Renewable Energy 101: Everything You Need to Know

These days renewable energy is talked about a lot

Right now, you’re probably thinking about solar panels baking in the sun or wind turbines spinning lazily on the horizon.

Sure, that’s the gist, but what exactly is renewable energy and why is it suddenly becoming so important?

Here’s your guide to the ins and outs of renewables, what they are, how they’re harnessed, and why they’re important for the future of our planet. 

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy that comes from a source that cannot be depleted. In other words, you can’t run out of it – no matter how much you use it. 

For example, wind power and solar power are two types of renewable energy that are becoming increasingly popular, and their use more widespread. What makes these power sources renewable – is that the wind and the sun are always going to blow or shine – making them ideal sources for sustainable energy. If you are moving to Texas, you’ll be able to switch to renewable energy plans right away since they already use solar and wind power for their electricity needs.

Traditionally, energy was created by burning coal or other fossil fuels. This method did and still does create a lot of useful, reliable energy. However, not only are fossil fuels limited and scarce, but they’re also harmful to the planet in a number of different ways. But more on that later. 

How does renewable energy compare to traditional energy sources?

Compared to the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, renewable energy sources present much less of a danger to human existence because they have close to zero impact on the environment and do not emit any harmful CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. 

Instead, they use natural resources, like sunlight, wind, and water to generate an endless and sustainable source of power.

What are the different types of renewable energy?

There are a host of different ways to harness sustainable and renewable energy. Here are some common types of green energy sources available today:

  • Wind energy
  • Solar energy
  • Tidal and hydro energy
  • Geothermal energy
  • Biomass energy 

What has renewable energy got to do with climate change?

In short, a lot. 

One of the main drivers behind climate change is the world’s reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels for energy. The United Nations estimates that 80% of global energy and 66% of electrical generation are derived from fossil fuels. And alarmingly, around 2 thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions come from burning those non-renewable fossil fuels. 

Given that non-renewable energy cannot be replenished and is also contributing to pollution, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity, it’s only a matter of time before the world switches over to more renewable sources of energy. 

Why do we still rely on non-renewables?

Burning fossil fuels to create energy has been the default way of producing power and energy ever since the 1880s. That was back when coal was first used to produce electricity for factories and residential homes. 

These days coal-fired and nuclear energy plants are still used on a large scale due to industrial and political reasons. While this is slowly starting to change, an overwhelming majority of energy is still produced by non-renewables and this is also unlikely to change for some time.

Why should we switch to renewable energy?

Renewable energy is already being used around the world and in Australia. In fact, depending on where you live, a portion of your energy might already come from a renewable source. In 2019, it’s estimated about 21% of Australia’s total electricity generation came from renewables. But this is only set to grow in the years to come. 

Switching to renewable energy will have a number of positive impacts on your life and the broader community:

  • Green energy is cheaper than non-renewables 
  • Stops dangerous greenhouse gasses clogging up the atmosphere 
  • Helps stop air and land pollution
  • Investing in an emerging sector and creating new jobs 

How can I engage with this growing industry?

Switching to renewable energy is a likely path for many countries including Australia where big steps have already been taken to expand the green energy sector. 

But there are ways you can get involved with the green energy sector without having to be a politician or an energy giant. From choosing to go with greener energy solutions for your home, or business, to investing in greener energy solutions yourself, there are countless ways of supporting the growing sector. 

Many companies are also starting to invest in the growth of the renewable energy sector. 

Whether that’s by installing solar farm equipment, building wind farms or investing in new technologies, companies involved in the construction and development of these green energy solutions are set to grow manyfold. 

The future of renewables 

The future of renewables is bright. 

Major solar farm projects, wind turbines, and geothermal power plants are popping up over the country, offering new opportunities for growth, investment, and a cleaner future. 

With a great deal of science, technology, and innovation, the renewable energy sector is set to become a major driving force behind cleaner, more affordable power.