What Is Renewable Energy ?
Renewable energy is a term used for energy that comes from natural resources like water, wind, sun, geothermal heat, biomass and are continually replenished through natural means. In contrast, energy from fuels like oil, petroleum, coal and natural gas are regarded as non-renewable because they generate energy only for a definite period and when the supply of this particular fuel is depleted, it cannot be replenished anymore.
Although some of these renewable energy sources have been in existence since ancient times, it was not until the later part of 1800s where mankind was able to efficiently harness their power and convert it into electricity. Today, 8% of the total energy consumption in the United States comes from renewable energy. This translates to approximately 7.744 quadrillion Btu from which 35% comes from hydropower, 24% comes from wood, biofuels accounts for 20%, 9% comes from wind sources, 6% comes from biomass waste, geothermal accounts for 5%, and the remaining 1% comes from solar energy.
More than half of the available renewable energy is converted into electricity, while some are used for the production of heat and steam, which is utilized for industrial purposes. Renewable fuel, such as those derived from biofuel sources like corn and sugarcane, is used for transportation, as well as heating for residential and commercial buildings.
While it is true that renewable energy accounts for only a small portion of the total energy consumption in the US, it is widely believed that the ongoing research that is now being conducted will change all that. At the moment, newer and innovative methods are being developed at various renewable energy testing facilities across the United States, which aims to improve the efficiency of harnessing the energy from these natural sources.
Federal and State government incentives, such as those under the Energy Policy Acts of 2003 and 2005 are also helping spur the growth in the renewable energy industry sector. In fact, it is projected that production, as well as consumption of renewable energy will grow substantially in the next 30 years. Foremost among the fast growing renewable energy opportunities is wind power generation. Solar and biomass waste are also expected to improve exponentially with the development of better methods in harnessing their energy.
With the continued increase in consumer demand for green power and the ongoing research and development for new ways of harnessing renewable energy, the next twenty years will definitely be exciting for the renewable energy industry sector.