Climate change awareness is influencing the global economy in a variety of ways.
Governments are planning to cut emissions, investors are analyzing the environmental performance of businesses, and consumers are growing aware of their carbon footprints. However, regardless of shareholders, fossil fuel energy generation and consumption are one of the largest contributors to emissions.
Therefore, the importance of renewable energy sources has never been greater than it is today.
The Five Renewable Energy Types
Renewable energy methods collect the energy of the sun, wind, and Earth’s core and convert it into heat, electricity, and fuel.
The above infographic utilizes data from Lazard, Ember, and other sources to provide a comprehensive overview of the five most important categories of renewable energy:
Hydroelectricity is the largest renewable source of electricity, followed by wind and then solar power.
In 2021, the five major sources accounted for approximately 28% of worldwide electricity generation, with wind and solar surpassing the 10% threshold for the first time.
The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is calculated by dividing the lifetime costs of a new utility-scale plant by its total electricity production. The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for solar and the wind is about one-fifth that of coal ($167/MWh), indicating that new solar and wind projects are now significantly cheaper to develop and operate than new coal plants over a longer time horizon.
Here is a closer look at the five categories of renewable energy and how they function.
Large rotor blades erected at great heights on both land and water are utilized by wind turbines to harvest the kinetic energy of the wind.
When wind rushes over a blade, the air pressure on one side of the blade lowers, causing a force known as lift to draw the blade downward. The difference in air pressure between the two sides causes the blades to revolve, resulting in the rotor’s rotation.
The rotor is coupled to a generator turbine that converts the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity.
Solar technologies turn the sun’s light or electromagnetic waves into electricity.
In photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, a semiconductor wafer with a positive side and a negative side forms an electric field. When sunlight strikes a cell, the semiconductor absorbs the energy and transfers it as electrons. These electrons are captured in the form of an electric current by the electric field.
The capacity of a solar system to create energy is contingent on the semiconductor material and environmental factors such as heat, dirt, and shade.
Geothermal energy is derived directly from the Earth’s core; heat from the core boils subsurface reservoirs of water, which are referred to as geothermal resources.
Geothermal power facilities typically use wells to extract hot water from geothermal resources and transform it into steam for a turbine generator. The recovered water and steam can then be reinjected, making it a source of sustainable energy.
Similar to wind turbines, hydropower plants use a turbine generator to convert the kinetic energy of flowing water into electricity.
Hydro plants are often located near bodies of water and utilize diversion structures such as dams to alter the water flow. Flowing water’s volume and change in elevation, or head, determine the generation of electricity.
And vice way, greater water volumes and higher heads produce more energy and electricity.
Since our ancestors discovered how to build fires, humans have likely employed biomass or bioenergy as a source of heat.
Typically, biomass—organic material such as wood, dried leaves, and agricultural waste—is burned, but it is termed renewable since it can be regrown or refilled. The combustion of biomass in a boiler generates high-pressure steam, which turns a turbine generator to generate power.
Additionally, biomass is transformed into liquid or gaseous transportation fuels. However, biomass emissions vary with the type of material burned and are frequently higher than those of other clean sources.
When Will Renewable Energy Become Predominant?
Despite the recent expansion of renewable energy sources, fossil fuels continue to dominate the global energy balance.
The majority of nations are in the early phases of the energy transition, and only a select few derive a substantial amount of their electricity from clean sources. However, the current decade may experience even greater expansion than recent record-breaking years.
The IEA predicts that by 2026, worldwide renewable electricity capacity would increase by 60% from 2020 levels to exceed 4,800 gigawatts, which is equal to the current fossil fuel and nuclear power output combined. Consequently, regardless of when renewables will take over, the global energy market will continue to evolve.
As the race to renewable energy in the future becomes more heated, it raises and overflows a critical question about how sustainable the planet can be. Companies like Tesla and Razer are both leaders in their respective industries, according to the sustainability index. It may not be required right now, but it will undoubtedly be in the next decades depending on how sustainable your firm is.