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OWOE - Introduction To Energy - What are renewable energy sources, and why are they important?
  Figure 1 - Sources of renewable energy (earthlyissues)
 
Figure 1 - Sources of renewable energy (earthlyissues)
 
Figure 2 - Illustration of enewable energy sources used for electricity generation (green planet ethics)
 
What are renewable energy sources, and why are they important?

Renewable energy sources can be continuously supplied and will never run out. Renewable energy sources have another significant advantage over most non-renewable sources - they don't require the burning of fossil fuels. This avoids both the pollution that is created by burning hydrocarbons and the carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere that are the primary contributor to global warming and climate change. As illustrated in Figure 1, the five primary renewable energy sources can be briefly described as follows:

  • Geothermal - power extracted from heat stored under the earth's crust, typically by using the heat to boil a fluid and then using the resulting gas to rotate turbine blades and generate electricity. For more information, see OWOE: How is geothermal energy used to generate electricity?
  • Wind - power generated by converting the kinetic energy associated with wind into mechanical energy, typically through the rotation of turbine blades, and ultimately into electricity. For more information, see OWOE: Wind Power
  • Solar - power generated by converting solar radiation either into electricity using photovoltaic cells or into heat which is used to boil a fluid. For more information, see OWOE: Solar Power
  • Hydroelectric - power generated by converting the kinetic energy of flowing water into mechanical energy, typically through the rotation of turbine blades, and ultimately into electricity. Hydropower can be harvasted from a variety of sources, historically from dams, but also utilizing ocean waves and tidal currents. For more information, see OWOE: How is hydropower used to generate electricity? and OWOE: How does tidal energy work?
  • BioMass - power generated by burning biological material from recently living or currently living organisms such as trees, landfill gasses, alcohol fuels created from crops such as corn, grease, and even garbage. For more information, see OWOE: What is biomass and how is it used for energy? Currently, renewable energy accounts for about 10% of the energy consumed in the United States. Over the past several years, advances in technology have made some of these renewables much less expensive, and they are expected to play a much larger role in the future. In 2014 approximately half of all new power generation capacity came from wind and solar installations.


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