enewable energy is somewhat of a self-explanatory term – the energy is renewable, sustainable, practically never-ending as it stems from our planet’s DNA and the gifts it’s blessed with by default.
What’s ironic is that renewable energy is still referred to as the “alternative energy” – a mere alternative to the “traditional” energy that has been harming our planet. In fact, only 11% of the energy, used in the USA, is renewable.
While Green Mountain Energy reviews may not be high, we agree with the on something – wind, sun, water, biomass, and geothermal energy are the top 5 sources of renewable energy sources in USA in the long run. Here is why they are much better “alternatives” to the “traditional” energy sources and should become the norm.
Sun (Solar Energy)
Luckily, solar energy has been gaining some momentum, and chances are, you’ve noticed at least some solar panels here and there. In fact, in 2016, solar energy became the number one source of new energy in the world.
The amount of energy that the sun can generate is actually nothing short of astounding – in just an hour, the sunlight that reaches the Earth could produce a year-worth of energy, if it was all to be harnessed. Current solar panels can capture no more than 20% of the sunlight, meaning that there’s huge space for improvements.
Some stats regarding the adoption of solar energy are actually quite hopeful. For example, as of 2018, USA’s solar capacity amounts to 55 gigawatts (GW), comprised by residential, commercial, and utility solar power plants. Just to give you an idea of how much 55 GWs of solar energy actually are, they’re enough to power 11 million homes.
The other good news is solar energy is continuously getting more affordable. This is due to the rise in customer demand and, of course, the technological advancements. That’s why solar energy is pays off in the long run.
Not to mention solar panels are quite easy to maintain.
Wind energy is also getting increasingly popular, with wind capacity amounting to 52.4 GWs globally in 2017, and 13% of that coming from the U.S.
Just like solar panels, chances are you’ve seen some wind turbines – the towers with three spinning blades, reminiscent of futuristic windmills. If you’ve seen single wind turbines, they probably powered single homes, whereas groups of wind turbines usually power nearby communities, villages and/or small, rural towns.
One of the biggest and unique advantages of wind turbines is that they make use of vertical space rather than horizontal. The other pro is their efficiency, as wind turbines can convert almost 100% of wind into energy.
Hydroelectricity, or hydro power, has, or at least for a long time had been the world’s most popular form of renewable energy. After all, almost 3 quarters of our planet’s surface is made up of water.
Hydroelectricity is particularly popular in the U.S., with every state utilizing it at least to some extent. In fact, hydroelectricity accounts for 70% of Washington State’s electricity.
Hydroelectricity is celebrated for its efficiency as it manages to harness around 90% of the used water and its force to spin turbines, which also makes it one of the “cheapest” forms of renewable energy.
Another pro worth mentioning is how fast hydroelectricity can flow into the energy grid, making it a great safety net in cases of emergencies.
Furthermore, the natural water cycle, meaning the way water is constantly recycled by nature, makes this source completely free and renewable once the hydropower plant has been installed, of course.
Last but certainly not least, hydroelectricity is the ultimate clean energy, producing no waste whatsoever.
This is certainly one of the less popular sources of renewable energy, but hopefully that changes soon.
The source of renewable energy here is the Earth’s very core and the heat it emanates. To harness it, we need to drill deep enough under the Earth’s surface to reach the hot water and steam, rising from way down below. The steam is then converted into energy in a similar manner to the way wind turbines generate energy from wind.
Currently, more than 20 countries produce some amounts of geothermal energy, led by the U.S. which produces the most. And at the forefront of American geothermal energy generation stand California and Nevada, accounting for 73% and 21% of it, respectively.
One of the main benefits of this source of renewable energy is its consistency and reliability. At first, it requires a significant investment, but once the groundwork has been laid, the source is active 24/7.
Biomass refers to any organic matter, whether it’s food or animal waste, trees, plants, soil, etc. Biomass energy is produced by burning biomass.
The idea here is that biological waste like wood scraps or excess crops that are otherwise a burden are actually harnessed. By burning them, heat is produced, which respectively generates steam that is then converted into energy by a turbine. Furthermore, waste from farm animals is left to decompose in large tanks with bacteria, releasing methane that is also burned for the same reason – to create steam.
The good thing about this renewable energy is that it’s a two-bird-one-stone-type of method. Energy is produced while getting rid off waste.
The bad thing is that this renewable energy isn’t completely clean, producing around half the carbon emissions fossil fuels do.
Those are the top 5 sources of renewable energy in the U.S. which may be considered “alternative” now, but together have all the makings to become the “traditional” ones in the long run.