What is renewable energy, and what are its advantages?

What is renewable energy, and what are its advantages?

A With fossil fuels becoming increasingly problematic politically, economically, and environmentally, interest and investment in renewable energy sources have grown in recent years. Renewable energy sources are those sources that are naturally replenished and essentially inexhaustible, such as wind and water. Together with technologies that improve energy efficiency, renewable energy sources contribute to sustainability the capacity of natural or human systems to endure and maintain well-being over time. A common definition of sustainable development is development that meets society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Renewable energy sources include wind power, solar power, water and wave power, geothermal power, and biomass and biofuels from renewable sources, among others.

• Wind power uses the energy of the wind to turn blades that run a turbine, which spins a generator, which produces electricity.

What is renewable energy, and what are its advantages? Photo Gallery

• Solar power uses the heat and light of the sun to produce energy via a variety of technologies. One solar technology is the concentrating solar power (CSP) system, which use mirrors, dishes, or towers to reflect and collect solar heat to generate steam, which runs a turbine to produce electricity. Another solar technology is the photovoltaic (solar cell) system, which converts sunlight directly into electricity by means of semiconducting materials.

• Geothermal power taps the heat in the earth’s core. It may be in the form of hot water or steam, which can be used to run a turbine to produce electricity. In some geologically unstable parts of the planet, including Yellowstone Park and parts of northern California, geothermal energy is close to the surface.

• Biomass is plant material, including trees. When biomass is burned, it produces energy. If the plants are produced and harvested sustainably, they are a renewable source of energy.

• Biofuels are fuels based on natural materials. Bioethanol is made primarily from sugar and starch crops like corn, although trees and grasses may be used in the future. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles or added to gasoline. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils or animal fats and can be used either in a pure form to power vehicles or added to diesel to reduce carbon emissions.

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