What is renewable energy?

September 2, 2023

Renewable energy is fast becoming a buzzword in the world today as people become more conscious of their impact on the environment. Compared to traditional energy sources, renewable energy sources produce less harmful emissions and cause less damage to the environment.

At present, our lives are often powered by non-renewable sources, also known as fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include oil, gas and coal. We have to burn these in order to convert them into usable energy, and this leads to environmental damage due to the harmful gases they release. 

Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas. It traps infrared radiation in the atmosphere which causes the surface temperature of the planet to rise. This leads to a cascade of events that cause further problems for the environment.

The alternative to burning fossil fuels for energy is to turn to renewable sources. While they are growing in popularity, many people still don't understand much about renewable energy. This blog post is aimed at exploring the basics of renewable energy.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comprises various energy sources that are replenished naturally and can be utilised infinitely without depleting them. Some common sources of renewable energy include biomass, wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal. 

These sources of renewable energy account for only a fraction of the total energy consumed in the world today, but their usage is growing, and the future looks promising. A common complaint about renewable energy is that the initial investment in infrastructure and equipment is quite high. But once established, the running costs can be lower and electricity can be generated practically for free.

Types of renewable energy

  • Biomass is energy derived from organic materials such as crop wastes, wood chips, and municipal waste. These materials are burned to produce energy, which can either be used directly or converted to a more convenient form like electricity. Biomass energy is a renewable source of energy because the plants used as fuel can be regrown, unlike traditional energy sources which are finite.
  • Wind energy is harnessed through the use of wind turbines that are designed to convert the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity. Wind turbines are placed in high areas with constant wind flow to provide electricity to homes or businesses. Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing sources of renewable energy.
  • Solar energy is obtained from the sun's rays. The sun is a natural energy source that has been harnessed and utilised by humans for centuries. Today, solar energy is harnessed through the use of solar panels which convert sunlight into electricity. Solar panels are usually mounted on rooftops or in open fields to collect energy from the sun. Solar energy is clean, renewable, and affordable.
  • Hydro energy is obtained through the use of water turbines that convert the force of moving water into electricity. This is done by placing dams in bodies of water that have high levels of flow. Hydro energy is a renewable source of electricity that has been used for centuries to power mills and other machinery.
  • Geothermal energy is obtained through the use of geothermal power plants that use the natural heat of the earth to generate electricity. The heat generated from deep within the earth is used to turn turbines and create electricity. The earth's heat is renewable, and geothermal energy is a clean, reliable, and renewable energy source.

What are the limitations of renewable energy?

Renewable energy sources have made significant progress in recent years and offer many environmental benefits. However, they also come with certain limitations and challenges. Here are some of the key limitations of renewable energy:

  • Intermittency and Variability: Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power are dependent on weather conditions. They are intermittent and variable, which means they can't provide a constant and reliable power supply without energy storage solutions like batteries.
  • Land and Resource Requirements: Large-scale renewable energy installations, such as solar farms and wind turbines, require substantial land and resources. This can lead to conflicts over land use and potential environmental impacts, such as habitat disruption and land degradation.
  • Location Dependency: The availability and efficiency of renewable energy sources are location-dependent. Solar power is more effective in regions with abundant sunlight, while wind power is more efficient in areas with consistent wind patterns. This geographical dependency can limit the widespread adoption of certain renewables.
  • Initial Cost: The upfront costs of installing renewable energy systems can be high, although they have been decreasing in recent years. This can be a barrier to adoption, especially for individuals and businesses with limited capital.
  • Energy Transmission and Grid Upgrades: Integrating renewable energy into existing energy grids may require significant upgrades to transmission and distribution systems. This can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Aesthetic and Social Concerns: Some people may find the appearance of renewable energy installations, such as wind turbines or solar panels, unappealing. This can lead to resistance and opposition to their deployment in certain communities.

Despite these limitations, ongoing research and technological advancements are helping to mitigate many of these challenges. As renewable energy technologies continue to improve and become more cost-effective, they are likely to play an increasingly significant role in the global energy landscape.

How can you make the switch to renewable energy?

You might feel like you don’t have the power to help combat climate change, but simple steps will allow you to use your voice for good. Simply switching to a renewable energy provider for your household supply can send a clear message to traditional energy companies still relying on fossil fuels. If a large percentage of the population made the switch, it would become clear that there is an appetite for renewable energy.

Closing thoughts

In conclusion, renewable energy is an essential aspect of sustainable development. Renewable energy sources are not only clean and environmentally friendly, but they also promote energy independence and security. 

The use of renewable energy is gaining traction globally as more countries are turning to renewable energy to meet their energy needs. Renewable energy is the future, and it's up to each of us to play our part in promoting its usage. We must all work together to create a better future for ourselves and generations to come.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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