What is Renewable Energy?

Today, ‘renewable’ and ‘non-renewable’ refer to the type of resources used to produce energy. Non-renewable energy resources are fossil-fuels: gasoline, coal, oil, natural gas, diesel, and so forth. Fossil fuels are considered ‘non-renewable’ because the length of time it will take for natural processes to create these resources is long, if the right mix of conditions even align to make it possible. Some fossil-fuels, like coal, are in more abundant supply than others right now. Even though the US has 275 billion tons of coal (about 250 years more of use at today’s levels), once it is gone, it is not replenished quickly, if at all.

Renewable energy resources are naturally re-occurring and replenished sources: solar energy, wind power, hydropower (water movement as in damns, waves or tides), and geothermal (natural heat generated from below the earth’s surface). Some people classify nuclear energy as a renewable energy resource, but it is not a true renewable energy source because some of the materials needed to make nuclear energy, like uranium cake, are actually not renewable.

Benefits of renewable energy sources:
  • Most environmentally aware use of natural resources
  • No harmful waste is produced so environmental impact is diminished
  • Protect the environment and the Earth for future generations and nature conservancy
  • Improve national security by reducing dependency on imported fossil-fuels
  • Most renewable energy production does not produce carbon emissions
Why are Renewable Energy Sources Important?

Different energy sources release different levels and types of waste material in the production of energy. Some of these waste materials or byproducts are harmful to the earth and the atmosphere, some are not. Fossil-fuel based energy sources release carbon in the process of being burned to produce energy. Carbon emissions are a direct contributor to greenhouse gases that compromise the earth’s atmosphere and climate. Renewable resources also produce emissions, but not carbon emissions. Generally these emissions are low noise, or excess heat or steam (especially at geothermal sites).

So, why are renewable sources important? Well, 24% of the carbon emissions in the United States come from the fossil-fuel based power sector! That is a staggering amount. The US is primarily a fossil-fuel based energy producer. This fossil-fuel dependence is worrisome not only because of carbon emission levels, but also because the US is reliant on other countries to supply the fossil-fuel resource demands we have today. The reliability of US electricity is considered a national security issue. Being dependent upon other countries to ensure we have electricity to power our cities, government, industries, businesses and homes is a real national concern. It has been a federal government goal to move the US towards energy independent since the Carter administration established a national energy policy in the early 1970s.

Today, thanks to the dramatically lowered costs of the materials and hardware needed to harness naturally renewable energy sources, each consumer of electricity can help make the US energy independent, reduce carbon emissions (‘carbon footprint’), AND save money and the earth’s resources in our own backyards, work places, and rooftops.

What are the Different Energy Sources?
  • Fossil Fuels
  • Coal
  • ‘Clean Coal’
  • Natural Gas
  • Fuel Oil
  • Oil Shale
  • Nuclear
  • Uranium cake and nuclear fission
  • Renewables
  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV)
  • Steam turbines
  • Wind
  • Geothermal
  • Hydroelectricity
  • Damns, wave, tidal
  • Biofuel/biomass
  • Crops
  • Bio-waste
  • Landfill methane
How is Energy Made?

Electrical energy is commonly generated by electro-mechanical generators driven by:

  • steam produced from fossil fuel or biomass or biowaste combustion, landfill methane combustion, or
  • steam extracted from geothermal sites (e.g., hot underground rocks or water) to power a steam turbine, or
  • waste heat from industrial production facilities, or
  • steam created from the direct heat released from nuclear reactions, or
  • solar heat captured through photovoltaic panels, or
  • from other sources such as kinetic energy extracted from wind or flowing water.

Different energy sources release different levels and types of waste material in the production of energy. Some of these waste materials or byproducts are harmful to the earth and the atmosphere, some are not. Fossil-fuel based energy sources release carbon in the process of being burned to produce energy. Carbon emissions are a direct contributor to greenhouse gases that compromise the earth’s atmosphere and climate. Renewable resources also produce emissions, but not carbon emissions. Generally these emissions are low noise, or excess heat or steam (especially at geothermal sites).