What Is Renewable Energy?

April 28, 2023
Justin Ankus

Renewable energy

Renewable energy refers to any source of energy which replenishes or restores itself naturally without using fossil fuels, such as wind, solar power, biofuels (organic matter burned for fuel), geothermal heating systems or hydroelectricity. Examples include wind turbines and solar panels.

Fossil fuels are carbon-based resources formed over 360-300 million years ago by natural processes like the burning of plants and animals for energy production. Unfortunately, due to carbon's slow dissolution into our atmosphere and transformation into usable energy forms, these resources will eventually run out.

Thankfully, other sources of energy exist to serve as replacements. Non-renewable energy such as coal, oil, and natural gas have become increasingly important parts of global economies; but their sources will never be replenished again during our lifetimes.

Earth offers abundant sunshine and wind power resources, making solar and wind generation one of the most cost-effective methods of providing clean energy to humanity.

Since 2015, utility-scale wind and solar costs have experienced dramatic reductions, with many projects now approaching $30/MWh in the U.S. This trend can be attributed to technology advancement and economies of scale that drive down materials and labor costs, respectively.

These drastically decreased costs are helping accelerate the transition toward a sustainable, cleaner and greener future for Earth while simultaneously decreasing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.

Consideration should be given to environmental impacts when choosing energy resources, since renewables produce less emissions and have minimal environmental effects over the lifecycle of a plant.

Solar and wind farms can also be constructed more rapidly and at lower costs than traditional sources of electricity, for instance being up and running in just months whereas gas-fired power plants often take years.

These plants can also feature co-benefits that make them more appealing to investors, such as wildlife protection, habitat improvement, soil health and water retention, or pollinator-friendly plantings.

Co-benefits of renewable energy projects can also help drive down costs by shortening approval, permit, regulatory and institutional processes. For instance, some local governments allow tax-exempt or low interest bonds instead of conventional loans when financing renewable projects - this helps lower both upfront costs as well as overall operational expenses for these facilities.

Renewable energy offers many advantages for communities and its residents, including reduced greenhouse gases emissions, cleaner air and water, increased local economic activity and job creation, as well as helping address energy security, economic development, and public health concerns.

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