What is Renewable Energy
In the previous tutorials we looked at the different types of Alternative Energy Sources available and said that some of these alternative energies can be classed as “renewable”. But what is the difference between “alternative energy sources” and “renewable energy sources”.
Most people use the terms “alternative energy”, “renewable energy” and even “green energy” together in the same sentence when taking about energy sources as though they all mean the same thing, but they are not the same. Each term means something different when talking about various types of energy systems. For example, when we talk about alternative energy we think of wind turbines and solar panels. Renewable energy technologies uses these devices to convert the wind and sunlight into usable forms of energy with zero emissions.
While these may be alternative energy sources compared to conventional fossil fuels, alternative energy in its broadest sense, is any type of energy that replaces another, so we can correctly say that coal is an alternative energy source compared to oil or natural gas but as we now know, coal is a fossil fuel and burning it is bad for the environment. Even nuclear energy was once considered to be an alternative to conventional fossil fuels, and was thus called an “alternative energy source”.
Renewable energy on the other hand is usable energy that can not be consumed or used up faster that it is created. For example, the power of the wind and the waves are a renewable energy source, as their energy continues to be available every single day no matter how much energy we extract from them. One final thought, the term “alternative energy” also comprises renewable energy and renewable sources of energy too.
Then the term “alternative energy” is commonly used these days to mean any usable energy or fuel source that has replaced another typical fuel source without the negative side effects of the replaced fuel. Although the benefits and advantages of both alternative energy and renewable energy are both very similar, there is still some distinction between the two with the term “alternative energy” being typically used to refer to sources of energy other than nuclear energy or fossil fuels. More recently this term has included bioenergy and biofuels.
What are Renewable Energy Sources
Renewable Energy Sources is the term used to describe sources of energy that are natural, continuous, largely available and environmentally benign. Renewable energy sources are constantly available and do not run out as they are being continually replenished by mother nature either at the same rate or faster than they are being consumed or used up. A good example of this would be the suns solar radiation which is so enormous that it can never be depleted giving us an abundant supply of solar energy every day. Other “Renewable Energy Sources” include the Wind, Rain, Tides, Biomass and Geothermal heat etc, or any other natural source of energy for that matter which is being constantly “renewed” or replenished by Mother Nature.
There are many different types of renewable energy sources and alternatives. Renewable energy alternatives are everywhere – they are all around us on the planet. While there are many different energy sources available to choose from, not all of them will be right for you and your specific needs.
However, it is important to understand and learn about the various kinds of renewable energy sources available if you want to understand what options you have at your disposal. Watch this short video to learn more about what we mean by “Renewable Energy Sources”.
But once you understand what they are and how they work, you will have a better idea why these alternative energy sources are becoming a popular option for everyday people.
So unlike traditional fossil fuels or nuclear energy which will eventually run out and so are therefore classed as non-renewable energy sources, renewable energy on the other hand is energy generated from natural resources that do not run out.
Even if we had an unlimited supply of fossil fuels, using renewable energy is still better for the environment. Among the different types of renewable energy sources, wind power is the one which is growing in terms of its use and popularity.
Green Energy is another term used to describe renewable energy and is simply any form of energy that is produced by clean, harmless, and non-polluting methods as no combustion occurs. Green energy has less impact on the environment than current conventional energy sources do. Most renewable energy sources are classed as green energy sources, but not all.
One such example is geothermal power. It may be a renewable energy source, but some geothermal energy processes can be harmful to the environment releasing into the atmosphere poisonous gasses and chemicals that were buried deep within the Earth’s crust. Therefore, although geothermal is classed as a renewable energy, it may not always be a green energy. However there are also other forms of geothermal energy systems which use closed loop pipework, are less harmful and are therefore clean and green.
As you can see, alternative energy, renewable energy, and green energy are all very similar. But it is important to know that there are differences between them, even though in most cases these differences are minimal. Most of the renewable energy technologies available today convert energy into either electricity, heat or mechanical power for use in or homes or in industry. These technologies are improving and becoming cheaper all the time.
Sustainability of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy sources are about sustainability, that is maintaining a balance between the energy being consumed and the new potential energy sources being created. For example, forests are being harvested around the world to provide wood and timber to heat our homes, to build new houses and offices or to make furniture such as tables and chairs etc.
But sustainable forestry techniques means that if enough trees are planted to replace the wood provided by the trees that were being cut down and harvested every year, then the forest would be sustainable. A sort of “if you cut a tree then plant a tree” idea. This way the forests would always grow enough wood and timber to replace the wood lost due to the harvesting of it.
Then sustainable sources of energy means just that, as a resource is used it is replaced by growing, producing or creating additional amounts of the same resource and this process is better known as “Sustainable Development”.
Sustainable Development is not a new idea it has been around for a very long time but with today’s society using up resources faster than the planet can replenish them, sustainable development takes on a whole new meaning by providing a better quality of life now and for future generations to come. A widely used and more scientific definition of “Sustainable Development” is given as “A development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs“.