Renewable energy comprises about 12% of total US electricity production. Using clean energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power is humanity’s best chance of surviving the challenging decades ahead.
So how does renewable energy work? It all depends on which mechanism of power production you are talking about. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power all function differently. They are all considered to be renewable.
Renewable energy sources are called such because they don’t get exhausted over time. Unlike fossil fuel sources which will run out, renewable energy sources will last forever if harvested sustainably. Here’s how each works.
How Does Renewable Energy Work for Solar?
Solar energy is the most efficient and clean form of renewable energy. It can work in a variety of different ways. Here are a few forms of solar energy.
One of the most common forms of industrial solar is concentrated solar power which involves giant mirrors. The mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays on a fixed point (a water tank). The water turns to steam which turns a turbine.
Industrial solar plants can also be photovoltaic. Photovoltaic panels cover large swaths of land. They use active solar energy to convert the sun’s energy straight into electricity.
Like industrial solar, residential solar energy takes more than one form. Here are a couple of options for residential solar.
Passive Solar Heating
For passive solar heating, all you need is insulation and glass windows. Install multiple windows on the side of your house that gets the most sun. The sun’s rays will travel through the glass and create a natural greenhouse effect.
This greenhouse effect will heat the interior of your home without any electricity production. The simple principles of thermodynamics are the only things in play here.
Photovoltaic Solar Power
Photovoltaic solar for residential use is the same as for industrial use but on a much smaller scale. You mount photovoltaic panels on your roof which convert the sun’s energy into electricity via the photovoltaic effect.
The hardest and most important part is installing the panels themselves. If you want the most stress-free process, get a Blue Raven installation to make your installation process easier.
How Does Renewable Wind Power Work?
Wind power is another simple alternative energy production method. All it takes is a giant windmill in a windy area. The wind blows and turns the blades on the windmill.
In the center of the windmill is a turbine. As the blades turn, the turbine generates usable electricity. Wind power works best on a large scale with multiple windmills.
What About Hydroelectric Power?
Hydroelectric power involves a running water source such as a river or stream. The larger the flow of water, the more electricity is produced. A dam is often constructed and water runs through it.
Within the dam is a turbine. The turbine operates much like the old water-wheel mills of old. As the water passes over the turbine’s blades, it spins producing electricity.
How Does Biomass Work?
Biomass will be a renewable energy source for as long as humans produce waste or crops. Biomass comes in many forms from burning wood waste, to using biodiesel and ethanol.
Anything combustible made from organic material is biomass. The biomass is burned to heat water and turn a turbine which produces electricity.
How Does Geothermal Energy Work?
Geothermal energy comes from the Earth’s molten core. It is not very common in the United States except for in places where the Earth’s crust is very thin or there is volcanic activity.
Geothermal energy is often used to heat buildings or water. More recently, geothermal power plants use the Earth’s internal heat to boil water, turn a turbine and produce electricity.
Renewables Will Save Society From Itself
Unless we make a global shift to renewable energy sources, we will never live in harmony with the environment. Next time someone asks you “how does renewable energy work?” you will have all the information they need.
Use the information in this guide to select the best types of renewable energy for your daily life. Chances are you live in an area with at least one of these power options. Check back with our site for other great info!