The world’s energy needs could be reduced by one-third by 2050 if individuals and corporations work to save energy now and begin relying on renewable energy sources provided by power companies and personalized adoption. Renewable energy allows you to tap into natural resources that are replenished as part of the normal life cycle. Cut a tree down to burn for heat, and that tree is gone forever. Tap into the wind with a turbine to generate electricity, and the wind continues to blow. The Union of Concerned Scientists suggests the following clean renewable energy sources:
The U.S. can produce more than 10 times its energy needs through wind power, one of the fastest-growing energy sources. Turbines use wind to generate electricity without creating pollutants.
Currently, this is one of the least expensive alternative fuel sources available. The obstacles to this resource’s popularity include:
- Opposition to the towers that appear on the landscape
- Concerns about the long-term impact of the towers and turbines on the habitat
Image by Jürgen via Wikimedia Commons
The sun will be a source of energy for billions of years. The current technology to capture this energy includes photovoltaic panels, solar collectors and thin-film solar sheeting. The solar cells turn sunlight into electricity directly, so there is no need for a generator. It is a clean, non-polluting source of energy.
The challenges that this renewable energy source has include:
- Cost of the solar panels is still relatively high compared to other forms of energy
- Amount of energy generated by the cells is a product of insolation, or how much sun reaches the cells
- Storage cell (battery) technology needs to advance to hold electricity to cover days of little to no sunshine
This is the use of plant matter and animal waste to create electricity. When converted properly, it is a low-carbon source of energy with little pollution. Some of the challenges with this renewable resource include:
- This technology has not advanced as quickly as wind and solar, so it remains expensive
- If not managed correctly, it can have a negative impact on the environment
This is the use of heated water and steam from the Earth to run power stations, which turn the steam into electricity. California has more than 40 geothermal power stations producing five percent of that state’s needs. The Philippines, Iceland and El Salvador are all generating more than 25 percent of their electricity with geothermal plants.
Some of the challenges with this energy source are:
- Plants are expensive to build
- Location of the plants is limited to the most geothermally active areas
This uses flowing water to move turbines which generate electricity. Hydropower provides 20 percent of the world’s energy needs, according to the United States Geological Survey.
There are several issues regarding the continued use of hydropower:
- Rivers must be dammed, which can have a severe impact on the land and wildlife
- This impact also affects communities that rely on fish that must travel through the dams
- The costs to build these dams is huge, and the return is slow
There are several motivations for learning about these options and how you may be able to use them in your home energy plan, including:
- They protect the environment from further damage
- They use resources that will not run out
- There are government incentives for implementing renewable energy sources, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy
What clean energy source do you think has the most potential for mass adoption? Share your opinion in the comments.