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Renewable Energy 101

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy (often referred to as clean energy) comes from natural sources like sunlight, water, or wind. While renewable energy is often believed to be a new technology, harnessing nature's power has been used for centuries. Wind has powered boats to sail the seas and the sun has provided warmth during the day. In the past few decades, we have continued to improve the technology to help make the process of using renewable energy even easier and more effectively. Here are some of the renewable energy sources to help get you better acquainted with green energy. 

Solar

Do you know what the most abundant energy source is in the entire solar system? That's right, it's the sun. The amount of energy from the sunlight that is directed on Earth in one hour could supply the world's energy needs for one whole year! Solar energy uses the sun's lights (known as photons) and converts it to electricity. This is done using solar panels and can charge everything from a small calculator to a full building! Even when we aren't using solar panels to convert the energy, the sun is providing both light and heat naturally to our homes (pssst read about using the sun to naturally warm your home in our 8 Ways To Save Energy While You Wait For Spring blog article.

Wind

Remember when you were a child, and you were given a small pinwheel and you watched it spin around in the breeze? That's exactly the process behind wind energy! From moving boats across the water to grinding crops in windmills, people have been using the wind to help make their lives easier for centuries. The modern equivalent is now using giant turbines to harness the power of the wind to make electricity. These turbines have three blades and rise 100 feet or more above the ground to take advantage of faster winds in higher altitudes. Their computer systems control the direction of the turbines to match the wind and as the wind blows, turns the rotor and gears to make the fan spin and convert mechanical energy into electricity.

Geothermal

You might not expect one of the main sources of renewable energy to be the same source as a relaxing trip to a hot spring. Geothermal energy is made possible by the Earth's core creating magma that heats the Earth's crust. The Earth's core is actually hotter than the surface of the sun! Wells are then drilled about 3km into the crust that captures the rising hot water and steam. As the steam rises, it pushes a turbine which rotates and generator and makes electricity! 

Hydroelectricity

Did you know that water covers 70% of the Earth's surface? Whether it's coursing down a river or sitting in a lake, there are ways of making it even more valuable. Dams are constructed in rivers, lakes, or any body of water. These obstruct the natural movement of the water and instead, forces it to flow through pipes into a turbine inside of the dam. The water spins the turbines and turns the kinetic energy into electricity. Hydropower is actually one of the least expensive renewable energy sources and is also one of the oldest as Ancient Egyptians used water to grind grain as early as 250 BC!

Biomass

Biomass is sort of the combination of all renewable energy sources. It starts with the natural process of plants and trees turning sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. This stored energy is then released when the plant matter is burned. This heat then boils water which releases steam and turns a turbine creating electricity! A combination of all the elements. This same process can also be done with animal waste produced by cows or other farm animals. The waste is collected in ponds and as it breaks down, it releases methane gas. This methane is burned to heat water which again, makes steam and turns a turbine for energy.

There are so many ways to create energy without resources being depleted. Green energy makes everyone's life easier, and it will only become more prominent in our lives in the future. For more green living tips, you can read more blog entries here.

 


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