Energy has been one of the main drivers for economic development in many countries. This has been an inspiration to other nations that would like to improve their economic standing in the world. Much of the economic progress made by developed nations since the industrial revolution can be traced to the energy produced by burning fossil fuels which has led to many of the environmental challenges facing the world today.  One of the key issues is finding sources of energy that will not deplete natural resources, cause air pollution and/or contribute to climate change. There is a lot of effort now to develop renewable energy sources.


What is Renewable Energy?

There has been a lot of discussion on what is and what isn’t renewable energy. Renewable energy is sometimes referred to as clean energy. Usually, it is thought of as energy that is abundant, doesn’t cause pollution and will not be depleted easily.

Renewable Energy Definition:

Energy that is produced from sources that are naturally replenished rapidly.

Non Renewable Energy Definition   

Energy that is produced from sources that do not replenish naturally for thousands of years.

Types of Renewable Energy

Not all renewable energy has the same impacts on the environment.  Wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower are some of the most common sources of renewable energy.  There are other sources that are being developed that are abundant, natural sources that will not be depleted such as: wave energy and tidal energy.  Other types of energy from biomass and biofuel have been included as renewable with some controversy.  Although biofuels may contribute to pollution and use natural resources, they generally cause less pollution and use resources that can be replenished in a relatively short period of time in comparison to fossil fuels. Advances in technology and production may address the challenges with certain types of renewable energy.

Renewable energy examples   

  • Solar energy – can be either photovoltaic, from solar panels that convert sun energy to electricity or solar thermal which uses the heat generated from the sun to warm water or cook.  Concentrated solar uses an array of mirrors that reflect the rays of the sun to a central focal point which converts into electricity through photo voltaic technology.
  • Wind energy – uses the power of the wind to turn a turban which uses electromagnetic forces to generates electricity
  • Geothermal energy – uses the energy naturally created below the earth’s surface for heating and cooling or to create steam to turn a turban that generates electricity
  • Hydroelectric energy -uses the natural flow of water to turn a turban and create electricity
  • Biomass energy – uses natural sources like wood pulp to burn in order to generate heat that can then be used for electricity.
  • Biofuel – is chemical energy extracted from plants or natural sources to be burned for energy
  • Biogas – can be gas that is captured from decaying waste that can then be burned to create energy.
  • Hydrogen energy – Hydrogen can produce energy from the electrochemical process when it reacts with oxygen. It can also store fuel created  from other sources that can be reused in fuel cells in internal combustion engines.
  • Wave energy – uses the natural wave energy in the ocean to move buoys or turbans that generate electricity
  • Tidal energy – uses the eb and flow of the tides to turn turbans that generate electricity

Featured Resource: All About Renewable Energy for Kids

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