Renewable is a term applied to natural resources and refers to those resources that can be renewed or replenished in a short period of time. Renewable energy is also called “clean” or “green” energy because it does not pollute the air or harm the environment. As the demand for energy increases renewable energy will play an important role in supplying the world’s clean energy needs.
America’s electric cooperatives are actively involved in producing and distributing renewable energy throughout the country. From wind and solar to biomass, electric cooperatives are leading the way in providing renewable energy for America.
The five renewable sources used most often are:
Biomass is energy derived from plants and animals. Biomass comes in many forms, the most common being wood. When we use plants as a source of energy we are converting their stored energy from the sun. Using the methane gas given off by landfills and animal waste is also coming more common. Another increasingly popular form of biomass is in the form of biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which is also derived from plants and animals.
Geothermal uses heat generated by the earth’s interior. By drilling down into the Earth’s crust, much like drilling for oil, we can use that heat to generate electricity. Geothermal is a good source for heating homes and buildings.
Water, or hydropower, uses running water to create electricity. Water, which is impounded or held behind a dam, is released through a turbine that spins a generator producing electricity.
Wind can also be used to create electricity. As the wind blows it spins the large blades on a wind turbine and generates electricity.
Solar takes the energy from the sun and coverts it into heat and electricity. Sunlight can be captured using photovoltaic cells, which convert the sun’s energy into electricity.
Renewables are great because they don’t pollute and they provide energy from free, abundant resources. Currently only hydropower is widely used an energy resource, while the other four types of renewable energy are not commonly used as primary energy sources. Reasons for their restricted use include the cost of specialty materials and the fact that it can be difficult to distribute the power they generate.