Traditional American energy resources like coal, oil, and natural gas, are available in limited supplies and can be classified as non-renewable energy. However, renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydro power, can be replenished naturally over relatively short periods of time. Today, renewable energy (also called green energy) is more than a buzzword or a fad – there is a growing need for green energy and a call from consumers to increase America’s use of renewable resources. Green energy comes from natural resources like sunlight, wind, rain, and geothermal heat – energy sources that are constantly being replenished. In addition, the impact on the environment is significantly less than traditional fossil fuels.
The types of green energy that can be used are varied and available all over the globe, meaning that even rural or remote areas could use them for electricity:
- Solar. Produced by harnessing the energy of the sun, solar involves using solar panels to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity. The sun provides massive amounts of solar energy, but the trick is in storing the energy for later use. This is where a lot of current solar research is focused.
- Wind. By pushing a turbine, wind can produce green energy. Because stronger winds can produce more energy, high-altitude areas just offshore tend to be the best place to collect this kind of energy.
- Hydroelectric. Also called hydropower, this kind of energy uses the earth’s water cycles to produce energy, including evaporation, rainfall, and tides. The force of the water running through something like a dam can produce large amounts of energy. As you might expect, hydroelectric power requires a steady amount of rainfall to provide a regular source of water.
- Geothermal. Heat has been radiating from the center of the earth for billions of years. Since the 1960s, the US has tapped that heat as a source of renewable energy.
- Biomass and Biofuel. Some types of natural products, such as wood waste, sawdust, and agricultural waste, can be converted into energy in a way that emits far less greenhouse gas than traditional fossil fuels. These products, called biomass, are made into biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.
By incorporating these kinds of green energy into how we make and use electricity, we can get the power we need while also ensuring that the environment stays safe for future generations.