Last Updated March 17, 2021
Have you ever wondered, “what is renewable energy?” or “what are all the types of renewable energy?” Wonder no more. Renewable energy very simply refers to the energy found in natural resources like sunlight, air, and water. These renewable energy resources are constantly created and renewed by the earth and will never run out—unlike traditional energy from fossil fuels.
Although renewable resources might create some pollution during their construction or manufacturing process, their overall environmental impact is much lighter than traditional energy created by burning fossil fuels. The cost of these resources has continued to lower as technology improves. So what are the 5 main types of renewable energy? We’re glad you asked! Here are the top 5 sources:
1. Solar Power
One of the most popular types of renewable energy is created from the greatest source of energy we have—the sun. Sunlight is converted into power through a photovoltaic system that uses solar cells to convert sunlight into energy. These solar cells are found in solar panels that more and more homeowners are installing on the roofs of their homes. While the upfront cost isn’t cheap, the good news for homeowners is that solar panels are getting less and less expensive and can be used to power your home and create electricity. Solar power can now be stored as well to guarantee that you will have power when the power goes out. There is also no pollution from solar power energy production.
2. Wind Power
Another fast-growing renewable energy source is wind power. If you’ve ever seen a large wind farm, or even a few wind turbines standing alone against the wind, you know how large these structures are. Although they cause some pollution during their construction, once they have been built, wind turbines create no pollution and are one of the least expensive power sources because they are powered naturally by the wind that blows through the area. The good news is, we’ll never run out of wind because it’s actually considered a type of solar energy. This is because the wind is caused by uneven heating and cooling in the atmosphere. As long as we have the sun, we’ll have wind power as well.
The idea behind wind turbines today is much the same as it was hundreds of years ago when windmills were used to pump water or grind grain. Today, instead of grinding grain and pumping water, wind turbines work by generating electricity as the wind turns the turbines.
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3. Hydroelectric Power
Using water to do work and power our lives is nothing new. Much like windmills, grist mills and sawmills have been around for a long time, relying on the constant flow of water to power their efforts. Today we get hydroelectric power from the creation of dams like the Hoover Dam or Grand Coulee Dam that provide us with significant energy sources. These dams create hydroelectric energy by using moving water to spin turbines that generate electricity. The amount of electricity that is generated can also be regulated by adjusting the flow of water accordingly.
There are two main ways that hydroelectric energy can be created for our use. The first way is through “pumped-storage” hydropower in which water is cycled between upper and lower reservoirs, controlling the production of energy based on demand. The second way is called “run-of-river” hydropower. This type of hydroelectric energy simply channels some of the water in the river to create hydroelectric energy, but it does not dam the river. As long as water continues to flow, there is no end to this renewable energy resource.
4. Geothermal Energy
Another turbine-powered type of renewable energy is geothermal energy. This form of renewable energy is pretty incredible because it takes advantage of the heat our own earth provides. Not only does the sun heat the earth from above, but our earth is also constantly being heated from the inside out. Sometimes we get to see incredible examples of the power inside our earth when volcanoes erupt on the surface.
Geothermal energy works by pumping water underground where it is naturally heated by the earth and turned into steam. The steam that rises spins a turbine which creates electricity we can use. For countries rich in geothermal regions, geothermal energy is a great option for a renewable source of energy. On a smaller scale, geothermal plants can simply be used to regulate the temperature of buildings by using the consistent temperature of the earth.
The final answer to “what are the main types of renewable energy?” is biofuel. Although both biofuel and fossil fuel come from organic matter, biofuel is made from organic matter like animals or plants that were recently alive. This resource is considered renewable because we can regrow the plants that are used for biofuel.
Most biofuel is found in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, which is used to power vehicles like cars and trucks. Although it does release carbon into the atmosphere, biofuel is considered “carbon neutral” because, in theory, the plants that are planted to replace the ones that have been burned absorb the carbon from the burned plants, offsetting the pollution from the biofuel.
Renewable Energy for a Better Future
Now that you know the answer to “what are the 5 main types of renewable energy?” you’re ready to take action and do your part to reduce your impact on the environment and lessen your carbon footprint. At Spring Power & Gas we know that every little effort adds up and that finding renewable resources is important for protecting the future of our planet. Learn more about Spring Power & Gas and how you can offset electric and natural gas usage with wind RECs and carbon offsets.