Renewable energy pertains to reliable, affordable energy generated from natural resources, like water, wind, solar power, and geothermal heat. They are termed renewable because they cannot be depleted and are naturally replenished.Many countries are now resorting to harnessing and utilizing renewable energy to keep up with the demands for energy. There has been a steady increase in the generation of energy from hydroelectric and geothermal sources, for example. In 2007 alone, more than 100 billion dollars was used in investments in renewable energy projects, according to the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report released by REN21. Eighteen percent of the energy consumption all over the world came from renewable energy sources in 2006, of which biomass and hydropower were highest contributors. There was also a 50 % increase in the electricity generation capacity worldwide from 2004 to 2007, which is now estimated at 240 gigawatts. Why has there been an increase in both the development and the demand for renewable energy? Well, these sources improve the energy security of countries worldwide, with the production of an alternative energy source that is sustainable and less expensive. In addition, renewable energy is an attractive option because it brings minimal pollution, as there are no toxic gas emissions or byproducts produced, as opposed to the conventional means of energy generation. Renewable energy is far more climate-friendly.
Renewable energy sources comprise the traditional biomass, hydroelectricity, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind power, and ocean energy. These different renewable sources possess particular characteristics that affects how and where they are used. For instance, since the power output increases considerably as the wind speed increases, wind farms and turbines are best run in high altitude sites, where the wind speed is fast, strong, and a little bit more constant.
Similarly, since geothermal energy comes from tapping heat from the Earth’s crust, geothermal power plants are best built in areas where hot underground steam or water can be easily tapped, such as in parts of the United States, Chile, and the Philippines, to name a few.
In the recent years, there was an observed quicker growth in the production and use of renewable energy sources compared to the past trends. This is attributed to the considerable increase in prices for oil and natural gases worldwide, prompting governments to come up with strategies to meet the continuous demand, while avoiding the depletion of resources in order to obtain conventional fuel. The use of renewable fuels is still expected to rise over the coming years, with the onset of renewable energy policies, legislations and commercialization. These include the incentives for consumers shifting to use of renewable energy sources, the tax imposition on fossil fuels, the grant funds issued by some governments for research and development, and the availability of loan programs.