Renewable Energy Facts FAQs on Renewable Energy
1) What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is energy produced from resources that can be naturally replenished. This includes solar power, wind power, water (hydro) power, wave (oceanic) power, geothermal, biomass, and biofuels. Coal, oil and nuclear energy are not renewable energy sources.
2) Why do we need renewable energy?
Our energy need is forecasted to increase 50% by the year 2025 with most of these being fossil fuels. Our fuel consumption escalates due to economic improvements world wide, especially in India and China. Soon, the fossil fuel reserves, possibly by the 22nd century, will run out. On the other hand, the current sources of energy (coal and oil) have significant impact of the environment. The CO concentrations in the atmosphere have nearly doubled, and world temperatures in the past decade are the hottest in more than 200 years. Renewable energy (which we also refer to at times as clean energy) can offer solutions to both energy crisis and global climate change.
3) How much energy currently comes from renewable sources?
Currently, about 13% of energy consumption comes from biomass (e.g. burning wood), 3% from hydropower (in the form of hydropower plants), 1.3% from hot water heating, and 0.8% from new technologies such as ocean, wind, solar and geothermal. Wind energy, for instance, supplies 1% of world electricity demand. In Denmark, 20% of electricity is produced by wind energy.
4) How much does electricity produced by renewable resources cost?
Solar photovoltaic is the most expensive electricity source and costs between 20 and 100 cents per kWh. Now, it is 21.32 cents per kWh in US. Hydro power and geothermal are the cheapest, about 2-10 cents per kWh. Wind energy costs 3-5 cents to produce 1 kWh.
Though higher, the cost of electricity produced renewable energy is fairly competitive in comparison to non-renewable sources, e.g. cost of producing 1 kWh electricity by coal is 2.5-5 cents, and by nuclear energy is 2.1-3.1 cents per kWh.
5) Which form of renewable energy I can use in my home?
You can install solar power or wind power systems in your home for electricity, geothermal energy for heating and biofuel for transportation.
6) Can this type of energy harm the environment?
Although renewable energy does not produce pollution, it does affect the environment to a certain degree. Often, it requires huge areas of land. This is held for biomass, solar and wind energy. However, large land areas are also required by coal mines or nuclear safety zones.
The old wind turbines can be hazardous to birds but this problem has been corrected in the new design.
The most harmful renewable energy to the environment is hydropower. Construction of a hydropower plant makes tremendous impacts to the surrounding location, including flooding of the reservoir, disruption of ecosystems and large-scale removal of trees. This is also associated with the potential of a broken dam, not to mention the displacement of residents and nearby local people.
7) What is the availability of renewable energy?
Renewable energy can be considered unlimited. Solar energy is abundant and only ceases when the sun is burnt out. It is estimated that the energy of wind blowing across the US can be used to produce 1.5 times the current electricity demand in the US. Hydropower has some limitations. We can only build a finite number of hydropower plants.
8) What are the largest renewable facilities in the world?
Wind: Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, Texas, (735 MW)
Solar: Solar Systems, Victoria, Australia (150 MW)
Geothermal: The Geysers, San Francisco, California (750 MW)
Hydropower: Itapu, Brazil/Paraguay (12,000 MW)
9) How do I know whether my electricity comes from a renewable source or not?
Check your government websites, such as eia.gov or another option is www.electricityinfo.org.
10) What is the difference between sustainable energy and renewable?
These two terms are often used inter-exchangeably, although sustainable energy also implies using energy wisely and not wasteful.