What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is a sustainable energy source. This means an energy source that cannot run out, for example, solar or wind.
Occasionally, renewable energy can be referred to as “alternative energy”, an alternate source to fossil fuels. But contrary to belief, renewable and green energy is not the same thing.
What are the different types of renewable energy?
Here are the different types of renewable energy. In this guide, we provide a brief overview but for more information, follow the link to our in-depth guides.
Solar energy is an inexhaustible energy source produced from the sun’s radiant light and heat. Using Photovoltaics (PV) or Concentrated solar power (CSP), the solar energy is converted into electricity.
Over the last ten years, solar panel technology has significantly decreased in cost, allowing businesses to recoup the initial investment within 3.5-4 years. The lifespan of a solar panel is, on average, 30 years, meaning in the long run implementing solar panels is an astute investment.
As of 2020, the UK generates 13,158 Gigawatt Hours of solar electricity. To give you the context of this increase, a town of 1,000 homes uses about 11 Gigawatt hours each year.
Compare commercial solar panels today.
Wind energy is an energy source that is produced by harnessing the kinetic energy of the wind using wind turbines on the coast or land.
It works because the wind turbine faces the wind, forcing the blades to rotate. The rotating blades are connected to a generator which converts the rotational energy into electrical energy.
Hydropower is a renewable energy source created by harnessing the flow of water that produces sustainable energy. The most basic form of hydropower is when water flows into a water wheel that generates power. Hydropower is the largest source of renewable energy – and an example of the scale is that of the hoover dam.
Large hydroelectric dams produce vast amounts of completely renewable energy without producing greenhouse gases.
Geothermal energy is a source of energy that’s stored within the Earth’s crust. It’s in the form of high-temperature rocks.
Geothermal is produced by using the Earth’s heat to generate steam which powers a turbine to generate electricity.
The following methods are used to produce Geothermal energy:
- Dry Steam power generation.
- Flash Steam power generation.
- Binary Steam power generation.
Geothermal energy has enormous potential for renewable energy generation in certain countries with high volcanic activity.
Tidal energy is produced by converting the ocean’s tides into electricity. This is done using either a tidal stream generator or a tidal barrage.
Similar to the function of a wind turbine, a tidal steam generator works by an underwater turbine causes fast flowing water through a small channel which causes the moving water spins the underwater turbine to generate electricity.
A tidal barrage is an artificial dam used to trap water at high tide, the water trapped within the barrage now has gravitational potential energy.
Biomass energy is when organic matter produced from animals and plants is converted into energy, creating biofuels, heat and electricity.
The most common organic matter used to produce biomass energy is corn and soy. The energy extracted from this matter is then burned to produce heat and electricity.
Here are the methods to produce biomass energy:
- Direct combustion.
- Thermochemical conversion
- Chemical conversion
- Biological conversion
Read our guide on biomass energy to learn more about the different methods of creating biomass energy.