Renewable energy, sometimes called green energy, is produced from natural resources like wind, geothermal, solar, hydro, tidal, and hydrogen power. It's often described as being better for the environment than mining for and using fossil fuels, but the positives of green energy actually go much further. Here we'll explore those benefits and look at why the adoption of clean energy is on a limitless rise.
Before we explore the benefits of renewable energy, let's briefly review and describe the various types of green energy.
Solar power uses solar panels, also called photovoltaic (PV panels), with solar cells to capture energy from sunlight and convert it into usable electricity. Along with wind power, solar is the fastest-growing form of renewable energy in the United States, according to the EIA.¹
If you've ever been driving and noticed large fields of windmills, also known as a wind farm, then you've seen wind power in action. When the wind blows, the wind turbines move and generate electricity.
Typically found in areas with volcanic or tectonic activity, geothermal heat pumps produce electricity by harnessing heat that's generated by the earth.
Biomass is organic material from plants and animals. Examples include firewood, corn, soybeans, yard waste, and even sewage. Burning biomass generates heat that's used to produce electricity.²
Hydropower is generated by damming a river to create a reservoir with controlled channels where water moves through and spins turbines, generating electricity.
The most common element in the universe, hydrogen can be separated from other elements and used as a fuel. Perhaps the most interesting use of hydrogen is to launch rockets into orbit.
Though still somewhat experimental, tidal power is produced with generators that are able to generate electricity through energy captured during rising and falling tides.
Renewable power offers many benefits and advantages over traditional fossil fuels. The environmental benefits get the lion's share of the attention. Still, the EPA reports that the positive reasons for people, utilities, and nations to implement and adopt renewable power goes far beyond positive environmental impacts. Let's explore the benefits of renewable power technologies.
The most apparent benefit of renewable energy is in its name - it's renewable. Renewable resources don't run out. The sun will always shine, the wind will blow, and the tides will rise and fall. (And if any of those things aren't happening, we'll have more significant problems than a lack of electricity.) This is in contrast to fossil fuels, which have finite supplies and become harder to obtain as existing reserves are used.
Whether it's a wind farm or an oil refinery, all energy sources have an initial, upfront investment cost. But with renewable forms of power, the operations and maintenance costs are modest and lead to stable prices. Additionally, renewable energy costs are continuously on the decline. For example, solar panel installation costs dropped 70% in just seven years between 2010 and 2017.? Wind energy generation costs fell 66% between 2009 and 2016.?
Renewable energy creation is typically done through a distributed modular system, which creates and distributes energy from many geographic locations. This improves reliability and offers protection against widespread failure or blackouts during extreme weather events, even if some sites are offline, since others remain unaffected and can still provide electricity.
One noteworthy example of this occurred during Hurricane Sandy when New York and New Jersey residents lost power after the traditional electricity production system failed. Conversely, residents in the Northeast whose electricity came from renewable energy endured the storm with little disruption.?
Because wind, solar, and hydropower generate little or no air pollution, renewable energy means cleaner air and water. And the forms of renewable energy, like biomass and geothermal, that do generate pollutants, do it at a much lower rate than other emission-producing forms of power. Coal power plants, in particular, release toxins like mercury, lead, and sulfur dioxide, as well as carbon dioxide. Renewables are an effective strategy in lessening environmental pollution.
Because renewable energy generation produces little to no greenhouse gasses, they have a smaller carbon footprint and a better impact on the environment than fossil fuels. And that even accounts for the manufacturing, installation, operation, and decommissioning stages.? In the United States, about 29 percent of CO2 emissions come from electricity production - mostly power produced by way of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.? The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that renewable energy could help reduce the electricity sector's emissions by over 80 percent.?
The renewable energy sector is quickly becoming a leading force in job growth and creation in the United States. Current figures estimate that 777,000 people are employed within the industry, and that number is expected to grow. Even better, renewable energy jobs, which include installation, manufacturing, sales, and more, tend to pay higher than average wages and offer opportunities for advancement.
Compared to fossil fuels, which might come from the other side of the world, renewable energy is produced locally. Renewable energy is an effective strategy to strengthen energy independence in the United States since it's not subject to some of the geopolitical risks associated with fossil fuels.
Renewable energy has many benefits, but it does have a few limitations that should be considered. Wind and solar are intermittent, meaning that no electricity is produced at night or when the wind isn't blowing. There are also energy storage limitations, and not all geographic areas can accommodate all forms of renewable energy. However, problems of that nature will lead to innovations within the industry. For now, residential consumers have every reason to feel good about purchasing green power from a retail electricity provider.
The benefits of renewable energy are significant and plentiful. Not only is it an inexhaustible energy source that reduces pollution and environmental destruction, but it's also a source of jobs and economic stability. Do you want to be part of the renewable energy initiative to provide power for our world for generations to come, without harming the environment? Energy Texas is making it possible with our low-cost, 100% renewable energy plans.
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