Renewable energy

Renewable energy

Renewable energy is energy which is harvested from renewable natural sources, such as wind, rain, tides, sunlight, and even geothermal heat. These sources of energy are considered renewable because they are replenished naturally and have virtually no chance of running out. Recent renewable energy consumption has seen a sharp increase over the last few years, with many households focusing on what they can to do help prevent their impact on the environment. Studies have shown that up to 20% of the global energy consumption has been supplied by some form of renewable energy, which has been on the rise when compared the last decade of energy consumption. In addition to this, around 15% of energy supplied around the United States was done so through traditional biomass such as wood burning.

By far, the most popular form of renewable energy is wind power. Wind power has seen a steady growth rate of around 35% annually, with nearly 120,000 megawatts of production power installed in 2008 alone, across Europe and the United States. Wind power looks as though it will help take the strain off of our fossil fuel supply, as wind farms are springing up each year. Wind power is extremely cheap to harvest once the necessary equipment is installed, with many home owners turning to adding a wind turbine to their property to help reduce the cost of their electricity bill.

Behind wind power production, the second most popular form of renewable energy is solar energy, which is harvested through the use of solar panels. The largest solar power station in the United States is a 350 megawatt station which is situated in the Mojave Desert and helps supply Las Vegas with much needed and consumed power. Home owners are also stepping up and using solar power in the form of panels which are installed on their roofs. These panels are not nearly as unsightly as they were only a few years ago, as massive technology changes have been made to ensure they work just as well as they used to without having to take up the whole roof area. It is estimated that last year alone in the United States, 28% of homeowners who looked at ways to reduce their energy consumption considered installing solar panels. The world’s highest producer of small form solar energy is Kenya, with more than 30% of the households located in the country having some form of solar panel installed.

Energy is produced from tidal currents as well, in the same method used to harvest wind energy. Large turbines are installed underwater in channels, with the most famous of these installations occurring in the East River in New York City. There are several problems associated with harvesting tidal energy, as the equipment which is used to reap the benefits is constantly subjected to water and corrosion, which means it must be given special care to ensure the turbines do not stop functioning. Currently, there is no way for a homeowner to harvest tidal energy, as the turbines required for this are massive and not at all cost effective for the home owner. In addition, these areas of water used to generate energy are designated as such, so boats and ships know not to use the water way.

Geothermal energy harvesting has seen its uses too, with the largest of these power plants existing in California. Using the geysers located there, these types of power plants are able to produce up to 700 megawatts of power. However, because geothermal power is expensive to harness and is very situational, it is not likely that we’ll see a significant portion of reliability on it in the near future. There is currently no technology which allows a homeowner to harvest geothermal energy, even if they live near a hot spot for geysers and the like. Since this is the case, many people aren’t aware that this type of energy is being used and converted.

Biomass energy production has been around for years, with people using wood stoves in their homes to keep warm instead of traditional electrical power. More people are looking to use their waste products as a means of energy consumption, with left over wood from logging and gardening going toward producing energy, instead of being ground up and wasted as it has been in the past. This is the most popular form of energy production outside of wind power, as it is easy to obtain and requires no special material, other than a wood-burning stove for consumption.

Aside from using wind, sun, and water for renewable energy, many other countries have turned to different methods to ensure their energy consumption rates of oil and other fossil fuels are significantly lowered each year. The leader of this movement is Brazil, which boasts one of the biggest renewable energy programs across the globe. Brazilian power is produced from ethanol fuel from sugar cane, with around 20% of the country’s automobile users relying on this alternative form of ethanol as fuel for their cars. While the availability in the United States is significantly less, there are many research stations and plants working to develop a similar program using corn and other native crops.

All of these forms of energy are commercial, with some being offered to the homeowner. The most wide scale use of renewable energy comes from wind and solar energy and it is likely that our dependence on these sources will shift as more and more people emigrate from relying on fossil fuels. Renewable energy is not without its critics though, as many people have cited the production means as unsightly or only sparsely reliable at best. However, despite these concerns, the demand for renewable energy has increased each year, due to climate changes, high oil and gas prices, and with increased government subsidizing. With many governments offering tax breaks and other incentives for early adopters of renewable energy sources, it is likely this demand will only increase over time.

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