Renewable energy is energy that is obtained from natural sources – such as the sun and wind – and can be replenished or renewed naturally. Since renewable energy can usually be obtained without doing significant harm to the environment, people have been developing many ways to utilize it efficiently. While the use of renewable energy is not a recent phenomenon, investment in these technologies has grown in recent years as a response to the rising prices of fossil fuel and the effects of global climate change. Here are the five primary types of renewable energy sources:
• Wind energy – Strong winds are capable of running wind turbines which are used in some areas to produce electricity. Normally these can be seen along shorelines, especially in areas where the wind is especially strong. Wind energy is a clean energy that can be utilized as long as the wind continues to blow.
• Water energy – Strong currents of water are also capable of producing electric power. Areas where there are big waterfalls are at an advantage since waterfall currents are extremely strong and can help supply a portion of a city's electrical needs. Water energy is divided into different forms. These are: ocean energy, hydroelectric energy, kinetic energy from damless hydro, and hydroelectric power from micro-hydro systems.
• Solar energy – Solar energy is obtained from sunlight. This technology relies on solar panels that collect sunlight and turn it into voltage which is then stored in a battery for future use. A group of solar panels is called a photovoltaic array and many homeowners are now installing their own arrays at home to supplement or satisfy their energy needs. Solar energy can also be used to power individual items, such as lights and portable generators.
• Biomass energy – This energy is derived from industrial factories that process wood and agricultural products. It is a natural product from the synthesis of trees and other plants. While carbon dioxide emissions are produced through biomass, the amount is lower than that from the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, biomass cuts back on the need to produce new landfills as significant amounts of waste are consumed in the biomass process.
• Geothermal energy – Geothermal is obtained from deep in the Earth's crust. Radioactive particles inside the Earth are constantly decaying, producing an energy that we can exploit for our own usage. While it's not always easy to utilize this form of energy, once a geothermal power station is up and running it provides a source of clean, reliable energy with minimal effects to the environment.
Although not all of these technologies have been utilized to their full potential yet, it is expected that investment in alternative energy sources will continue to increase in the coming years. It is likely a combination of these technologies that will help lead us to a cleaner energy future.