What Does Renewable Mean?
The term renewable is often linked with many alternative energy sources, but what exactly does it mean? Usually, when something is described as renewable, it means that it’s naturally replaced at a rate that’s comparable with the rate it’s being consumed. When used in conjunction with energy, renewable refers to energy that comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat that are naturally replenished, meaning they’ll presumably never run out. This has become increasingly important in an industry shadowed by the looming possibility that fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and coal that draw on finite resources will eventually dwindle, becoming way too expensive or too damaging to the environment for humans to retrieve. Here’s some information as to what energy resources are considered renewable in today’s energy industries.
What Energy Resources Are Considered Renewable?
Most renewable energy comes directly or indirectly from the sun. This is most commonly recognized as solar energy, where sunlight is captured and used for generating electricity, hot-water heating, and solar cooling. The sun also injects energy into plants, creating a material known as biomass that can be used to produce electricity, transportation fuels, and cleaner chemicals. Likewise, the ocean produces thermal energy that comes from the sun’s heat.
The heat from the sun helps drive the winds on this planet, producing energy that can be captured with wind turbines, which in turn generate electricity. The natural movement of water is also considered renewable. Flowing water creates energy that can be captured and turned into electricity, as can the tides and waves of the ocean. Geothermal technology draws energy from the internal heat of Earth and can be used for electric power production and the heating and cooling of buildings. Finally, hydrogen is considered the most abundant element on Earth, and when separated from other elements, it can be burned as a fuel or converted into electricity.
Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?
While nuclear energy is considered by many to be a clean, environmentally friendly, and viable alternative to fossil fuel technologies, this doesn’t automatically make it a renewable energy resource. Actually, nuclear power generation relies on the metal uranium, which must be mined and processed. Like any other substance mined from the Earth, uranium is consider nonrenewable, and thus, it is only a matter of time before this energy resource is no longer viable.
When joined with energy, the term renewable offers great promise for the future. Once the technologies have been developed so that energy production is efficient, cost-effective, and reliable, it will provide a virtually endless energy source that humans can use for generations to come.