Why use renewable energy?
Renewable energy is natural energy, and the term natural energy comprises all sources of energy which exist in our world, abundantly and in unlimited quantities, such as the power of water, wind and the sun, the natural heat of the earth and the energy stored in the plants we grow.
Because all these natural sources replenish themselves constantly and can thus never be ‘used up’, renewable energy is also called green energy or sustainable energy, and it is this quality which makes it so important for us to explore, invest in and use these renewable energy forms more and more, in a world where the conventional sources of energy production, such as fossil fuels, are not only often difficult to access, but are also of limited availability and will be used up eventually, within the foreseeable future.
If we want our grandchildren to be able to carry on living with the amenities of modern life we got used to, we need to ensure that we have the technology and infrastructure in place that can harness and utilise the different forms of renewable energy in optimally efficient ways, before traditional sources of energy have become unavailable or too expensive due to scarcity.
An equally important reason to invest in renewable energies is of course the proven fact that conventional forms of energy production release harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere which, in turn, contribute to climate change and a whole range of associated phenomena, such as rising sea levels, droughts and floods, with potentially disastrous consequences for us all. Renewable, green energy is rightly called sustainable, because these energy sources are clean: their conversion into useable energy does not involve the release of significant, damaging carbon emissions.
Renewable energy sources
Hydropower is renewable energy converted by generators from the tidal flow of water. Combined power plants can utilise both water flow and the heat from the sun stored in the oceans.
Wind power can be mechanically transformed by windmills or pumps into useable, renewable energy,such as electricity or fuel.
Geothermal power can be obtained in abundance, and almost anywhere, from the heat of the earth.
Another renewable energy source, Biomass, is living matter, usually obtained from plants, which can be turned into fuel and electricity.
The most accessible form of renewable energy must be solar power, which can be obtained by converting sunlight into electricity. Contrary to popular assumptions, solar panels can produce electricity and hot water also in grey weather conditions.
Renewable energy – history and statistics
Renewable energy sources have been used since ancient times: it is thought that windmills have operated in Persia between 500-700 AD, and the ancient Greeks and Egyptians used water mills. During those centuries tide mills were also used in Spain, France and England, to harness the natural energy generated by tidal waves. American Indians used their hot springs for bathing and cooking and , to jump forward into more modern times, the first photovoltaic cooker was built in the 1760s by one Horace de Saussure.
In more recent times our industrialised world has become over-reliant on conventional, polluting energy production, and it has been argued that more than 40% of our current, damaging Co2 emissions could be avoided if we turned increasingly towards renewable energy sources and thus reduced our carbon footprint. In 2008, renewable energy provided 19% of the total global energy. Notable examples of the worldwide turn towards greener energy and a sustainable future for our planet include the new large-scale solar plant which recently started to operate in Spain, or the ongoing investment in the development of geothermal power plants in California.
On an individual level, installations of solar panels have been consistently rising in the UK and world wide. Renewable solar energy panels provide increased self-sufficiency combined with reduced running costs and less dependency on fickle energy prices, a possible income from the renewable energy produced, and the benefit from the latest technology combined with a substantially reduced carbon footprint.
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