What Is Renewable Energy?

renewable energy sources

What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is derived from natural resources that are inherently replenished on a human timescale. Unlike non-renewable sources like coal and oil, renewable energy sources regenerate naturally, ensuring a sustainable supply. As concerns about climate change and environmental degradation grow, the transition to renewable energy becomes increasingly vital.

Types of Renewable Energy

Solar Energy

Solar energy harnesses the power of the sun. Photovoltaic cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. Solar farms, with vast arrays of solar panels, are becoming more common as the technology becomes more affordable.

solar panels

Wind Energy

Wind energy uses the kinetic force of the wind to turn turbines, which then generate electricity. Wind farms can be found both onshore and offshore, with the latter capturing the more consistent and powerful sea breezes.


Hydropower, or hydroelectric power, uses the energy of flowing or falling water to generate electricity. Dams are often built to store water in a reservoir; when released, this water flows through turbines, producing energy.

hoover dam hydroelectric power plant


Biomass energy is derived from organic materials. This includes wood, agricultural waste, and even animal manure. When these materials are burned or biologically processed, they release energy.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy taps into the Earth’s internal heat. By drilling deep into the Earth’s crust, we can access steam and hot water, which can be used to drive electric generators.

Ocean Energy

The ocean offers multiple sources of renewable energy. Tidal energy harnesses the gravitational forces of the moon and sun, wave energy captures the power of the surface water motion, and ocean thermal energy exploits the temperature difference between the warmer surface and cooler deep ocean water.

Advantages of Renewable Energy

When dissecting renewable energy, it’s vital to understand the advantages it offers. 

Environmental Benefits

Renewable energy sources emit little to no greenhouse gases, making them a cleaner option compared to fossil fuels. This helps in reducing the overall carbon footprint and combating global warming.

Economic Benefits

Renewable energy can lead to job creation in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance. As the demand for green energy solutions rises, economies can benefit from this growing industry.


By harnessing the power of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, we are making a conscious effort to safeguard our resources for future generations. This proactive approach to energy production guarantees that our descendants will have access to sustainable and clean energy sources, ensuring a brighter and greener future for all.

Diversification of Energy Sources

By relying on a diverse mix of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, we can effectively reduce our dependence on a single energy type. This approach not only enhances energy security but also strengthens the resilience of our energy systems, making them more adaptable and reliable in the face of potential disruptions. Embracing this approach is crucial for a sustainable and future-proof energy future.

Why Renewable Energy Is Important

Climate Change Mitigation

With the alarming increase in levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is of utmost importance to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. By harnessing the power of the sun, wind, and other sustainable resources, we can effectively mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change and safeguard the future of our planet. 

Health Benefits

Reduced burning of fossil fuels has several significant benefits for the environment and public health. By decreasing the usage of fossil fuels, we can significantly reduce air pollutants, leading to cleaner air and a healthier environment. This, in turn, can help alleviate respiratory and cardiovascular issues, creating better public health outcomes for communities around the world.

Energy Independence

By actively utilizing local renewable energy sources, countries have the potential to significantly reduce their heavy dependence on foreign oil imports. Embracing a diversified energy portfolio through renewable sources empowers nations to achieve greater energy independence and resilience while simultaneously promoting a greener and more sustainable world for future generations.

Clean Energy vs Renewable Energy

The terms “clean energy” and “renewable energy” are often used interchangeably, but they represent different concepts within the sustainable energy landscape. So, “What is renewable energy?” and “What is clean energy?” 

Renewable Energy: Naturally Replenishing Sources

Renewable energy comes from natural processes that are continually replenished, including:

  • Solar Energy
  • Wind Energy
  • Hydroelectric Power
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal Energy

These sources are sustainable over time and generally have lower environmental impacts compared to fossil fuels.

Clean Energy: Low Emission Energy Sources

Clean energy refers to energy sources that produce minimal or no greenhouse gases, encompassing:

  • Renewable Energy: All forms are considered clean due to their low emissions.
  • Nuclear Energy: Generates significant power with minimal emissions but raises concerns about radioactive waste.
  • Innovative Technologies: Such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and clean hydrogen production, which can mitigate emissions from traditional energy sources.

Intersection and Divergence

The intersection of clean and renewable energy lies in their shared goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The divergence is that renewable energy focuses on perpetually available sources, while clean energy is more inclusive, covering any energy source that minimizes environmental impact, including non-renewable sources with low emissions like nuclear.

nuclear reactor

When Was Renewable Energy First Used?

Renewable energy in various forms has been used by humans for thousands of years, long before the term “renewable energy” was coined. Here are a few historical instances:

  • Wind Power: The earliest known use of wind power is the sailboat. Evidence of sailboats dates back to around 5000 BC. Windmills were later developed and have been used since 2000 BC to pump water and grind grain.
  • Solar Power: Solar energy has been used in passive forms since ancient times by civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, and Native Americans, who designed their buildings to capture the warmth of the sunlight. The first solar collector was built by Swiss scientist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure in the 1760s.
  • Hydropower: Water wheels for grinding grain have been in use since about 2000 BC. More advanced forms of hydropower, such as dam-based hydroelectric systems, started to become common in the late 19th century.
  • Biomass: Biomass, which includes wood, charcoal, manure, and other organic materials, has been used for heating and cooking since the discovery of fire.
  • Geothermal: Geothermal energy has been used for bathing in hot springs for thousands of years. However, the first attempt to generate electricity from geothermal energy did not occur until the early 20th century.

The concept of renewable energy as a part of a wider environmental movement, emphasizing the need for sustainable energy sources as an alternative to fossil fuels, gained significant traction in the 20th century, particularly after the oil crises of the 1970s. This period marked the beginning of more concerted efforts to develop and implement renewable energy technologies on a larger scale.

Facts About Renewable Energy

  • Cost Reduction in Solar Technology: The price of solar panels has plummeted by approximately 80% in the last 10 years, making them increasingly affordable for widespread use.
  • Size of Wind Turbines: Some modern wind turbines reach heights of up to 200 meters, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty, allowing for more efficient energy capture from higher altitude winds.
  • Global Leaders in Capacity: China, the United States, and Brazil are among the leading nations in terms of installed renewable energy capacity, with China being a global frontrunner in both solar and wind energy.
  • Renewable Energy Employment: The renewable energy sector is a significant job creator, with millions of people worldwide employed in industries such as solar panel manufacturing and wind farm maintenance.
  • Hydropower: It is one of the oldest and largest sources of renewable power, accounting for a significant percentage of the world’s total electricity generation.
  • Advancements in Storage: Battery storage technology advancements are enabling more efficient storage of renewable energy, addressing the challenge of intermittent supply from sources like solar and wind.
  • ​​Impact on Carbon Emissions: Renewable energy sources have a significantly lower carbon footprint during operation compared to fossil fuels, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. Additionally, the adoption of renewable energy technologies plays a crucial role in carbon offset programs.

Renewable Energy Solutions

Infrastructure Development

Transitioning to renewables necessitates substantial infrastructure changes, such as constructing new facilities powered by renewable sources and upgrading the existing grid to accommodate the evolving energy landscape. These developments play a vital role in enabling a sustainable future and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Policy Support

Government incentives, such as tax breaks and grants, play a crucial role in expediting the widespread adoption of renewable energy. By providing financial support and incentivizing the transition to cleaner sources of power, these measures not only facilitate the development of sustainable energy solutions but also contribute to the overall reduction of harmful emissions and the preservation of our planet for future generations.

Research and Development

Continuous innovation and ongoing research and development efforts are crucial in order to make renewable energy sources not only more efficient but also more affordable and widely accessible. By constantly exploring new technologies, refining existing systems, and finding innovative approaches, we can accelerate the transition towards a sustainable future.

Public Awareness

Educational campaigns play a crucial role in raising awareness about the immense advantages of renewable energy. By delivering valuable information and insights, these initiatives empower the public to make informed decisions, thereby driving the demand and acceptance of renewable energy sources.