Increasing use of renewable sources of energy is seen as one of the major solutions to decarbonise the society. Individually, how are these renewables faring in the last 10 years?
Renewable energy is generated from sources that can be replenished naturally, hence the term ‘renewable’. Renewable types of energy are considered “clean energy” as carbon footprints from generating them are very minimal or none at all. Major renewable energy types include solar, geothermal, hydropower, wind and biomass (United States EIA, n.d.).
While renewable energy is sourced naturally and can be replenished, its flow at a given time is quite limited. As the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) (n.d.) notes: “renewable resources are virtually inexhaustible in duration but limited in the amount of energy that is available per unit of time.” Nevertheless, technological developments are allowing optimal generation at peak times and storage for later use, as well as smart and efficient integration to the power grid of renewable electricity generated.
Source: Statistics Time Series. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/Statistics/View-Data-by-Topic/Capacity-and-Generation/Statistics-Time-Series
Let us look at the following five major renewable energy types and sources.
Hydropower is mechanical energy sourced from moving water such as in streams or rivers. Since it is cost-effective, hydropower (mixed hydro and renewable hydropower) comprises the highest percentage of installed capacity and electricity generated among all the other renewable energy sources.
Source: Hydropower. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/hydropower
Solar energy is solar radiation collected and converted into thermal energy or electricity. With the sun being the oldest and most abundant renewable energy source, solar energy is a natural option for everyone. With costs and accessibility of solar equipment improving in the last 10 years, it is not surprising that the below chart from IRENA shows a steady and steep increase in the installed capacity of solar PV (photovoltaic).
Source: Solar energy. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/solar
Wind energy is sourced from moving air as a result of uneven heating on earth's surface. With the costs of installing and operating wind farms decreasing the past years, wind energy is considered one of the fastest-growing renewable energy technologies (IRENA, n.d.). Both installed capacity and usage are growing rapidly, and remote, offshore wind farms are seen to offer tremendous potential for electricity generation.
Source: Wind energy. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/wind
Geothermal energy is ground heat stored in the earth's crust. Given that the heat is constantly present within the earth’s subsurface and carried via extremely hot water or steam, this type of renewable energy is not dependent on weather conditions and offers high capacity for cooling and heating purposes as well as electricity generation.
Source: Geothermal energy. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/geothermal
Biomass energy is sourced from renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals. Energy is harnessed directly by burning wood or plant and animal materials for heat, or converting them to liquid biofuels, an increasingly popular renewable substitute for gasoline. Bioenergy comprised around 10% of total final energy consumption and 1.9% of global power generation in 2015.
Source: Bioenergy. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/bioenergy
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Renewable energy explained (n.d.). U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2021, fromhttps://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/renewable-sources/
Sources of energy - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (n.d.). U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/what-is-energy/sources-of-energy.php
Statistics Time Series. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/Statistics/View-Data-by-Topic/Capacity-and-Generation/Statistics-Time-Series
Wind energy. (n.d.). International Renewable Energy Agency. Retrieved November 15, 2021, from https://www.irena.org/wind
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