- Politics and Social Issues
A List of Renewable Resources
Types of Renewable Energy
Did you know that in the United States, over half of the electricity generated is by the burning of coal? We are using up the earth's resources at an alarming rate. Yet, none of us are quite willing to do without the power to fuel our heat, lights, and all those little gadgets we've grown accustomed to. So what is the answer?
Renewable Energy Resources.
There are sources of renewable energy out there. They may not be as simple or easy to set up and use as the electricity we get from burning coal, but that keyword Renewable means a lot. It means that once the system is set up, the energy we use today won't detract from the energy we can use tomorrow. An unending source of energy that doesn't deplete the earth's resources--the answer to the world's energy crisis.
The good news is that there are eight different alternative energy sources out there. As the world in general demands more and more energy to meet its daily requirements, these will become more and more important. It is time to stop using the earth's fossil fuels and start using power that is renewable.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons by user Bodoklecksel
Renewable Resource #1: Solar Energy
Man's Earliest Energy Source
For as long as man has walked the earth, he has made use of the power of the sun for warmth. In ancient Greece, entire cities were designed so that every house could face south for the heated rays of the winter sun. Solar energy hit North America in the 1200's AD with the famous cliff dwellings of the Anasazi--all facing south. Man knew the power of the south facing home for warmth. This is solar energy is its passive form.
In the 1800's it was proven scientifically that solar energy could be transformed into electricity, but they could not figure out at that time how to generate enough power to make it worthwhile. Then, in 1954, Photovoltaic technology was discovered. Unfortunately, it wasn't yet solar power's time, as the cost of the process was still prohibitive for everyday use.
That changed in the early '70's when Dr. Elliott Berman (with funding from Exxon) came up with a way to cut the price of solar power by 80%. Now as the price continues to drop with new discoveries and simple mass production, solar energy is becoming more readily available and affordable for the masses.
Image Credit: NASA/Sean Smith
Books on Solar & Wind Energy
As it stands now, most of us are dependent on the power company for our energy needs. We expect to be able to flip a light switch and actually have light. Unfortunately, times are uncertain and more and more natural calamities are occurring around the world. Even something so mild as an auto accident can leave us without power. And in the dead of winter, ice storms are a true hazard to power lines and our ability to get the electricity we need to heat our homes.
So why not have a backup plan? Renewable energy sources can be that backup and more. Installing an alternative source of energy can give you peace of mind for tomorrow--and lower energy bills today. If you are considering adding a renewable energy source for your home's power needs, here are some books that can help.
Renewable Resource #2: Wind Power
Beautiful or a Scar on Scenery?
Wind energy has also been harnessed and used by man for many centuries. We have used the power of the wind to fill the sails of ships and to pump the water for irrigation. And now, through the use of installed wind farms, we are using the wind to generate electricity.
This is probably the most popular (growth wise) of the renewable energy sources. By the end of 2011, according to the World Wind Energy Association, there were enough wind-powered generators globally to produce up to 2.5% of the world's electricity usage. And the number of wind energy installations is growing every year.
Some wind turbines are used by individuals to supplement their home energy usage. A smaller turbine can output 50 kilowatts of power. Larger ones can produce from 1 to 2 megawatts. The biggest use of wind energy is from the wind farms where you will see rows upon rows of turbines all plugged into and feeding the electric grid.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by janie.hernandez55
Video: Wind Energy
Renewable Resource #3: Tidal Power
Tidal energy is an example of hydropower. This renewable resource uses the energy of the flowing tides to produce electricity. The good news is that tidal power is much more predictable and steady than wind power or solar energy. Unfortunately, there are downsides to this resource as well.
First of all, there are limited places with sufficiently high tidal flows to convert into energy. And second of all, even when a place is found the costs are relatively high to install the necessary frame work.
Recently though, there have been some technological breakthroughs that point to a bright future for this natural energy resource.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons by cphoffman42
Renewable Resource #4: Wave Power
Wave power may well be the newest entry on the list of Renewable Resources. An experimental wave farm (the first of its kind) was built in Portugal in 2008.
The idea behind this resource is to use machines known as wave energy converters or WEC's to turn the wave energy into a more useful form, such as electricity.
This is also probably the hardest of all the resources to explain, as such explanations would necessitate the use of mathematical formulae.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain
Renewable Resource #5: Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the #1 Renewable Resource in terms of usage. In 2010, this one resource accounted for roughly 16% of the world's electricity. All of the other renewable energy sources together only accounted for around an additional 3%.
This form of natural energy uses the power of falling or flowing water over dams in wild rivers. The cost of obtaining electricity from this source is actually quite low, lending to its popularity.
The downside is that placing a dam into a river will naturally interrupt its flow and thus change the local ecosystem. Some species have a hard time adapting to those changes.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons by User JJHarrison
Video: How Hydroelectricity is Generated
Renewable Resource #6: Biofuel
The term Bio simply refers to Life. Biofuel is simply fuel made from once living things. There are two main biofuels available currently. Bioethanol and Biodiesel.
Bioethanol is basically an alcohol created by the fermentation of crops such as sugarcane or corn. This fuel can be used in vehicles in its pure state, but it usually used as an additive to gasoline. When used as an additive it increases the octane of the fuel and improves vehicle emissions.
Biodiesel is created from used vegetable oil or animal fats. This too is currently mostly used as an additive to enhance diesel fuels.
These fuels are on track now to meet almost a fourth of the world's demand for vehicle fuels by 2050.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons by user Proximo.xv
Renewable Resource #7: Biomass
There's that term Bio again. Technically Biofuel comes from Biomass. But Biomass encompasses a bit more. Biomass energy can come from five basic sources: wood, waste, landfill gases, garbage, and alcohol fuels.
Biomass power plants use items such as sugar cane fiber and recycled wood to generate electricity. The New Hope Power Partnership plant provides energy to almost 60,000 homes using this renewable resource. An extra plus is that by recycling these materials into energy they are also saving landfill space.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons by user Chmee2
Renewable Resource #8: Geothermal
Geothermal energy is power created from that most basic source of heat...the Earth itself. At the center of the Earth, this energy is born by radioactive decay. The temperatures there can reach 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit. From there the heat makes its way upward towards the earth's surface.
In olden days, this power source was used only for hot springs and space heating, but today it is used to generate electricity.
This renewable resource has a lot of advantages such as being cost effective, reliable, and environmentally friendly. In the past it was limited to those areas around tectonic plate boundaries, but recent advances have greatly increased this source's potential.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons by user The Coffee
Video: How Geothermal Energy Works
Renewable Energy Kits for Kids - Introduce Renewable Energy to the Next Generation
As we get older, we tend to get more set in our ways. We really like the convenience of flipping that electric light switch and having light.
If we really want to make a difference to our children's future (and the planet's future, too!) we need to get our kids involved with green energy options today. These really cool kits can help!