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Renewable Energy

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What is renewable energy ?

Renewable energy is sustainable energy that comes from the natural environment. Certain sources of energy are “renewable” as they are maintained or replaced by nature. Renewable energy is obtained from sources that are essentially inexhaustible, unlike fossil fuels, of which there is a finite supply and cannot be replenished.

Renewable sources of energy include solar, wind, water, biomass, wood, waste, geothermal, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal energy. Non renewable energy sources include coal, oil and natural gas.

Renewable energy, generally speaking, is clean energy and non-polluting. Many forms do not emit any greenhouse gases or toxic waste in the process of producing electricity. It is a sustainable energy source which can be relied on for the long-term. Renewable energy is cost-effective and efficient.

How does renewable energy work?

Wind Power

Wind energy is an indirect form of solar energy. It is estimated that between 1% and 3% of the solar energy that strikes the Earth is used in the creation of wind.

Wind is created by the uneven heating of the Earth’s atmosphere. This effect creates high and low pressure systems in the atmosphere. Air moves from the high-pressure systems to low pressure systems, creating the winds that circulate the earth. The wind has kinetic energy. A wind generator converts kinetic energy to electrical energy.

Wind turbines are mounted on high towers to take advantage of better wind conditions away from the ground. Towers may be built from tubular steel, concrete or steel frame.

Propeller-like blades of a wind turbine turn in the wind. Blades need to be aerodynamic and be able to be pitched into any wind. They need a system to turn them to the optimal position with each wind change. Currently, turbine blades tend to be fibre glass and composite materials.

Wind is a clean source of renewable energy that produces no air or water pollution. Once a turbine has erected, the opreating costs are very low since the wind is free!

Globaly wind energy has more than quadrupled between 200 and 2006. At the end of last year, global capacity was more than 70,000 megawatts. In the energy-hungry United States, a single megawatt is enough electricity to power about 250 homes. Germany has the most installed wind energy capacity, followed by Spain, the United States, India, and Denmark. Development is also fast growing in France and China.

Hydro Power

Hydropower is the force of energy of moving water and is clean renewable energy source that doesn’t pollute the environment.

Hydropower/hydroelectricity is a very efficient energy source because some turbines can achieve efficiency of 95 % and more.Today it provides about 20 % of the world’s electricity and is the main energy source for more than 30 countries.

Although its primary use is to produce electricity it can also be used for water supply, flood control, irrigation and even recreation purposes. However it certainly needs more researching in order to decrease its negative environmental impacts on river ecosystems.

Run-of-the-river hydroelectricity systems derive kinetic energy from rivers and oceans without using a dam.

Ocean energy describes all the technologies to harness energy from the ocean and the sea. This includes marine current power, ocean thermal energy conversion, and tidal power.

Solar

Solar energy is the energy derived from the sun through the form of solar radiation. Solar powered electrical generation relies on photovoltaics and heat engines. A partial list of other solar applications includes space heating and cooling through solar architecture, daylighting, solar hot water, solar cooking, and high temperature process heat for industrial purposes.

Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way they capture, convert and distribute solar energy. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors to harness the energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the Sun, selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties, and designing spaces that naturally circulate air.

Biomass

Biomass (plant material) is a renewable energy source because the energy it contains comes from the sun. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants capture the sun’s energy. When the plants are burnt, they release the sun’s energy they contain. In this way, biomass functions as a sort of natural battery for storing solar energy. As long as biomass is produced sustainably, with only as much used as is grown, the battery will last indefinitely.

In general there are two main approaches to using plants for energy production: growing plants specifically for energy use, and using the residues from plants that are used for other things. The best approaches vary from

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region to region according to climate, soils and geography.[

Biofuel

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biofuel is usually either bioalcohol such as bioethanol or an oil such as biodiesel.

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials and it is made mostly from sugar and starch crops. With advanced technology being developed, cellulosic biomass, such as trees and grasses, are also used as feedstocks for ethanol production. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Bioethanol is widely used in the USA and in Brazil.

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from diesel-powered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification and is the most common biofuel in Europe.

 

Geothermal

Geothermal energy refers to the different types of thermal energy stored within the earth.

The distribution of heat below the Earth’s surface varies greatly from place to place. In some geological areas heat from deep within the earth’s interior can rise close to the surface. For example, if water enters fissures in suitably hot rocks it can emerge on the surface as hot springs or steam, creating features such as steam vents or geysers.

Alternatively, heated water can be trapped below the earth’s surface as a geothermal reservoir. This water can reach temperatures of 400°C, and can be accessed by drilling to depths of over two miles.

‘Enhanced geothermal systems’ inject water to depths of 5 km or more where – if the geology proves suitable – it is heated by hot rocks. It is recaptured through another borehole and returned to the surface where it drives steam turbines to produce electricity.

‘Ground source’ heat is a different form of geothermal energy. It makes use of the low-temperature heat (10–20°C) found at relatively shallow depths within the earth’s crust. This heat in the ground remains relatively constant all year.

Heat pumps use this heat to produce hot water at a temperature of 40-50°C, ideal for low-temperature heating systems such as under-floor systems and radiant panels.


Worldwide Renewable energy, existing capacities, at end of 2008

Why is renewable energy important?

Energy is a basic input into virtually every aspect of personal and business activity. Energy, in some form, is involved in most household activities, such as heating, cooling, cooking, lighting, transport or enjoying services or products that require energy in their supply.

Companies also use energy in virtually all of their activities, whether it is processing and manufacturing materials, transporting goods, heating and cooling premises, providing telecommunication services or powering computers. As a result, energy is a fundamental part of life.

Essential benefits that renewable energy has to offer:

 

  • Renewables are sustainable energy resources which means that they avoid the depletion of natural resources for future generations
  • Renewables avoid and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, sulfur oxide emissions as well as carbon dioxide emissions
  • Limits the adverse effect of high and fluctuating natural gas prices
  • Reduces dependence on foreign oil sources and nuclear energy
  • Renewables can avoid and reduce these air emissions as well as water consumption, thermal pollution, waste, noise and adverse land-use impacts
  • Most conventional emission-abatement measures in all sectors impose costs with no offsetting savings; renewables, on the other hand, produce fuel savings over their operating lives that cover some or all of their initial costs
  • Improves air quality and visibility due to decreased burning of fossil fuels which avoids compliance costs
  • These environmental benefits can reduce the cost of complying with future environmental regulation and organizations can strategically benefit from a first-mover advantage or a “beyond-compliance” positioning in regards to competition
  • Organizations using renewable energy can reduce risks which means avoiding a PR crisis and any costly “damage control” issues that come with it
  • Renewable energy provides a new avenue for rural economic development, increases the tax base, insures against rising or variable fuel costs, decreases dependence on foreign energy sources
  • Renewable energy generation projects create vibrant new industries in local communities, frequently in rural areas where the economy has not been thriving and therefore make contributions to society as a whole


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