Renewable energy constitutes resources which continue to replenish without human intervention. These resources include solar, wind, geothermal and hydro energies. Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are not renewable. They are produced when plant and animal matter decays within the earth. This process takes a considerable amount of time to achieve usable fuel while these fuels continue to decline. Almost all renewable energy comes from the sun in one capacity or another. The sun has influence over wind direction and the temperature of major water resources as well. Many people are searching for new ways to harvest power from renewable energy sources.

Renewable Energy

Photo: Public Domain Petr Kratochvil



Photo: Public Domain Vera Kratochvil

Solar Energy

Solar energy constitutes energy which is produced by the sun. People use solar panels to collect and store this energy. This is becoming an increasingly popular method for charging boat or car batteries. There are even small towns within the U.S. which rely on solar panels to provide electricity. One drawback to using solar panels to generate power, however, is the length of time it takes to collect it. Factors such as weather also influence the effectiveness of solar panels and energy absorption. It takes a large collection of solar panels to effectively power an entire household, much less a small town. The good news is that science continues to adapt to clean energy needs, and technology is progressing toward widespread clean energy use each and every day.

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wind power

Photo: Public Domain Vera Kratochvil

Wind as Renewable Energy

Believe it or not, the sun is directly responsible for the winds that we experience. What happens is the sun warms different patches of the earth unevenly. Since these patches of air are warmer than surrounding areas, they tend to rise quickly. New air rushes in to replace the air which has risen. As a result, wind can be used as a source of renewable energy. Recently, people in Estonia have been placing an emphasis on the use of wind to generate power. The primary reason for this increase in productivity is the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea tends to send heavy winds from the ocean onto land. This allows large wind turbines to operate much more consistently, providing much more power to a wider range of people.

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Photo: Public Domain Steffen Thomä

Biomass Continues To Rise

Biomass is quickly becoming a staple on the renewable energy landscape. Some people confuse biomass with fossil fuels; however, fossil fuels are not renewable, while biomass continues to be produced. Organic materials are the basis for biomass. These materials can include manure, scrap wood and some waste residues. All steady-producing waste materials which can be converted to clean energy are biomass resources. Think about the constant supply of waste which comes from construction activities, paper making services and others. People are beginning to realize the value in allowing these materials to produce more energy. Using biomass greatly reduces the need to drill for oil and dig for coal, both of which can cause major environmental issues over time. The main reason why biomass is a renewable resource is because there will always be waste residues which result from the actions of human beings. Forests which are properly managed will always contain leftover wood and other detritus which can be converted into usable, clean energy.

Biomass Energy Processes

When we use biomass, we use it differently than we do coal and oil. The heat from biomass is the driving force behind why it is used, and the heat is released when it is burned. Placing wood in your fireplace to burn for warmth is an example of biomass consumption. Major power plants use it to produce steam when water is heated during the burning process. This steam is then driven through turbines which are connected to generators. These generators then produce the electricity that we seek. The emissions which result from the burning of this type of material are reduced due to modern technology. Combustion engineering allows factories to practice much safer burning methods. One study shows that biomass accounted for roughly 4% of the energy used within the United States in 2010. Some reports suggest that this number has more than doubled since that time period.

hydro power

Photo: Public Domain George Hodan

Hydropower Developments

Hydropower has been used consistently in different regions throughout the world. There are several different factors which come into play regarding who has access to hydropower. Geographic locations play a significant part in the utilization of this renewable energy. This is due to the fact that hydropower operates off of the movement of water. The water must flow naturally, either from a tidal swell or river. If you have ever wondered what the purpose of a dam was, then now you know it has to do with hydropower generation. Dams cause a buildup of water pressure at the base of the structures. The bases of dams have tunnels which allow water to push through. These tunnels have turbines which spin with the movement of water. The turbines are connected to generators, and power is produced.

Environmental Hydropower Concerns and Solutions

While hydropower uses a renewable resource in water, the ways in which this water is utilized is of great concern to some environmentalists. Rivers are excellent places to build dams for hydroelectric plants. However, damming a section of river can be quite destructive to the environment. Migratory fish such as salmon stand to suffer the most when dams are created. In parts of Alaska, for example, some salmon migrate from the ocean and into river mouths to spawn. Dams prevent them from making their way up into vital areas of river systems, and reproduction can become difficult. One of the ways conservationists have attempted to solve this issue is to provide side chutes at dams for salmon to travel upstream. Additionally, diversionary tactics have been employed to direct salmon around dam structures, so as not to upset the balance of nature. These systems are not full-proof, but they do provide hope that renewable energy resources can continue to be used without disrupting the earth’s precious ecosystem.

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