The Top 9 Sources of Renewable Energy

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Top 9 Sources of Renewable Energy

The importance of finding alternative solutions to fossil fuels is growing increasingly prevalent. Fortunately our wonderful planet provides many options to generate renewable energy that are mostly in tune with the natural rhythms of nature and will not deplete natural resources in our seemingly unquenchable thirst for electricity.

Top 9 Sources of Renewable Energy

Wave Energy

Courtesy Islay Energy Trust
Courtesy Islay Energy Trust

This is not to be confused with tidal energy. Waves are created by the wind as it blows across the surface of the sea. Energy is transferred from the wind to the water, generating waves. These travel across the oceans at high speed, with the energy within a wave being proportional to it’s height. Harnessing this power can provide a clean renewable source of energy, that is distributed naturally across the world.

It is possible to plot waves in advance through the use of satellite technology, allowing careful management of energy distribution. It can balance the output of energy from other renewable resources that may not be as dependable. Wave energy is said to be more consistent than wind and solar.

Tidal Energy

Courtesy Islay Energy Trust
Courtesy Islay Energy Trust

Tidal energy is a relatively new method of generating energy via a method similar to wind energy. Power is harvested through the use of large underwater turbines placed on the ocean floor in areas with high tidal movements.

They are designed to capture the kinetic motion of the surging of tides during the changes from high tide to low tide when there is a period of strong movement of water in a tidal stream.

Tides are predictable and constant, unlike the wind and they can be relied upon to produce a steady source of electricity. However, the environmental impact of the large machines required to harness the energy of the tides is quite significant. Water level and land is disrupted, and the level of salinity of the water is affected, which can impact the creatures living there.


Wind Power

Courtesy Callagheen Community Wind Farm
Courtesy Callagheen Community Wind Farm

Wind is the movement of air through our atmosphere. The movement is a result of the changing temperatures of the Earth’s surface due to sunlight. Energy is harnessed through the use of turbines that are spun as the wind pushes the blades. The blades spin a shaft, which is connected to a generator and this energy is converted to electricity. It is necessary to cover vast areas of land with wind turbines in order to produce any significant amount of electricity.

Solar Energy

Courtesy Hope Project
Courtesy Hope Project

Generating electricity from sunlight relies on power from nuclear fusion in the core of the Sun. There are a few ways to harness this energy, including solar water heating with solar collectors and the direct conversion of sunlight to electrical energy using a system of mirrors and photovoltaic cells (or boilers). At the moment the amount of energy that can be harnessed this way is insufficient to fulfil the needs of our modern society alone.

Hydro Electric Power

This method of producing electricity often involves the costly process of lifting water to an elevated level through the use of sunlight, and harnessing the gravitational potential therein using turbines to capture the energy of the water as it flows through.

Radiant Energy

Radiant energy is the energy of electromagnetic waves throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. The shorter the wavelength, the higher it’s frequency and vice versa. A microwave oven uses the concept of radiant energy, which causes water molecules within food to vibrate extremely quickly generating heat.

Geothermal Energy

Courtesy Nortrade
Courtesy Nortrade

This kind of energy is what is left from the creation of the planet. Radioactive decay causes heat to constantly discharge gradually across the Earth. In some areas where the temperature gradient is high enough, it is possible to generate electricity with the use of complex machinery.

Biomass

This is energy that is gathered from plants and is commonly used throughout the world, most notably via the burning of trees for cooking and warmth. This releases toxic amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and is a major contributor to air pollution. More recently renewable forms biomass energy have been trialled, including methane generation and the production of alcohol for fuel.

Nuclear Power

Each atom contains a nucleus, which is composed of a proton (which carries a positive charge) and a neutron (which is neutral). This nucleus releases nuclear energy, and during a nuclear reaction the amount of energy produced is vast. There are many people opposed to nuclear energy, but the benefits of it are great. It is a powerful and efficient source of energy, that releases fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. It is reliable, unlike solar and wind which are affected by changes in the weather. The cost of setting up a nuclear power plant is relatively low when compared with the other renewable options that we have discussed here.

Pros and Cons

Each of the renewable energy sources that we have touched upon here come with different strengths and weaknesses. They can often be extremely expensive to implement, for a relatively small output of energy. They invariably require a large amount of space, whether on land or sea and there is an environmental impact to consider when deciding on the location for any of these power plants.

There is a real and urgent need for new sources of energy, and experts across the World are continuing to search for the ultimate alternative to fossil fuels. In the mean time a combination of these methods can be incorporated while we exhaust our reserves of gas, coal and oil. The good news is that renewable energy will grow and the environmental impact will be far less damaging than it’s predecessors.

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