All About Renewable Energy
As electrical contractors, we specialize in work that pertains to the design, installation, and maintenance of electrical systems. Electrical systems are reliant upon electricity generation. Electricity is generated through one of two sources: nonrenewable or renewable energy. Simply put, nonrenewable energy comes from nonrenewable resources. Renewable energy comes from renewable resources.
Let’s have a brief look at the differences between nonrenewable and renewable resources.
Renewable resources are part of the earth's natural environment. They replenish themselves in a finite amount of time after becoming depleted through usage and consumption.
Nonrenewable resources are the precise opposite of this; they do not replenish themselves in a finite amount of time to meet the scaling needs for humans.
Electricity generation is one of four major areas that renewable energy can service.
Your air conditioner, toaster, TV, electric stove, and other electric appliances all have one thing in common: they require electricity to be powered. Of course, electricity must be generated. It does not magically appear out of thin air. The power company you pay utility bills to utilizes energy resources to produce electricity. That electricity is then sent to your home to be used in all the ways that we have come to take for granted.
Most of the world still largely relies on electricity generation through traditional biofuel sources, which are nonrenewable. However, as the graph below from Our World in Data shows, renewable energy is slowly starting to become a larger slice of the pie.
REN21's 2017 report shows that 24.5% of electricity generation came from renewable energy sources globally that year. One of the reasons for the increased utilization of renewable energy sources is due to falling costs. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that renewable energy will be consistently cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. While the debate centering around energy generation has been highly politicized over the years, it is also a matter of economics for the market. Cheaper renewable energy is better for the environment and for us consumers.
Renewable Energy Sources
As we have already identified, renewable energy resources must meet the criteria of being part of the earth's natural environment as well as replenishing themselves in a finite amount of time after becoming depleted through usage and consumption.
The main renewable energy resources come in five main categories:
Biomass is a renewable energy source that is organically originates from plants and animals. Biomass can be derived from many forms.
Wood: which is burned to heat buildings and generate electricity.
Agricultural crops and waste: used to create fuel or liquid biofuels.
Food, yard, wood waste in garbage: are burned to generate electricity or can be converted to biogas.
Animal and human waste: can be converted to biogas which can then be used as fuel.
Hydropower is simply energy created through the flow of moving water. Unknown to most, hydropower was one of the first sources of energy used for electricity generation. Hydropower also happens to be the largest renewable energy source for electricity generation in the United States.
Geothermal energy is a renewable resource that is found within the earth. Geothermal energy is created when the slow decay of radioactive particles in the earth’s core takes place. This process takes place in all rocks and is able to create energy for use in our lives.
Geothermal energy is used to:
Wind energy is derived from moving air. As wind blows past a wind turbine (wind mill) the blades capture the kinetic energy of the wind. This kinetic energy is then converted into mechanical energy through the rotation of the blades. Today, wind energy is primarily used in electricity generation.
Humans have relied on the sun's solar rays for energy for thousands of years. Over time, we have been able to develop technologies that can harness the sun's rays. The ability to harness the sun’s rays has resulted in the ability to create power. Solar energy is now used to heat water for our homes, buildings, and swimming pools. Solar energy is also used to heat fluids to high temperatures to be used in solar thermal power plants.
As nonrenewable energy resources continue to become depleted, humans will have to rely more heavily upon the renewable energy resources that the earth provides us with. As the cost of renewable energy continues to decrease and become higher in economic feasibility, we can expect that our homes will become increasingly powered by renewable energy sources.