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What is the Difference Between Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy?


The debate over which is more viable, renewable or nonrenewable energy, has been in full swing for some time. This article does not seek to resolve the debate, but to present a definition of the two energy sources, and to identify where the energy is found.

Renewable energy and its sources

Renewable energy refers to types of energy that can be used to meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the needs of the future. Also known as sustainable energy, renewable energy differs from other forms of energy, such as green energy, in that renewable energy may produce pollution - either directly or from activities related to its production. Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, as well as others.

Solar Energy

Solar energy generates electricity by gathering the sun’s energy through solar panels, and converting that energy to direct current electricity. Inverters convert the direct current to alternating current for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. It is considered a renewable source because the availability of sunlight in limitless, barring a supernova.

Wind Energy

The power of the wind is gathered and converted to electricity with windmills and turbines. Winds turn the blades of modern, high-tech windmills, which turn turbines in generators to create electricity. The electricity is delivered to consumers through power lines. Unfortunately, electricity generated by wind power must be used as it is created, unlike solar or other forms of renewable electricity, which can be stored in batteries for later use.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy draws power from within the earth, tapping heat generated from radioactive decay, volcanic activity, and solar energy. The heat converts water to steam, which then drives turbines to create electricity.

Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is energy generated from nuclear fission. It is created in nuclear power plants for delivery to consumers. It is considered a renewable resource because of it uses atomic theory to generate energy. However, it can be classified as both a renewable and nonrenewable energy source.

Non-renewable energy

Non-renewable energy refers to energy sources that have finite availability. It is derived from materials that can be exhausted and cannot be recreated in a reasonable period of time. Sources of non-renewable energy include fossil fuels such as and coal, wood, and any substance that can be burned but not restored.

Non-renewable energy sources have been the primary energy generating materials since prehistoric times. Renewable energy sources have been used, but have not experienced the same technological development as nonrenewable sources. Both renewable and nonrenewable energy are necessary for life in the modern world, but because nonrenewable energy sources can be exhausted, a push exists to find more solutions.

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