What is Renewable Energy?

EnergyCalendarJanuary 21, 2019

There’s a lot of talk going around regarding renewable energy. But what makes an energy source renewable or nonrenewable?

In this article, we’ll explain what renewable energy is and the different ways to make it.

But before we talk about renewable sources of energy, let’s talk about nonrenewable ones.

What Is Nonrenewable Energy?

What is nonrenewable energy?

Think of nonrenewable energy as any energy extracted from a source that cannot be renewed or replenished on a human timetable. 

Fossil fuels are a perfect example of this. Whether we’re talking about oils or gases, there is a finite amount of fossil fuels in the Earth. Although these stores of fossil fuels will eventually regenerate, they will not do so on a timeline that will be helpful for humans. 

Generations and generations of humanity will pass and those empty stores of fossil fuels will still be empty. Fossil fuels will only be replenished after millions of years.

Compare this to something like sunlight, which appears and reappears day after day.

When people talk about nonrenewables, they're talking about one of four different sources.

The four groups of nonrenewable energy are:

  • Crude oil (petroleum)
  • Natural gas
  • Coal
  • Uranium (Nuclear)

Nonrenewable sources of energy are generally viewed as unclean sources of energy. Even so, how “dirty” one energy source is depends on how you measure environmental impact and what alternative source of energy you’re comparing it against.

For example, nuclear energy does not emit any carbon or greenhouse gases and is a lot cleaner than wood burning if we’re talking about air quality, but on the other hand, getting rid of wood ashes is much cleaner than disposing of used uranium.

What Is Renewable Energy?

So, if nonrenewable energy sources do not replenish on a human timetable, that means renewable energy sources will.

Renewable energy is any type of energy whose original source can be restored or replenished during your lifetime. This includes things like wind, water, biomass, geothermal and solar.

Let’s dive into several types of renewable energy.

Types Of Renewable Energy

Generally, when we’re talking about types of renewable energy, we’re talking about one of five types of energy. Let’s talk about each one a little bit so we can better understand them all.

Wind power - The power of the wind is gathered by windmills. Wind pushes the blades of a windmill. The movement of the blades power a generator inside of the windmill, which then produces electricity. This electricity can then be distributed to other places and power homes and other buildings. Windmills are found on the plains, mountain ridgelines, and even in the ocean on floating platforms!

Hydropower - Normally hydropower looks like a dam. Water rushes across the dam’s blades which, like the windmill, powers a generator. This generator then produces electricity which can be used to power anything connected to its grid.

Geothermal energy - Geothermal energy is basically a play on other forms of renewable energy we’ve already talked about. Rather than using water to move blades to power a generator, geothermal power plants get their energy from deep inside of the Earth. The power plant takes the Earth’s heat and uses it to warm up water until it turns into steam. This steam is then used to power a turbine similar to natural gas, coal, or nuclear power plants.

Biomass - Biomass is usually a liquid substance that can be made out of anything from animal manure to household waste to human sewage to plant residue. Biomass is then burned, like fossil fuel, to produce energy.

Solar energy - Solar energy requires the use of solar panels. These solar panels are specially designed to capture energy from sunlight. The panels then take that energy and send it to inverters which are part of the solar energy system like the panels. These inverters convert the sunlight energy into usable electricity that you can then use to power your home.

At Vivint, Solar Energy Is Our Specialty

We love solar energy here at Vivint Solar. You can probably tell by our business model.

We believe that solar is great because, unlike the wind, the sun comes out every day. And unlike geothermal energy, solar energy is affordable on a residential level. And unlike hydroelectricity which is built on a huge scale, you can power your home from your rooftop.

Solar energy is great for individuals and households who are looking to reduce their carbon footprint and save some money.

Also, with all of the technological advances and incentives put in place over the years, solar energy has never been more affordable or more efficient.

If you want to use fewer nonrenewable sources of energy and save on your electric bill, then you should contact one of our Vivint Solar reps today. They’ll happily help you find out whether solar is a viable option for you and your home.

How to Go Solar

Vivint Solar makes renewable energy a simple and affordable alternative. We take care of everything from solar system design, to paperwork and permitting, to installation and maintenance.

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