Is Renewable Energy A Source Of Energy?

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources that are constantly replenished like sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy technologies use these sources to generate electricity, provide heating/cooling, or fuel for transportation.

The most common types of renewable energy sources are:

  • Solar energy from the sun used for electricity and heating/cooling.
  • Wind energy captured by wind turbines to generate electricity.
  • Hydropower from flowing water used to produce electricity.
  • Geothermal energy harnessed from underground heat for electricity and heating/cooling.
  • Bioenergy from plants and organic waste used for transportation fuels and electricity generation.

Renewable energy provides sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas that are in limited supply. Renewable sources replenish naturally and are available across the world, making them more resilient than finite energy reserves.

Why Renewable Energy Matters

The growth of renewable energy is critically important for reducing humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. The burning of fossil fuels is the primary driver of climate change, releasing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat in the atmosphere. By transitioning to clean, renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and hydropower, we can dramatically cut global carbon emissions and curb climate change.

Renewable energy represents a sustainable future for our planet. Fossil fuels are finite – once they are extracted and burned, they are gone. But renewable resources like sunlight, wind and flowing water can be harnessed indefinitely. Investing in renewable energy today helps ensure that future generations will have access to clean, affordable energy too.

Renewable energy also reduces air and water pollution. The extraction, refining and burning of fossil fuels releases particulates, chemicals and other pollutants into the environment, damaging ecosystems and harming public health. In contrast, renewable energy generation emits little to no pollution. Widespread adoption of renewables leads to cleaner air and water.

In summary, transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy is crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, fighting climate change, ensuring long-term sustainability, and protecting the environment. The growth of renewables signals a hopeful path toward an energy system that can support our planet and its people for generations to come.

Growth of Renewable Energy

The capacity and usage of renewable energy has increased significantly worldwide over the past decade. This growth has been driven by several factors, including declining costs, technological improvements, government incentives and targets, and increased awareness of climate change.

Global renewable energy capacity grew at rates of over 8% annually between 2008-2018. Total renewable power capacity worldwide reached over 2,500 gigawatts (GW) in 2019, led by solar and wind power. Renewables like solar and wind have gone from niche technologies to mainstream sources of energy in many countries.

The United States has also seen substantial growth in renewables. Over the last 10 years, U.S. renewable energy generation has nearly doubled. As of 2019, renewables like wind, solar and hydropower accounted for over 17% of total electricity generation. Many states now generate over 20% of their electricity from renewables. The falling costs of renewables have made them cost competitive with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas in many parts of the U.S.

Challenges for Renewable Energy

While renewable energy usage is growing rapidly, it also faces some key challenges.


Many renewable sources like solar and wind are intermittent – their energy generation depends on factors like sunshine and wind speed. This can make it difficult to integrate high levels of renewables into the grid, since energy supply needs to match demand at all times.

Energy Storage

To deal with intermittency, large scale energy storage solutions are needed. But current storage options like batteries and pumped hydro remain limited. More R&D is needed into grid-scale storage.

Transmission Infrastructure

Renewables like solar and wind need to be sited at optimal locations, which are often far from population centers that need the energy. Massive investments in transmission infrastructure are required to transport the electricity.

Higher Upfront Costs

While renewable energy itself has zero fuel costs, capacity requires high upfront investments. The levelized cost of renewables remains above fossil fuels in most cases. More technological maturity and economies of scale are needed.

Government Support for Renewables

Governments at the federal, state and local levels have implemented a variety of policies and initiatives to support the growth of renewable energy in the United States. These include tax credits, loan programs, renewable portfolio standards, and other regulations aimed at incentivizing renewable energy development and deployment.

One of the most significant forms of support from the federal government has been the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The PTC provides a per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for electricity generated by qualified renewable energy facilities, while the ITC offers a percentage-based credit for investment in renewable energy systems. Though availability of the PTC and ITC has varied over the years, they have spurred substantial growth in wind and solar energy.

In addition to tax credits, the federal government offers loans and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects through the Department of Energy. State-level renewable portfolio standards, which require utilities to source a defined portion of electricity from renewables, have also been an important policy driver. As of 2021, 30 states plus Washington D.C. had adopted renewable portfolio standards. Many states and cities have also set their own renewable energy or climate goals, adopted building codes to encourage renewables, and taken other policy steps to promote renewables.

While opposition remains in some areas, government support has been crucial to the rapid growth of renewable energy. Policies such as tax credits, loans, and renewable portfolio standards have helped make renewables more financially viable and attractive for investment. Continued policy support will be important for renewable energy to keep growing as a share of the overall energy mix.

Major Renewable Energy Sources

There are several major renewable energy sources that are being utilized more widely as the world transitions to cleaner forms of energy production. These include:

Solar Energy

Solar energy harnesses the sun’s energy and converts it into electricity or heat using photovoltaic panels or solar thermal collectors. Photovoltaic panels convert sunlight directly into electricity using semiconducting materials, while solar thermal collectors use mirrors to concentrate sunlight to heat water or other fluids that can drive steam turbines. Solar capacity and usage has grown rapidly in recent years due to falling costs. Solar energy has great potential as an abundant, renewable source of clean energy.

Wind Energy

Wind energy utilizes large wind turbines to generate electricity from the kinetic power of wind. Wind turns the turbine blades, which spin a shaft connected to a generator to produce electricity. Wind power capacity and generation has expanded greatly in recent decades and continues to be one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources globally. Wind energy is clean, renewable, and plentiful in many parts of the world.


Hydropower harnesses the energy of flowing water to generate electricity using turbines in dams or run-of-river systems. Hydropower has a long history as a source of renewable electricity and still provides the majority of renewable power globally. While growth has slowed in recent years, hydropower offers a stable source of electricity in many regions.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy utilizes heat from within the earth to provide heating or generate electricity. Hot water or steam reservoirs deep underground can be tapped through wells to turn turbines to produce geothermal power. Geothermal energy is location specific but provides constant stable power in areas with substantial geothermal resources.

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy utilizes organic matter like plants, wood, agricultural waste, or landfill gas as a renewable fuel source. Biomass can be used to generate electricity, produce heat, or make biofuels. While biomass combustion does produce emissions, it can provide low-carbon renewable energy when sustainably sourced. Types of biomass used include wood, energy crops, and organic waste materials.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects

wind turbines and solar panels representing renewable energy sources

Some of the largest and most notable renewable energy projects around the world include:

Gansu Wind Farm, China

Located in the Gansu province of northwest China, this massive wind farm first went online in 2008. With over 7,000 turbines, it has an installed capacity of nearly 6,000 megawatts – making it by far the biggest wind farm on earth.

The Three Gorges Dam, China

This massive dam on the Yangtze River in central China is the world’s largest hydroelectric power station, with a capacity of over 20,000 megawatts. It also includes the world’s largest power plant.

Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant, Canada

Located in Sarnia, Ontario, this 97 MW solar PV plant was one of the world’s biggest at the time it was completed in 2010. It covers over 950 acres and provides enough electricity for 12,800 homes.

Hoover Dam, USA

Built in the 1930s, the iconic Hoover Dam straddling Nevada and Arizona was one of the first massive hydroelectric projects. Its power plant has a capacity of over 2,000 megawatts.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, USA

Located in the Mojave Desert in California, Ivanpah is one of the largest concentrated solar thermal power plants in the world. Its 377 megawatt capacity serves over 140,000 homes.

Renewable Energy Storage

Storage is a critical component of renewable energy systems. Renewable sources like solar and wind are intermittent, meaning energy output fluctuates based on weather conditions and time of day. Energy storage provides a way to capture excess electricity when production is high and dispatch it when production is low. This allows renewables to provide reliable, on-demand power. There are several main storage technologies for renewable energy systems:

Batteries – Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are increasingly deployed alongside renewables. Batteries store electricity chemically and can rapidly charge and discharge. Battery storage dramatically increases the viability of intermittent renewables to power grids. Large-scale battery installations are becoming more affordable.

Pumped Hydro Storage – One of the largest and most established storage methods is pumped hydro. Excess electricity pumps water uphill to an upper reservoir. When electricity is needed, water is released through turbines to generate hydroelectricity. Pumped hydro currently accounts for over 90% of grid energy storage worldwide.

Compressed Air – With this approach, electricity compresses air in an underground cavern or container. To discharge, compressed air is released and expands to drive a turbine and produce electricity. Compressed air is a commercially available storage method.

Flywheels – Flywheels convert electricity into kinetic energy, spinning a rotor at high speeds. The spinning stores energy for later discharge. Flywheels provide fast response times for grid stabilization but tend to have shorter discharge durations.

Thermal Storage – Thermal storage uses excess electricity to heat or cool a storage medium like water, ice, salts, or sand. The stored thermal energy can later heat water to drive a turbine or provide heating/cooling needs. It’s a way to ‘shift’ heating/cooling demand.

Energy storage enables renewable energy to serve as reliable baseload power. Ongoing advances in storage technologies will further support the expansion of renewables.

Future of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources are expected to continue growing and expanding in the years ahead. The costs of renewable technologies like solar, wind and energy storage continue to fall, making them more competitive with fossil fuels. As more countries and companies set ambitious carbon reduction targets, demand for clean energy will rise.

Key innovations in technology will also drive growth in renewables. Areas like advanced solar photovoltaics, enhanced geothermal systems, floating offshore wind turbines and vehicle-to-grid integration will boost renewable capacity and flexibility. Artificial intelligence and big data analytics can also optimize renewable energy systems.

Furthermore, integrating renewable sources onto the electric grid through improved transmission capacity, demand management and energy storage will enable higher renewable penetration. Wider deployment of smart grid technologies, large-scale batteries and pumped hydro storage can balance intermittent solar and wind generation. Overall, renewables are poised for considerable expansion globally, aided by favorable economics, technical advances and supportive policies.


In summary, renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass offer a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Renewables are seeing rapid growth as costs fall, technology improves, and governments enact supportive policies to reduce emissions and address climate change. Key points discussed:

  • Renewables like solar and wind are unlimited, clean sources of energy.
  • Costs for renewables have declined dramatically, making them cost competitive with conventional sources.
  • Policies like tax credits, feed-in tariffs, and renewable portfolio standards help drive adoption of renewables.
  • Despite high upfront costs, renewables often provide a positive return on investment long-term.
  • Energy storage solutions are enabling greater penetration of intermittent renewables like solar and wind on the grid.

Transitioning to renewable energy will bring substantial benefits, including energy independence, job creation, cleaner air and water, and reduced carbon emissions. With continued technological advances and supportive policies, renewables have the potential to transform our energy system and build a more sustainable future.

Similar Posts