Renewable energy is a topic that's been on everyone’s minds in recent years not only because of its being at the forefront of many political and social conversations worldwide, but because it is an issue so many people feel passionate about.
So, what is renewable energy anyway? Renewable energy is energy that is collected from natural sources that can't be depleted such as sunlight, wind, and hydropower. And since these natural sources aren't going anywhere anytime soon, using them to generate power is not only reliable but is eco-friendly, too. Plus, these types of alternative energy don’t typically produce any negative byproducts like those produced when burning fossil fuels for energy, which causes serious harm to the environment.
Of course, we've all heard that renewable energy is important and that we should be using it instead of fossil fuels, but why?
Why is renewable energy important for our future?
The answer is as simple as it is complex: It's important because without it, we will run out of ways to power our world.
While this may sound a bit dramatic, it’s actually quite true. If we don’t start to replace the unsustainable methods we currently use to generate electricity, we will run out. Many experts estimate that we could run out of fossil fuels within the next 100 years, and burning other materials for energy, such as our own trash and trees, will only be able to take us so far.
Another reason why switching to using renewable energy sources is so important is that all non-renewable sources harm the planet when they're converted into energy, polluting the air and making the world a more difficult place to live for plants, animals, and humans alike. Air pollutants and smog hanging over our cities cause allergies, symptoms of asthma, and even lung disease. Climate change, acid rain, and physical damage to the environment are also major negative impacts caused by our continued reliance on fossil fuels.
What role does wind energy play?
Wind energy is without a doubt one of the wonders of the renewable energy landscape. In fact, they're already being used all across the US — in 41 different states — and contributing a lot of clean energy to our nation's power grid.
The best part is that the wind is always blowing somewhere, so wind power will never run out. And with the help of wind farms it's become one of the easiest ways to harness and deliver clean energy to people worldwide. Wind power also reduces carbon emissions and saves water. Because of wind farms, 103 billion gallons of water and 198 metric million tonnes of CO2 emissions were avoided in 2019 alone. And that's a big deal.
Luckily, it's really easy to power your own home with wind energy and other clean sources. If you're interested in making the switch to clean energy, we know the perfect place for you to start — check out our page that tells you everything you'd ever want to know about switching to renewable energy with Inspire today.
Why is solar power important?
Much like wind energy, solar power is important because it doesn’t harm the planet when converted into energy. And as long as the sun keeps shining, we will never have to worry about running out of solar power.
And while they can be a bit expensive up front, the benefit of solar energy panels is that they can be installed on just about any surface that faces the sun, making it perfect for providing energy to residential and commercial buildings or for contributing energy directly to the power grid.
Why is the development of renewable energy sources so important?
According to experts, we may only have until 2040 to reverse the effects of climate change before irreparable damage is done. Here's why:
Fossil fuels will run out – experts believe we have between 53 and 110 years before non-renewable sources will be scarce and therefore unable to power our world.
Sustainable energy sources are much more affordable – they pay for themselves over time (both financially and environmentally!), and that means cheaper electricity for the consumer.
Renewable energy infrastructure creates jobs - in 2019 alone, 12,000 new jobs were created across all 50 US states thanks to wind energy.
Plus, clean energy reduces the risk of respiratory health problems. According to the World Health Organization, household and ambient air pollution caused 7 million deaths globally in 2016. About 94% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle‐income countries, with South East Asia and the Western Pacific regions bearing most of that burden. These and other health issues could be drastically reduced if we were more reliant on energy sources that did not involve the burning of fossil fuels.
Why are alternative energy resources important?
Our world is being damaged by the burning of fossil fuels at an alarming rate, and the development of renewable energy infrastructure takes time. And to make matters worse, fossil fuels are already running low. The clock is ticking for our resources and our planet. Before we know it, fossil fuels will run out, and every day we're doing irreparable damage to our planet. The time for clean energy is now.
Types of green energy
There’s a lot to be said about each form of sustainable energy, so let’s explore the types of green energy and the benefits they have to offer us:
Biogas is produced when organic materials are broken down by bacteria in an oxygen-free environment, also known as anaerobic digestion, which occurs naturally in landfills. Biogas systems use anaerobic digestion to recycle these organic materials and turn them into biogas. The resulting product contains both energy (in the form of gas), and soil products - so it's a win-win. Every year, the US produces more than 70 million tons of organic waste, and despite the clear benefits of using biogas as an energy source, the US currently only has 2,200 operating biogas systems.
Biomass is simply organic matter used to generate energy. It comes from materials like grass clippings, wood pellets, crops like corn and sugarcane, and even animal waste. Biomass as an energy source is often used alongside wind energy, with agricultural waste being burned to heat water and produce steam to power wind turbines. This is a renewable source of energy because plant matter can always be regrown. Unfortunately, because it involves burning, it isn't always the best option for the health of our environment.
Geothermal energy comes from heat within the sub-surface of the Earth. The geothermal energy is pushed up to the Earth’s surface with the help of water and steam. Geothermal energy can be harnessed for heating and cooling, or it can be used to generate clean electricity. Countries like Kenya, the Philippines, New Zealand, and El Salvador are heavily reliant on geothermal energy as opposed to other, less environmentally friendly energy sources. Geothermal energy also represents 90% of Iceland’s energy production, making it a rather green country.
Hydropower is a clean fuel source collected from the natural movement of water, and, once a dam has been built, it's esentially free to produce. Hydropower is harnessed through a system made up of three parts: a power plant that collects the electricity, a dam that's opened or closed to control water flow, and a reservoir where the water is stored. When the dam is opened, the water in the reservoir is released and flows through it, pushing against blades in a turbine, causing them to turn. The turbine in this system, much like in wind turbines, then spins a generator that converts the energy into electricity.
Solar energy is energy that is collected from the rays of the sun and is captured with the help of silicon solar panels using the “photovoltaic effect.” This is the mechanism by which solar panels harness the sun’s energy, and then generate it into electricity.
Much like solar power, wind energy relies on the right weather to produce electricity. This energy is harnessed through the use of wind turbines, which can be installed on land or at sea. It’s one of the cleanest and most sustainable sources of energy generation, producing zero carbon emissions and preventing the release of toxic gasses into the atmosphere.
That’s why wind energy is one of the primary renewable sources we support at Inspire – it is by far one of the cleanest and most promising forms of clean energy.
Renewable energy vs. fossil fuels
In 2019, renewable energy was responsible for around 11% of all US energy generation, and for 17% of electricity generation. That means that fossil fuels make up the vast majority of energy consumption. And this has to change.
Fortunately, renewable energy usage is on the rise. It’s predicted clean energy will make up 13% of energy usage by the end of 2020, and that will number will only continue to increase.
Advantages of renewable energy
We’ve already covered many of the advantages of using renewable energy, so let’s do a quick recap:
- Renewable energy isn't going anywhere – unlike fossil fuels, wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energy will always exist.
- Minimize greenhouse gasses – though manufacturing of a wind turbine has an environmental impoact, it is able to cancel out its own carbon footprint after just 6 months of use. Then it’s pure, clean energy forever.
- Minimize pollutants – renewable energy sources don’t produce smog, acid rain, or other byproducts that can become trapped in the atmosphere and cause respiratory disease.
- Low cost – once a renewable energy farm has been built, it requires almost no maintenance for at least 20 years. That means costs stay low and this will in turn lower the cost of power over the long term.
- Creates jobs – over 12,000 jobs were created in the US by wind power in 2019. And we're just getting started.
Is renewable energy reliable?
Renewable energy is absolutely reliable! It will never run out and doesn’t require a huge amount of maintenance. And when you consider a world where all the different types of renewable energy sources are working together, it becomes an extremely reliable way to power our world.
What’s the best renewable energy source for the future?
The best way to produce renewable energy is by combining together all the different methods above. Clean energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower are even better because they don’t produce byproducts.
And we work hard to make it easy for you — with Inspire, you can enjoy unlimited clean energy without installing any solar panels on your home or putting a wind turbine in your backyard.
What kind of renewable energy will be used in the future?
It’s likely that all of the different sources we've discussed in this article will play a big role in our planet's sustainable future.
Can 100% renewable energy really power the world?
Believe it or not we absolutely have the potential to create a future where renewable energy is the only energy source powering our world – and the sooner we do so, the better. Click here to make the switch to renewable power today.
How will we meet our energy needs in the future?
Renewable energy can be used everywhere: buildings can be heated and cooled with the help of biomass boilers, solar-thermal water heaters, and even direct geothermal heat.
Even the transportation industry can energy from clean sources. Renewable electricity can be used to produce electro-fuels like hydrogen, which can easily fuel long-haul transport, such as in shipping and aviation. Reducing the overall demand for energy in the transport sector is critical, but it can be accomplished with the help of policies promoting energy conservation and eﬀiciency.
Industrial process heat can also be covered by green energy, with biomass producing renewable heat and hydrogen providing the necessary energy for cement, iron and steel, and chemical industries.
The sooner we create a world powered by renewable energy, the better. If you want to help change the future for the better and protect our planet for future generations, there is an easy way for you to get started. You can make a huge change in just a few minutes — just by switching to renewable energy with Inspire.