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Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Author: Sophia Tutorial
Description:

Differentiate between the types of renewable energy resources.

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Tutorial

what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of renewable energy. We will discuss some basic concepts of renewable energy, and explore the various types: solar, wind, water, biomass, and geothermal. We will also discuss the impacts of, and general challenges with, renewable energy.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. What Is Renewable Energy?
  2. Sources of Renewable Energy
    1. Solar
    2. Wind
    3. Water
    4. Biomass
    5. Geothermal
  3. Impacts and Challenges of Renewable Energy


1. What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy comes from sources that, if properly managed, do not run out and can be sustained indefinitely because they replenish in a relatively short amount of time. Renewable energies are considered alternative energy sources because they come from things other than fossil fuels.

did you know
At the making of this tutorial, approximately 10% of global energy comes from renewable sources.

There has been recent growth in renewable energy use due to technology advancements and growing environmental concerns surrounding reliance on fossil fuels.


2. Sources of Renewable Energy

There are five main types of renewable energy:

  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Water
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal
2a. Solar
Solar or photovoltaic energy refers to when solar rays are caught and used for heating spaces or water, or converted into electricity through the photovoltaic effect.

Solar Panels

2b. Wind
Wind power utilizes wind currents, which are produced by air being heated by the sun, causing it to rise, and then sinking as it cools. The wind currents turn massive turbine blades, like the ones shown below, which generate electricity.

Wind Farm

2c. Water
Hydroelectric dams, as well as tidal and wave generators, utilize the movement of water to spin turbines and generate electricity.

Hydroelectric Dam

2d. Biomass
Biomass is a form of energy where biomass materials are burned for heat or electricity. Examples of biomass energy include burning wood for heating and cooking, as well as burning switchgrass, a high yield crop, for energy use or using it to make ethanol.

Ethanol can be used as a fuel, as utilized in Brazil, or as a fuel additive, as done in the United States. It can come from corn, switchgrass, as well as other biomass sources.

Alcohol and methane can also be extracted from biomass to be turned into a fuel source.

Biomass (Wood) Plant

hint
While biomass as a concept does include animals and other organisms, they are not usually used as a renewable energy because it would not be efficient enough.

2e. Geothermal

Geothermal is when heated water from below the earth's surface is captured, and the steam is used to generate electricity.

Geothermal Plant

big idea
As mentioned before, only 10% of the world's energy currently comes from renewables. Each form of renewable energy, except for geothermal, actually relies on the sun in some way: solar and PV for its direct radiation, wind to create wind currents, hydroelectric to facilitate the water cycle, and biomass to create growth.


3. Impacts and Challenges of Renewable Energy

Compared to fossil fuels, renewable energy can have significantly less waste, and as a result, it can have relatively low negative impacts on the surrounding ecology and human health. In operation, renewable energies produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions, which means they have less impact on global climate change. Because renewable energies can quickly replenish themselves or are inherently infinite, they are more sustainable than fossil fuels.

Renewable energies do have their challenges, however. It can be difficult to produce and store enough energy for renewables as compared with fossil fuels because building renewable energy infrastructure can be costly and difficult to transport.

Transport of Wind Turbines

Renewable energy supply may not always match demand because weather can be unpredictable, which affects water, wind, and sun resources. The supply of renewable energy may be geographically far from the demand, making transport of that electricity difficult.


summary
Today we learned about renewable energy, which comes from sources that, if properly managed, do not run out and can be sustained indefinitely because they replenish in a relatively short amount of time. We learned about its various sources and types, such as solar, wind, water, biomass, and geothermal. Finally, we learned about the impacts and challenges of renewable energy.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, WIND FARM CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1A32WSA BIOMASS CC HTTP://BIT.LY/19SDBOG SOLAR PANEL CC HTTP://BIT.LY/17EARSW HYDRO PD HTTP://BIT.LY/1EQHQBI GEOTHERMAL CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1E5X5KI ROADSTER PANEL CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1VIKLK9 TURBINE TRANSPORT CC HTTP://BIT.LY/19WIWV0