world’s largest producer of wind and solar energy, as well as the world’s largest domestic and international renewable energy investor. Iceland is a country that is totally powered by renewable energy sources. It gets 75% of its electricity from hydropower and 25% from geothermal power.
Renewable energy provides consistent power and fuel diversification, enhancing energy security, reducing the risk of fuel leaks, and reducing the need for imported fuels. Renewable energy also contributes to the conservation of the country’s natural resources.
The answer is a little odd. At the same time, it is Yes and No. Nuclear power plants produce renewable electricity, but the fuel used to generate it is not.
Switching to renewable energy is more than just a group of people choosing a new way to power their homes; it requires the entire world to readjust their lifestyle according to the new energy sources. It would demand the transformation of millions of homes, schools, companies, public buildings, and transportation hubs – and this does not happen overnight.
Renewable energy captures natural energy and converts it into usable energy. Nonrenewable resources can only be utilized once, and there is no way to replenish them. Renewable energy is considerably superior to non-renewable energy from an environmental standpoint because it does not emit any hazardous chemicals into the environment.
Photosynthesis is the process through which trees and plants acquire energy from the sun during their life cycle. That stored energy is released as biomass energy as the organic matter – called biomass – decomposes or burns.
Renewable energy sources are valuable since they are environmentally friendly. They avoid polluting dirty fossil fuels, and they provide energy without emitting any hazardous byproducts, making them environmentally friendly. It contributes to the ecological equilibrium of our surroundings. This is energy obtained from natural resources that can be renewed quickly and cannot be depleted over time.