What Are Some Things That Use Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly replenished, such as sunlight, wind, water, and geothermal heat. These energy sources are considered “clean” or “green” because they produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas which are finite resources, renewable energy sources quickly replenish themselves and will never run out. Using renewable energy to generate electricity helps reduce the emission of harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. Renewable energy is becoming more widely used to provide electricity to homes, businesses and transportation.

Solar Power

Solar power harnesses energy from the sun using photovoltaic solar panels. These panels contain solar cells made up of silicon that absorb photons from sunlight and release electrons, generating an electric current. This direct current electricity is then converted into alternating current electricity that can be used to power homes, buildings, and more.

Some key pros of solar power include:

  • Renewable – Solar energy is abundant and infinite.
  • Reduce electricity bills – Solar panels can generate electricity at little to no cost after installation.
  • Low maintenance – Solar panels require little maintenance once installed.
  • Environmentally friendly – Solar energy produces no greenhouse gas emissions.

Some potential cons include:

  • Upfront cost – Solar panel systems can be expensive to purchase and install upfront.
  • Storage – Solar energy must be stored in batteries for use when the sun isn’t shining.
  • Intermittency – Solar panels do not produce electricity at night or on very cloudy days.
  • Space – Solar panels require adequate roof or land space for installation.

Interesting examples of solar use include solar-powered cars, calculators, houses and even solar power plants like the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California, one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants.

Wind Power

Wind power utilizes wind turbines to harness the wind’s kinetic energy and generate electricity. Wind turbines consist of blades that spin as the wind blows past them. This rotational motion spins a generator to create electricity. Wind power is considered a renewable and clean energy source since wind is free and abundant. Here are some key pros and cons of wind power:

wind turbines in a field generating renewable wind energy


  • Renewable – Wind is a naturally replenished resource
  • Clean – Generates electricity without emissions
  • Cost-effective – Wind turbines have become cheaper over the past decades
  • Reliable – New turbine designs allow for more consistent power generation


  • Intermittent – Power output depends on wind availability
  • Land use – Large wind farms require substantial land areas
  • Upfront costs – Developing wind farms requires significant initial investment
  • Aesthetics – Some view wind turbines as visually unappealing

Some of the largest wind farms in the world include:

  • Gansu Wind Farm (China) – Capacity of 6,000 MW
  • Alta Wind Energy Center (California) – Capacity of 1,550 MW
  • Roscoe Wind Farm (Texas) – Capacity of 782 MW

Wind power capacity continues to expand globally as turbine technology improves and governments promote renewable energy growth.


Hydropower plants use the energy from flowing water to produce electricity. A hydropower plant is typically constructed on a large river near a dam. The dam gates are opened to allow water from the river reservoir to flow through large pipes called penstocks. The fast-moving water spins turbines located at the bottom of the penstocks. The spinning turbines power generators to produce electricity. The water exits the turbines and is returned to the river downstream of the dam.

The pros of hydropower include its renewable, clean energy source that produces no direct waste or pollution. Hydropower relies on the water cycle and is more reliable than wind or solar power. It also provides flood control, irrigation, and recreation opportunities. However, hydropower can impact the local environment and habitats. Large dams permanently alter rivers and can harm fish populations. There is also a high upfront cost to build hydropower plants.

An interesting fact about hydropower is that it produces around 16% of the world’s electricity, making it the most widely used form of renewable energy. China leads the world in hydropower generation, followed by Canada, Brazil, and the United States.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy harnesses heat from beneath the surface of the Earth to generate clean and sustainable electricity. The high temperatures found only a few miles below ground can be used to heat buildings, grow plants, and generate electricity. Geothermal energy is considered a renewable energy because the heat emanating from the interior of the Earth is constantly being replenished.

Geothermal power plants use steam or high-temperature water from deep inside the Earth to spin turbine generators and produce electricity. There are three main types of geothermal power plants: dry steam, flash steam, and binary cycle. Dry steam plants use steam from geothermal reservoirs to directly drive turbine generators. Flash steam plants pull hot water from the ground, convert it to steam, and use the steam to power turbines. Binary cycle plants transfer the heat from geothermal hot water to another liquid, which boils at a lower temperature than water. The vapor from this second liquid then drives the turbines.

Some of the advantages of geothermal energy are that it is clean, renewable, sustainable, readily available, and cost effective. Geothermal power plants release very little emissions and the geothermal reservoirs can provide energy for many decades. However, geothermal energy is limited to geographical areas with sufficient underground heat and water access. Upfront costs for geothermal plants can sometimes be high. There is also the potential for negative impacts if geothermal resources are not properly managed.

Notable geothermal energy projects around the world include the Geysers complex in California, the Hellisheiði plant in Iceland, and the Ulubelu field in Indonesia. The Geysers is the largest geothermal energy project in the world with an installed capacity of over 1,500 megawatts. The Hellisheiði plant is the world’s second largest geothermal plant and provides electricity and hot water to Reykjavik. The Ulubelu field on Sumatra island has ten geothermal plants generating over 1,100 megawatts of electricity.

Biomass Energy

Biomass energy is derived from organic matter such as plants, residues from agriculture or forestry, and animal manure. Biomass contains stored chemical energy from the sun. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy is released as heat and can be used to generate electricity.

The process of biomass converting to energy typically involves:

  • Collection of biomass material such as wood chips, agricultural waste, or garbage
  • Processing the biomass to make it more suitable for conversion to energy
  • Conversion of biomass to useful energy products like heat, fuels, or electricity

Some of the pros of using biomass for energy include:

  • Renewable and sustainable resource
  • Reduces dependence on fossil fuels
  • Potentially carbon neutral depending on source
  • Supports local economies and agriculture

Some of the cons or challenges with biomass energy include:

  • Less efficient than fossil fuels
  • Can be expensive to transport and process biomass
  • Burning biomass emits air pollutants
  • Requires large amounts of land to grow energy crops

An interesting biomass energy project is the new biomass power plant that will convert forest residues to electricity in Northern California. It is expected to generate enough electricity for 30,000 homes from biomass sourced sustainably from the region. This helps support the local forestry industry while providing renewable energy.

Hydrogen Energy

Hydrogen fuel cells work by combining hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which generates electricity, water, and heat. The only byproduct is water, so hydrogen power is clean and renewable. Inside the fuel cell, hydrogen molecules are split into protons and electrons using a catalyst. The protons pass through a membrane while the electrons create an electrical current that powers devices. Then the protons and electrons reunite with oxygen to form water.

Some advantages of hydrogen energy are that it’s renewable, efficient, and emits only water. It’s also versatile and can power vehicles, buildings, and more. However, hydrogen is expensive to produce, store, and distribute compared to other fuels. Most hydrogen today is made from natural gas in a process that emits carbon dioxide. Innovations in producing hydrogen from water via electrolysis powered by renewable energy can make hydrogen fully clean.

Exciting hydrogen projects are emerging worldwide. For example, Air Products is building a net-zero hydrogen energy complex in Saudi Arabia powered by 4 gigawatts of wind and solar energy. It will be the world’s largest green hydrogen plant when completed in 2025. Additionally, Bloom Energy installed hydrogen fuel cells at two data centers in California to provide always-on, clean backup power generation.

Tidal Power

Tidal power utilizes the movement of tides to generate electricity through turbines. When tides come into shore, they turn underwater turbines that are connected to power generators. As the tide goes out, it turns the turbines in the opposite direction. There are two main types of tidal energy technologies: tidal stream generators and tidal barrage. Tidal stream generators are underwater turbines placed in areas with fast tidal currents. Tidal barrages are dams built across tidal estuaries that create a basin, where the difference in water height creates electricity through turbines as tides ebb and flow.

The pros of tidal power include it being a renewable and predictable energy source. Since tides can be forecast far in advance, the energy output can be scheduled and relied upon. Tidal power also produces no greenhouse gas emissions. However, tidal power also has some cons. Thetechnology can be expensive to build and maintain. Tidal barrages in particular can also negatively impact marine life by changing habitats. There are limited feasible sites globally where tidal power is viable.

Looking ahead, advancements in tidal turbine technology along with subsea cabling and control systems could make tidal power more efficient and affordable. With the impacts of climate change, there is increased interest in carbon-free renewable energy sources like tidal power. But its high costs and environmental impacts still pose challenges to widespread adoption. Overall, tidal power will likely play a niche role in the future energy mix of coastal regions with suitable tidal resources.

Wave Power

Wave power harnesses the up-and-down motion of waves to generate electricity. Wave energy devices use floats, buoys, or pitching devices to capture the wave motion and drive an electrical generator. As waves move these devices up and down, they create mechanical energy which gets converted into electrical current.

Some of the pros of wave energy are that it’s renewable and clean. Waves provide a stable and predictable source of energy, unlike wind or solar which fluctuate more. Wave power doesn’t produce any greenhouse gas emissions. It also doesn’t disturb the scenery as much as wind turbines.

Some cons are that wave energy is still an emerging technology that is more expensive than more established renewables. Good wave energy locations are farther offshore, so transmitting the power back to land is challenging. Weather and marine life can also cause issues like corrosion and fouling which require maintenance.

While wave power currently provides only a very small amount of total energy worldwide, researchers continue working to improve the efficiency and viability of wave energy devices. Pilot projects have shown promise, but bringing costs down further will be important for larger scale deployment of wave power in the future.


In summary, there are many renewable energy sources that are being utilized today, including solar power, wind power, hydropower, geothermal energy, biomass energy, hydrogen energy, tidal power and wave power. These sources provide clean, sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Renewable energy will play a crucial role in combating climate change and building a sustainable future.

The key takeaways are that renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly replenished. Harnessing these sources provides energy without the harmful greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels. Renewable energy also enhances energy security by relying on domestic sources rather than imported fuel. The development and use of renewable energy needs to be rapidly scaled up to reduce dependence on coal, oil and natural gas. With innovative technologies and the right policies, renewable energy can transform our energy systems and build a carbon-neutral economy.

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