April 29, 2016
Renewable Energy Persuasive Essay
12 April 2016
Out with the Old, In with the Re(new)able
The United States has been operating as a country using limited fossil fuels, but what happens when it all runs out? Would it not be more beneficial to never find out? Renewable energy, energy that is not depleted after its use, is limitless and more sustainable than any other source in energy history. To initiate the clean energy movement is expensive, but there are countless benefits ranging from individual to global impacts in going completely renewable. The first recorded use of renewable energy was harnessing wind power to drive ships over water about 7000 years ago (Darling). However, renewable energy has been around as long as Earth has existed: wind, sun, geothermal, biomass and many more. Clean energy sources can be harnessed to produce electricity, process heat, fuel and other chemicals with significantly less impact on the environment. In 2014, renewable energy sources accounted for fourteen percent of America’s total electricity use (“Renewable Energy Sources”), a four percent incline from the prior year. Completely diverting from fossil fuels to renewable energy clearly is not a new concept for a select few of innovative countries. A few countries, for example, are Costa Rica, Norway and Iceland, all of whom have ran on renewable energy for the entire 2015 calendar year, diving deep into their own land’s resources and utilizing volcanic presence to produce energy (Rosecrance & Thompson 7). Following in the footsteps of Costa Rica and a few other third world countries, major economic powerhouses and biggest users of fossil fuels like the United States should convert to clean energy as a way to benefit the economy, environment and overall health of the country.
As a consumer, one is worried about how abandoning a safe form of energy and transitioning to something new can help or hurt their wallet. Not only can renewable energy help save money, it can also help make money. A 150 billion dollar investment into this new industry would result in 1.7 million job opportunities, reducing the unemployment rate in America by an entire percentage (Pollin & Heintz). The reason for the potential high employment rate is because the industry is labor intensive in the means of installation and maintenance, requiring a lot of manpower for ultimate success. However, the more we wait the more future benefits we are currently losing. In an American Solar Energy Association (ASES) report in 2009, they stated “the 2008 predictions for renewable energy industry in 2030 are significantly lower than the 2007 predictions (National Research Council 169).” Unlike fossil fuels, which are subject to volatile pricing fluctuating over time depending on the market, renewable energy is relatively “free” after installation, using natural resources. The process of transportation and maintenance is minimized allowing prices to stay constant throughout the years. The only way price can head is down; for instance, clean energy is more affordable than 25 years ago. In particular, wind energy, the fastest growing source of power, prices have declined from forty cents per kilowatt per hour to less than five cents per kilowatt per hour (“The Energy Story”), a remarkable change and a huge upside in favor of the conversion. As time continues, technology should continue its progression resulting in cheaper mediums to acquire the energy. Despite of this, the conversion should take place now so results are maximized for the future. All in all, clean energy can both save Americans money while help them make money, the perfect win-win for producers and consumers alike.
Abstaining from burning countless, yet limited fossil fuels every day and polluting the environment is the single biggest benefactor for moving towards a cleaner approach. Not only would greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other pollutants that cause smog and acid rain, reach minimal levels, but also the country is consequently assisting in the reduction of the global warming speed and effects. Unlike fossil fuels, which are unable to be replenished easily, renewable energy is limitless, feeding from natural resources. With the global and national population expected to continue rising, the demand for energy will follow. There is a multitude of different approaches to acquire renewable energy including the most used types: solar and wind power. Specifically, solar energy is the epitome of sustainability and efficiency, calculated through production and prices. Despite the massive amounts of energy used yearly nationwide, “the sunlight falling on the United States in one day contains more than twice the energy we consume in an entire year ( The Energy Story ).” As for wind power, “California [alone] has enough wind gusts to produce 11 percent of the world’s wind electricity ( The Energy Story).” Wind turbines take up a lot of space but still allow the area around it, usually farms, to be used regularly. In the United Kingdom, for comparison, the government set a target for renewable energy to make up 15 percent of their total energy expense by 2020. This motive results in a 34 percent cut in the country’s carbon emission in the same time span (National Research Council 180). Needless to say, renewable energy will make landmark strides in the progression towards a cleaner, better environment. The most important thing on this Earth is this Earth, and it’s society’s job to maintain it.
As well as helping the environment and wallets, renewable energy can help with everyone’s health. By cutting the emission of greenhouse gasses and fossil fuels, air pollution decreases. Air pollution, primarily those contributed through coal burning power plants emitting fine-particulate pollutants, is most associated with causing health problems, chiefly lung cancer. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) predicts that conversion, or even standards, will prevent at least 100,000 heart attacks and asthma attacks per year. Additionally, EPA also estimates a projected 1,100 billion dollar income in health benefits due to avoiding illnesses and deaths (U.S. EPA). As a form of partnership, the health industry could invest a portion of this money into the clean air movement due to its beneficial health impacts and help make installation cheaper. A majority of these pollutants are associated with dangerous levels of climate change, this century’s biggest threat to human health. Climate change, a change in global climate patterns, “will increasingly jeopardize the fundamental requirements for health, including clean urban air, safe and sufficient drinking-water, a secure and nutritious food supply, and adequate shelter (World Health Organization).” Climate change is the main contributor and accelerator towards global warming. Global warming increases the risk of two deadly diseases: Plague and Ebola, to name a few. For Plague, changes in temperature and rainfall will affect rodent populations as well as the infected fleas they carry. Additionally, Ebola outbreaks tend to follow serious downpours or droughts, a likely result of climate change (Biello). The movement would not only lower the pollution rate and risk of infection, but also save countless lives across the globe during the process.
America, along with most other countries, needs to initiate their plans towards a more sustainable, cleaner form of energy. Renewable energy helps increase the production of the economy through the addition of million of jobs. Simultaneously, energy prices would be lower, also helping the consumer save money. However, it is vital to start now. The longer the wait, the less benefits are reaped. Likewise, the clean air movement will mark the beginning of recovery for the environment. Greenhouse gases and other emission will reach all time lows, possibly zero. This deduction is important to slow the rate of climate change and global warming. Stopping climate change and gas emissions in its tracks would also lead to more health benefits. There are dozens of deadly diseases and carriers that spawn from the irregular climate patterns. Also, climate change could affect physiological needs by lessening safe drinking water, food supply and shelter. The United States has a reputation of being an innovator, a leader for many countries. Why has it been so lackadaisical with something so important to everything in today’s society? It has a history of being scared of change; people are too comfortable with life as it is, but it could be better. With the United States recently moving in the right direction, it will be better.
Biello, David. “Diseases Due to Climate Change.” Scientific American . N.p., 8 Oct. 2008. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.
Darling, David. “Wind Energy.” Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy . N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
National Research Council, and Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States . Washington, D.C.: National Academies, 2010. Print.
Pollin, Robert, and James Heintz. “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy.” Center for American Progress . N.p., 18 June 2009. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
“Renewable Energy Sources – Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy – Energy Information Administration.” EIA . US Energy Information Administration, 17 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
Rosecrance, Richard, and Peter Thompson. “Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment.” Annual Review of Political Science 6.1 (2003): 7. UNEP . United Nations Environment Programme, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
“The Energy Story – Chapter 17: Renewable Energy vs. Fossil Fuels.” The Energy Story . California Energy Commission, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.
U.S. EPA. “Cleaning Up Toxic Air Pollution.” Benefits and Costs of Cleaning up Toxic Air Pollution (n.d.): n. pag. EPA . Environment Protection Agency. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
World Health Organization. Renewable Energy (n.d.): 7. WHO . World Health Organization, 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
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This Is the Future: Essay on Renewable Energy
Today the world population depends on nonrenewable energy resources. With the constantly growing demand for energy, natural gas, coal, and oil get used up and cannot replenish themselves.
Aside from limited supply, heavy reliance on fossil fuels causes planetary-scale damage. Sea levels are rising. Heat-trapping carbon dioxide increased the warming effect by 45% from 1990 to 2019. The only way to tackle the crisis is to start the transition to renewable energy now.
What is renewable energy? It is energy that comes from replenishable natural resources like sunlight, wind, thermal energy, moving water, and organic materials. Renewable resources do not run out. They are cost-efficient and renew faster than they are consumed. How does renewable energy save money? It creates new jobs, supports economic growth, and decreases inequitable fossil fuel subsidies.
At the current rates of production, some fossil fuels will not even last another century. This is why the future depends on reliable and eco-friendly resources. This renewable energy essay examines the types and benefits of renewable energy and its role in creating a sustainable future.
Top 5 Types of Renewable Energy: The Apollo Alliance Rankings
There are many natural resources that can provide people with clean energy. To make a list of the five most booming types of renewable energy on the market today, this energy essay uses data gathered by the Apollo Alliance. It is a project that aims to revolutionize the energy sector of the US with a focus on clean energy.
The Apollo Alliance unites businesses, community leaders, and environmental experts to support the transition to more sustainable and efficient living. Their expert opinion helped to compile information about the most common and cost-competitive sources of renewable energy. However, if you want to get some more in-depth research, you can entrust it to an essay writer . Here’s a quick overview of renewable energy resources that have a huge potential to substitute fossil fuels.
Solar Renewable Energy
The most abundant and practically endless resource is solar energy. It can be turned into electricity by photovoltaic systems that convert radiant energy captured from sunlight. Solar farms could generate enough energy for thousands of homes.
An endless supply is the main benefit of solar energy. The rate at which the Earth receives it is 10,000 times greater than people can consume it, as a paper writer points out based on their analysis of research findings. It can substitute fossil fuels and deliver people electricity, hot water, cooling, heat, etc.
The upfront investment in solar systems is rather expensive. This is one of the primary limitations that prevent businesses and households from switching to this energy source at once. However, the conclusion of solar energy is still favorable. In the long run, it can significantly decrease energy costs. Besides, solar panels are gradually becoming more affordable to manufacture and adopt, even at an individual level.
Wind Renewable Energy
Another clean energy source is wind. Wind farms use the kinetic energy of wind flow to convert it into electricity. The Appolo Alliance notes that, unlike solar farms, they can’t be placed in any location. To stay cost-competitive, wind farms should operate in windy areas. Although not all countries have the right conditions to use them on a large scale, wind farms might be introduced for some energy diversity. The technical potential for it is still tremendous.
Wind energy is clean and safe for the environment. It does not pollute the atmosphere with any harmful products compared to nonrenewable energy resources.
The investment in wind energy is also economically wise. If you examine the cost of this energy resource in an essay on renewable resources, you’ll see that wind farms can deliver electricity at a price lower than nonrenewable resources. Besides, since wind isn’t limited, its cost won’t be influenced by the imbalance of supply and demand.
Geothermal Renewable Energy
Natural renewable resources are all around us, even beneath the ground. Geothermal energy can be produced from the thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Sometimes heat reaches the surface naturally, for example, in the form of geysers. But it can also be used by geothermal power plants. The Earth’s heat gets captured and converted to steam that turns a turbine. As a result, we get geothermal energy.
This source provides a significant energy supply while having low emissions and no significant footprint on land. A factsheet and essay on renewable resources state that geothermal plants will increase electricity production from 17 billion kWh in 2020 to 49.8 billion kWh in 2050.
However, this method is not without limitations. While writing a renewable resources essay, consider that geothermal energy can be accessed only in certain regions. Geological hotspots are off-limits as they are vulnerable to earthquakes. Yet, the quantity of geothermal resources is likely to grow as technology advances.
Ocean Renewable Energy
The kinetic and thermal energy of the ocean is a robust resource. Ocean power systems rely on:
- Changes in sea level;
- Wave energy;
- Water surface temperatures;
- The energy released from seawater and freshwater mixing.
Ocean energy is more predictable compared to other resources. As estimated by EPRI, it has the potential to produce 2640 TWh/yr. However, an important point to consider in a renewable energy essay is that the kinetic energy of the ocean varies. Yet, since it is ruled by the moon’s gravity, the resource is plentiful and continues to be attractive for the energy industry.
Wave energy systems are still developing. The Apollo energy corporation explores many prototypes. It is looking for the most reliable and robust solution that can function in the harsh ocean environment.
Another limitation of ocean renewable energy is that it may cause disruptions to marine life. Although its emissions are minimal, the system requires large equipment to be installed in the ocean.
Biomass Renewable Energy
Organic materials like wood and charcoal have been used for heating and lighting for centuries. There are a lot more types of biomass: from trees, cereal straws, and grass to processed waste. All of them can produce bioenergy.
Biomass can be converted into energy through burning or using methane produced during the natural process of decomposition. In an essay on renewable sources of energy, the opponents of the method point out that biomass energy is associated with carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, the amount of released greenhouse gases is much lower compared to nonrenewable energy use.
While biomass is a reliable source of energy, it is only suitable for limited applications. If used too extensively, it might lead to disruptions in biodiversity, a negative impact on land use, and deforestation. Still, Apollo energy includes biomass resources that become waste and decompose quickly anyway. These are organic materials like sawdust, chips from sawmills, stems, nut shells, etc.
What Is the Apollo Alliance?
The Apollo Alliance is a coalition of business leaders, environmental organizations, labor unions, and foundations. They all unite their efforts in a single project to harness clean energy in new, innovative ways.
Why Apollo? Similarly to President John F. Kennedy’s Apollo Project, Apollo energy is a strong visionary initiative. It is a dare, a challenge. The alliance calls for the integrity of science, research, technology, and the public to revolutionize the energy industry.
The project has a profound message. Apollo energy solutions are not only about the environment or energy. They are about building a new economy. The alliance gives hope to building a secure future for Americans.
What is the mission of the Apollo Alliance?
- Achieve energy independence with efficient and limitless resources of renewable energy.
- Pioneer innovation in the energy sector.
- Build education campaigns and communication to inspire new perceptions of energy.
- Create new jobs.
- Reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.
- Build healthier and happier communities.
The transformation of the industry will lead to planet-scale changes. The Apollo energy corporation can respond to the global environmental crisis and prevent climate change.
Apollo renewable energy also has the potential to become a catalyst for social change. With more affordable energy and new jobs in the industry, people can bridge the inequality divide and build stronger communities.
Why Renewable Energy Is Important for the Future
Renewable energy resources have an enormous potential to cover people’s energy needs on a global scale. Unlike fossil fuels, they are available in abundance and generate minimal to no emissions.
The burning of fossil fuels caused a lot of environmental problems—from carbon dioxide emissions to ocean acidification. Research this issue in more detail with academic assistance from essay writer online . You can use it to write an essay on renewable sources of energy to explain the importance of change and its global impact.
Despite all the damage people caused to the planet, there’s still hope to mitigate further repercussions. Every renewable energy essay adds to the existing body of knowledge we have today and advances research in the field. Here are the key advantages and disadvantages of alternative energy resources people should keep in mind.
Advantage of Green Energy
The use of renewable energy resources has a number of benefits for the climate, human well-being, and economy:
- Renewable energy resources have little to no greenhouse gas emissions. Even if we take into account the manufacturing and recycling of the technologies involved, their impact on the environment is significantly lower compared to fossil fuels.
- Renewable energy promotes self-sufficiency and reduces a country’s dependence on foreign fuel. According to a study, a 1% increase in the use of renewable energy increases economic growth by 0.21%. This gives socio-economic stability.
- Due to a lack of supply of fossil fuels and quick depletion of natural resources, prices for nonrenewable energy keep increasing. In contrast, green energy is limitless and can be produced locally. In the long run, this allows decreasing the cost of energy.
- Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy doesn’t emit air pollutants. This positively influences health and quality of life.
- The emergence of green energy plants creates new jobs. Thus, Apollo energy solutions support the growth of local communities. By 2030, the transition to renewable energy is expected to generate 10.3 million new jobs.
- Renewable energy allows decentralization of the industry. Communities get their independent sources of energy that are more flexible in terms of distribution.
- Renewable energy supports equality. It has the potential to make energy more affordable to low-income countries and expand access to energy even in remote and less fortunate neighborhoods.
Disadvantages of Non-Conventional Energy Sources
No technology is perfect. Renewable energy resources have certain drawbacks too:
- The production of renewable energy depends on weather conditions. For example, wind farms could be effective only in certain locations where the weather conditions allow it. The weather also makes it so that renewable energy cannot be generated around the clock.
- The initial cost of renewable energy technology is expensive. Both manufacturing and installation require significant investment. This is another disadvantage of renewable resources. It makes them unaffordable to a lot of businesses and unavailable for widespread individual use. In addition, the return on investment might not be immediate.
- Renewable energy technology takes up a lot of space. It may affect life in the communities where these clean energy farms are installed. They may also cause disruptions to wildlife in the areas.
- One more limitation a renewable resources essay should consider is the current state of technology. While the potential of renewable energy resources is tremendous, the technology is still in its development phase. Therefore, renewable energy might not substitute fossil fuels overnight. There’s a need for more research, investment, and time to transition to renewable energy completely. Yet, some diversity of energy resources should be introduced as soon as possible.
- Renewable energy resources have limited emissions, but they are not entirely pollution-free. The manufacturing process of equipment is associated with greenhouse gas emissions while, for example, the lifespan of a wind turbine is only 20 years.
For high school seniors eyeing a future rich with innovative endeavors in renewable energy or other fields, it's crucial to seek financial support early on. Explore the top 10 scholarships for high school seniors to find the right fit that can propel you into a future where you can contribute to the renewable energy movement and beyond. Through such financial support, the road to making meaningful contributions to a sustainable future becomes a tangible reality.
Renewable energy unlocks the potential for humanity to have clean energy that is available in abundance. It leads us to economic growth, independence, and stability. With green energy, we can also reduce the impact of human activity on the environment and stop climate change before it’s too late.
So what’s the conclusion of renewable energy? Transitioning to renewable energy resources might be challenging and expensive. However, most experts agree that the advantages of green energy outweigh any drawbacks. Besides, since technology is continuously evolving, we’ll be able to overcome most limitations in no time.
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What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished. Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us.
Fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - on the other hand, are non-renewable resources that take hundreds of millions of years to form. Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.
Generating renewable energy creates far lower emissions than burning fossil fuels. Transitioning from fossil fuels, which currently account for the lion’s share of emissions, to renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis.
Renewables are now cheaper in most countries, and generate three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
Here are a few common sources of renewable energy:
Solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources and can even be harnessed in cloudy weather. The rate at which solar energy is intercepted by the Earth is about 10,000 times greater than the rate at which humankind consumes energy.
Solar technologies can deliver heat, cooling, natural lighting, electricity, and fuels for a host of applications. Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation.
Although not all countries are equally endowed with solar energy, a significant contribution to the energy mix from direct solar energy is possible for every country.
The cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted dramatically in the last decade, making them not only affordable but often the cheapest form of electricity. Solar panels have a lifespan of roughly 30 years , and come in variety of shades depending on the type of material used in manufacturing.
Wind energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air by using large wind turbines located on land (onshore) or in sea- or freshwater (offshore). Wind energy has been used for millennia, but onshore and offshore wind energy technologies have evolved over the last few years to maximize the electricity produced - with taller turbines and larger rotor diameters.
Though average wind speeds vary considerably by location, the world’s technical potential for wind energy exceeds global electricity production, and ample potential exists in most regions of the world to enable significant wind energy deployment.
Many parts of the world have strong wind speeds, but the best locations for generating wind power are sometimes remote ones. Offshore wind power offers t remendous potential .
Geothermal energy utilizes the accessible thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs using wells or other means.
Reservoirs that are naturally sufficiently hot and permeable are called hydrothermal reservoirs, whereas reservoirs that are sufficiently hot but that are improved with hydraulic stimulation are called enhanced geothermal systems.
Once at the surface, fluids of various temperatures can be used to generate electricity. The technology for electricity generation from hydrothermal reservoirs is mature and reliable, and has been operating for more than 100 years .
Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations. It can be generated from reservoirs and rivers. Reservoir hydropower plants rely on stored water in a reservoir, while run-of-river hydropower plants harness energy from the available flow of the river.
Hydropower reservoirs often have multiple uses - providing drinking water, water for irrigation, flood and drought control, navigation services, as well as energy supply.
Hydropower currently is the largest source of renewable energy in the electricity sector. It relies on generally stable rainfall patterns, and can be negatively impacted by climate-induced droughts or changes to ecosystems which impact rainfall patterns.
The infrastructure needed to create hydropower can also impact on ecosystems in adverse ways. For this reason, many consider small-scale hydro a more environmentally-friendly option , and especially suitable for communities in remote locations.
Ocean energy derives from technologies that use the kinetic and thermal energy of seawater - waves or currents for instance - to produce electricity or heat.
Ocean energy systems are still at an early stage of development, with a number of prototype wave and tidal current devices being explored. The theoretical potential for ocean energy easily exceeds present human energy requirements.
Bioenergy is produced from a variety of organic materials, called biomass, such as wood, charcoal, dung and other manures for heat and power production, and agricultural crops for liquid biofuels. Most biomass is used in rural areas for cooking, lighting and space heating, generally by poorer populations in developing countries.
Modern biomass systems include dedicated crops or trees, residues from agriculture and forestry, and various organic waste streams.
Energy created by burning biomass creates greenhouse gas emissions, but at lower levels than burning fossil fuels like coal, oil or gas. However, bioenergy should only be used in limited applications, given potential negative environmental impacts related to large-scale increases in forest and bioenergy plantations, and resulting deforestation and land-use change.
For more information on renewable sources of energy, please check out the following websites:
International Renewable Energy Agency | Renewables
International Energy Agency | Renewables
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change | Renewable Sources of Energy
UN Environment Programme | Roadmap to a Carbon-Free Future
Sustainable Energy for All | Renewable Energy
Renewable energy – powering a safer future
What is renewable energy and why does it matter? Learn more about why the shift to renewables is our only hope for a brighter and safer world.
Five ways to jump-start the renewable energy transition now
UN Secretary-General outlines five critical actions the world needs to prioritize now to speed up the global shift to renewable energy.
Learn more about how climate change impacts are felt across different sectors and ecosystems, and why we must nurture rather than exploit nature’s resources to advance climate action.
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Renewable Energy 101
In any discussion about climate change , renewable energy usually tops the list of changes the world can implement to stave off the worst effects of rising temperatures. That's because renewable energy sources such as solar and wind don't emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming .
Clean energy has far more to recommend it than just being "green." The growing sector creates jobs , makes electric grids more resilient, expands energy access in developing countries, and helps lower energy bills. All of those factors have contributed to a renewable energy renaissance in recent years, with wind and solar setting new records for electricity generation .
For the past 150 years or so, humans have relied heavily on coal, oil, and other fossil fuels to power everything from light bulbs to cars to factories. Fossil fuels are embedded in nearly everything we do, and as a result, the greenhouse gases released from the burning of those fuels have reached historically high levels .
As greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere that would otherwise escape into space, average temperatures on the surface are rising . Global warming is one symptom of climate change, the term scientists now prefer to describe the complex shifts affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems. Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas , and a range of other impacts .
Of course, renewables—like any source of energy—have their own trade-offs and associated debates. One of them centers on the definition of renewable energy. Strictly speaking, renewable energy is just what you might think: perpetually available, or as the U.S. Energy Information Administration puts it, " virtually inexhaustible ." But "renewable" doesn't necessarily mean sustainable, as opponents of corn-based ethanol or large hydropower dams often argue. It also doesn't encompass other low- or zero-emissions resources that have their own advocates, including energy efficiency and nuclear power.
Types of renewable energy sources
Hydropower: For centuries, people have harnessed the energy of river currents, using dams to control water flow. Hydropower is the world's biggest source of renewable energy by far, with China, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., and Russia the leading hydropower producers . While hydropower is theoretically a clean energy source replenished by rain and snow, it also has several drawbacks.
Large dams can disrupt river ecosystems and surrounding communities , harming wildlife and displacing residents. Hydropower generation is vulnerable to silt buildup, which can compromise capacity and harm equipment. Drought can also cause problems. In the western U.S., carbon dioxide emissions over a 15-year period were 100 megatons higher than they normally would have been, according to a 2018 study , as utilities turned to coal and gas to replace hydropower lost to drought. Even hydropower at full capacity bears its own emissions problems, as decaying organic material in reservoirs releases methane.
Dams aren't the only way to use water for power: Tidal and wave energy projects around the world aim to capture the ocean's natural rhythms. Marine energy projects currently generate an estimated 500 megawatts of power —less than one percent of all renewables—but the potential is far greater. Programs like Scotland’s Saltire Prize have encouraged innovation in this area.
Wind: Harnessing the wind as a source of energy started more than 7,000 years ago . Now, electricity-generating wind turbines are proliferating around the globe, and China, the U.S., and Germany are the leading wind energy producers. From 2001 to 2017 , cumulative wind capacity around the world increased to more than 539,000 megawatts from 23,900 mw—more than 22 fold.
Some people may object to how wind turbines look on the horizon and to how they sound, but wind energy, whose prices are declining , is proving too valuable a resource to deny. While most wind power comes from onshore turbines, offshore projects are appearing too, with the most in the U.K. and Germany. The first U.S. offshore wind farm opened in 2016 in Rhode Island, and other offshore projects are gaining momentum . Another problem with wind turbines is that they’re a danger for birds and bats, killing hundreds of thousands annually , not as many as from glass collisions and other threats like habitat loss and invasive species, but enough that engineers are working on solutions to make them safer for flying wildlife.
Solar: From home rooftops to utility-scale farms, solar power is reshaping energy markets around the world. In the decade from 2007 and 2017 the world's total installed energy capacity from photovoltaic panels increased a whopping 4,300 percent .
In addition to solar panels, which convert the sun's light to electricity, concentrating solar power (CSP) plants use mirrors to concentrate the sun's heat, deriving thermal energy instead. China, Japan, and the U.S. are leading the solar transformation, but solar still has a long way to go, accounting for around two percent of the total electricity generated in the U.S. in 2017. Solar thermal energy is also being used worldwide for hot water, heating, and cooling.
Biomass: Biomass energy includes biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel , wood and wood waste, biogas from landfills, and municipal solid waste. Like solar power, biomass is a flexible energy source, able to fuel vehicles, heat buildings, and produce electricity. But biomass can raise thorny issues.
Critics of corn-based ethanol , for example, say it competes with the food market for corn and supports the same harmful agricultural practices that have led to toxic algae blooms and other environmental hazards. Similarly, debates have erupted over whether it's a good idea to ship wood pellets from U.S. forests over to Europe so that it can be burned for electricity. Meanwhile, scientists and companies are working on ways to more efficiently convert corn stover , wastewater sludge , and other biomass sources into energy, aiming to extract value from material that would otherwise go to waste.
Geothermal: Used for thousands of years in some countries for cooking and heating, geothermal energy is derived from the Earth’s internal heat . On a large scale, underground reservoirs of steam and hot water can be tapped through wells that can go a mile deep or more to generate electricity. On a smaller scale, some buildings have geothermal heat pumps that use temperature differences several feet below ground for heating and cooling. Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is always available, but it has side effects that need to be managed, such as the rotten egg smell that can accompany released hydrogen sulfide.
Ways to boost renewable energy
Cities, states, and federal governments around the world are instituting policies aimed at increasing renewable energy. At least 29 U.S. states have set renewable portfolio standards —policies that mandate a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources, More than 100 cities worldwide now boast at least 70 percent renewable energy, and still others are making commitments to reach 100 percent . Other policies that could encourage renewable energy growth include carbon pricing, fuel economy standards, and building efficiency standards. Corporations are making a difference too, purchasing record amounts of renewable power in 2018.
Wonder whether your state could ever be powered by 100 percent renewables? No matter where you live, scientist Mark Jacobson believes it's possible. That vision is laid out here , and while his analysis is not without critics , it punctuates a reality with which the world must now reckon. Even without climate change, fossil fuels are a finite resource, and if we want our lease on the planet to be renewed, our energy will have to be renewable.
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Renewable resources are an energy source that cannot be depleted and are able to supply a continuous source of clean energy.
Geology, Earth Science, Engineering, Physics
Geothermal power is a form of renewable energy created by powering electrical generators with the heat of the earth and naturally occurring subterranean hot water reservoirs.
Photograph by stockphoto52
When it comes to energy resources, there is always the question of sustainability. It is important that resources provide enough energy to meet our needs—to heat our houses, power our cities, and run our cars. However, it is also important to consider how these resources can be used long term. Some resources will practically never run out. These are known as renewable resources . Renewable resources also produce clean energy , meaning less pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.
The United States’ energy sources have evolved over time, from using wood prior to the 19th century to later adopting nonrenewable resources, such as fossil fuels, petroleum, and coal, which are still the dominant sources of energy today. But Earth has a limited supply of these resources. Recently, renewable resource use has begun to increase. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 11 percent of the nation's energy consumption came from renewable resources in 2017.
There are some challenges associated with using renewable resources . For instance, renewable energy can be less reliable than non renewable energy , with seasonal or even daily changes in the amount produced. However, scientists are continually addressing these challenges, working to improve feasibility and reliability of renewable resources .
Renewable resources include biomass energy (such as ethanol ), hydropower, geothermal power , wind energy , and solar energy .
Biomass refers to organic material from plants or animals. This includes wood, sewage, and ethanol (which comes from corn or other plants). Biomass can be used as a source of energy because this organic material has absorbed energy from the Sun. This energy is, in turn, released as heat energy when burned.
Hydropower is one of the oldest renewable resources and has been used for thousands of years. Today, every U.S. state uses some amount of hydroelectricity. With hydropower, the mechanical energy from flowing water is used to generate electricity. Hydroelectric power plants use the flow of rivers and streams to turn a turbine to power a generator, releasing electricity.
Geothermal energy comes from the heat generated deep within Earth’s core. Geothermal reservoirs can be found at tectonic plate boundaries near volcanic activity or deep underground. Geothermal energy can be harnessed by drilling wells to pump hot water or steam to a power plant . This energy is then used for heating and electricity.
Wind energy generates electricity by turning wind turbines . The wind pushes the turbine’s blades, and a generator converts this mechanical energy into electricity. This electricity can supply power to homes and other buildings, and it can even be stored in the power grid .
Radiation from the sun can be used as a power source as well. Photovoltaic cells can be used to convert this solar energy into electricity. Individually, these cells only generate enough energy to power a calculator, but when combined to create solar panels or even larger arrays, they provide much more electricity.
Searching for the right method of using renewable resources is a task that is growing ever more important as Earth’s supply of nonrenewable resources continues to dwindle. Converting to renewable energy will not only better sustain the world’s rapidly growing population, but it will also provide a cleaner, healthier environment for the generations to come.
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- Renewable and nonrenewable energy resources
Renewable and nonrenewable energy sources
- Global energy use
- Intro to energy resources and consumption
- Nonrenewable energy sources are those that are consumed faster than they can be replaced. Nonrenewable energy sources include nuclear energy as well as fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas. These energy sources have a finite supply, and often emit harmful pollutants into the environment.
- Renewable energy sources are those that are naturally replenished on a relatively short timescale. Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy. They also include biomass and hydrogen fuels. These energy sources are sustainable and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.
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Introduction, 1 installed capacity and application of solar energy worldwide, 2 the role of solar energy in sustainable development, 3 the perspective of solar energy, 4 conclusions, conflict of interest statement.
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Solar energy technology and its roles in sustainable development
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Ali O M Maka, Jamal M Alabid, Solar energy technology and its roles in sustainable development, Clean Energy , Volume 6, Issue 3, June 2022, Pages 476–483, https://doi.org/10.1093/ce/zkac023
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Solar energy is environmentally friendly technology, a great energy supply and one of the most significant renewable and green energy sources. It plays a substantial role in achieving sustainable development energy solutions. Therefore, the massive amount of solar energy attainable daily makes it a very attractive resource for generating electricity. Both technologies, applications of concentrated solar power or solar photovoltaics, are always under continuous development to fulfil our energy needs. Hence, a large installed capacity of solar energy applications worldwide, in the same context, supports the energy sector and meets the employment market to gain sufficient development. This paper highlights solar energy applications and their role in sustainable development and considers renewable energy’s overall employment potential. Thus, it provides insights and analysis on solar energy sustainability, including environmental and economic development. Furthermore, it has identified the contributions of solar energy applications in sustainable development by providing energy needs, creating jobs opportunities and enhancing environmental protection. Finally, the perspective of solar energy technology is drawn up in the application of the energy sector and affords a vision of future development in this domain.
With reference to the recommendations of the UN, the Climate Change Conference, COP26, was held in Glasgow , UK, in 2021. They reached an agreement through the representatives of the 197 countries, where they concurred to move towards reducing dependency on coal and fossil-fuel sources. Furthermore, the conference stated ‘the various opportunities for governments to prioritize health and equity in the international climate movement and sustainable development agenda’. Also, one of the testaments is the necessity to ‘create energy systems that protect and improve climate and health’ [ 1 , 2 ].
The Paris Climate Accords is a worldwide agreement on climate change signed in 2015, which addressed the mitigation of climate change, adaptation and finance. Consequently, the representatives of 196 countries concurred to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions [ 3 ]. The Paris Agreement is essential for present and future generations to attain a more secure and stable environment. In essence, the Paris Agreement has been about safeguarding people from such an uncertain and progressively dangerous environment and ensuring everyone can have the right to live in a healthy, pollutant-free environment without the negative impacts of climate change [ 3 , 4 ].
In recent decades, there has been an increase in demand for cleaner energy resources. Based on that, decision-makers of all countries have drawn up plans that depend on renewable sources through a long-term strategy. Thus, such plans reduce the reliance of dependence on traditional energy sources and substitute traditional energy sources with alternative energy technology. As a result, the global community is starting to shift towards utilizing sustainable energy sources and reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuels as a source of energy [ 5 , 6 ].
In 2015, the UN adopted the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and recognized them as international legislation, which demands a global effort to end poverty, safeguard the environment and guarantee that by 2030, humanity lives in prosperity and peace. Consequently, progress needs to be balanced among economic, social and environmental sustainability models [ 7 ].
Many national and international regulations have been established to control the gas emissions and pollutants that impact the environment [ 8 ]. However, the negative effects of increased carbon in the atmosphere have grown in the last 10 years. Production and use of fossil fuels emit methane (CH 4 ), carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and carbon monoxide (CO), which are the most significant contributors to environmental emissions on our planet. Additionally, coal and oil, including gasoline, coal, oil and methane, are commonly used in energy for transport or for generating electricity. Therefore, burning these fossil fuel s is deemed the largest emitter when used for electricity generation, transport, etc. However, these energy resources are considered depleted energy sources being consumed to an unsustainable degree [ 9–11 ].
Energy is an essential need for the existence and growth of human communities. Consequently, the need for energy has increased gradually as human civilization has progressed. Additionally, in the past few decades, the rapid rise of the world’s population and its reliance on technological developments have increased energy demands. Furthermore, green technology sources play an important role in sustainably providing energy supplies, especially in mitigating climate change [ 5 , 6 , 8 ].
Currently, fossil fuels remain dominant and will continue to be the primary source of large-scale energy for the foreseeable future; however, renewable energy should play a vital role in the future of global energy. The global energy system is undergoing a movement towards more sustainable sources of energy [ 12 , 13 ].
Power generation by fossil-fuel resources has peaked, whilst solar energy is predicted to be at the vanguard of energy generation in the near future. Moreover, it is predicted that by 2050, the generation of solar energy will have increased to 48% due to economic and industrial growth [ 13 , 14 ].
In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that the globe must decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, ideally towards net zero, if we are to fulfil the Paris Agreement’s goal to reduce global temperature increases [ 3 , 4 ]. The net-zero emissions complement the scenario of sustainable development assessment by 2050. According to the agreed scenario of sustainable development, many industrialized economies must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. However, the net-zero emissions 2050 brought the first detailed International Energy Agency (IEA) modelling of what strategy will be required over the next 10 years to achieve net-zero carbon emissions worldwide by 2050 [ 15–17 ].
The global statistics of greenhouse gas emissions have been identified; in 2019, there was a 1% decrease in CO 2 emissions from the power industry; that figure dropped by 7% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, thus indicating a drop in coal-fired energy generation that is being squeezed by decreasing energy needs, growth of renewables and the shift away from fossil fuels. As a result, in 2020, the energy industry was expected to generate ~13 Gt CO 2 , representing ~40% of total world energy sector emissions related to CO 2 . The annual electricity generation stepped back to pre-crisis levels by 2021, although due to a changing ‘fuel mix’, the CO 2 emissions in the power sector will grow just a little before remaining roughly steady until 2030 [ 15 ].
Therefore, based on the information mentioned above, the advantages of solar energy technology are a renewable and clean energy source that is plentiful, cheaper costs, less maintenance and environmentally friendly, to name but a few. The significance of this paper is to highlight solar energy applications to ensure sustainable development; thus, it is vital to researchers, engineers and customers alike. The article’s primary aim is to raise public awareness and disseminate the culture of solar energy usage in daily life, since moving forward, it is the best. The scope of this paper is as follows. Section 1 represents a summary of the introduction. Section 2 represents a summary of installed capacity and the application of solar energy worldwide. Section 3 presents the role of solar energy in the sustainable development and employment of renewable energy. Section 4 represents the perspective of solar energy. Finally, Section 5 outlines the conclusions and recommendations for future work.
1.1 Installed capacity of solar energy
The history of solar energy can be traced back to the seventh century when mirrors with solar power were used. In 1893, the photovoltaic (PV) effect was discovered; after many decades, scientists developed this technology for electricity generation [ 18 ]. Based on that, after many years of research and development from scientists worldwide, solar energy technology is classified into two key applications: solar thermal and solar PV.
PV systems convert the Sun’s energy into electricity by utilizing solar panels. These PV devices have quickly become the cheapest option for new electricity generation in numerous world locations due to their ubiquitous deployment. For example, during the period from 2010 to 2018, the cost of generating electricity by solar PV plants decreased by 77%. However, solar PV installed capacity progress expanded 100-fold between 2005 and 2018. Consequently, solar PV has emerged as a key component in the low-carbon sustainable energy system required to provide access to affordable and dependable electricity, assisting in fulfilling the Paris climate agreement and in achieving the 2030 SDG targets [ 19 ].
The installed capacity of solar energy worldwide has been rapidly increased to meet energy demands. The installed capacity of PV technology from 2010 to 2020 increased from 40 334 to 709 674 MW, whereas the installed capacity of concentrated solar power (CSP) applications, which was 1266 MW in 2010, after 10 years had increased to 6479 MW. Therefore, solar PV technology has more deployed installations than CSP applications. So, the stand-alone solar PV and large-scale grid-connected PV plants are widely used worldwide and used in space applications. Fig. 1 represents the installation of solar energy worldwide.
Installation capacity of solar energy worldwide [ 20 ].
1.2 Application of solar energy
Energy can be obtained directly from the Sun—so-called solar energy. Globally, there has been growth in solar energy applications, as it can be used to generate electricity, desalinate water and generate heat, etc. The taxonomy of applications of solar energy is as follows: (i) PVs and (ii) CSP. Fig. 2 details the taxonomy of solar energy applications.
The taxonomy of solar energy applications.
Solar cells are devices that convert sunlight directly into electricity; typical semiconductor materials are utilized to form a PV solar cell device. These materials’ characteristics are based on atoms with four electrons in their outer orbit or shell. Semiconductor materials are from the periodic table’s group ‘IV’ or a mixture of groups ‘IV’ and ‘II’, the latter known as ‘II–VI’ semiconductors [ 21 ]. Additionally, a periodic table mixture of elements from groups ‘III’ and ‘V’ can create ‘III–V’ materials [ 22 ].
PV devices, sometimes called solar cells, are electronic devices that convert sunlight into electrical power. PVs are also one of the rapidly growing renewable-energy technologies of today. It is therefore anticipated to play a significant role in the long-term world electricity-generating mixture moving forward.
Solar PV systems can be incorporated to supply electricity on a commercial level or installed in smaller clusters for mini-grids or individual usage. Utilizing PV modules to power mini-grids is a great way to offer electricity to those who do not live close to power-transmission lines, especially in developing countries with abundant solar energy resources. In the most recent decade, the cost of producing PV modules has dropped drastically, giving them not only accessibility but sometimes making them the least expensive energy form. PV arrays have a 30-year lifetime and come in various shades based on the type of material utilized in their production.
The most typical method for solar PV desalination technology that is used for desalinating sea or salty water is electrodialysis (ED). Therefore, solar PV modules are directly connected to the desalination process. This technique employs the direct-current electricity to remove salt from the sea or salty water.
The technology of PV–thermal (PV–T) comprises conventional solar PV modules coupled with a thermal collector mounted on the rear side of the PV module to pre-heat domestic hot water. Accordingly, this enables a larger portion of the incident solar energy on the collector to be converted into beneficial electrical and thermal energy.
A zero-energy building is a building that is designed for zero net energy emissions and emits no carbon dioxide. Building-integrated PV (BIPV) technology is coupled with solar energy sources and devices in buildings that are utilized to supply energy needs. Thus, building-integrated PVs utilizing thermal energy (BIPV/T) incorporate creative technologies such as solar cooling [ 23 ].
A PV water-pumping system is typically used to pump water in rural, isolated and desert areas. The system consists of PV modules to power a water pump to the location of water need. The water-pumping rate depends on many factors such as pumping head, solar intensity, etc.
A PV-powered cathodic protection (CP) system is designed to supply a CP system to control the corrosion of a metal surface. This technique is based on the impressive current acquired from PV solar energy systems and is utilized for burying pipelines, tanks, concrete structures, etc.
Concentrated PV (CPV) technology uses either the refractive or the reflective concentrators to increase sunlight to PV cells [ 24 , 25 ]. High-efficiency solar cells are usually used, consisting of many layers of semiconductor materials that stack on top of each other. This technology has an efficiency of >47%. In addition, the devices produce electricity and the heat can be used for other purposes [ 26 , 27 ].
For CSP systems, the solar rays are concentrated using mirrors in this application. These rays will heat a fluid, resulting in steam used to power a turbine and generate electricity. Large-scale power stations employ CSP to generate electricity. A field of mirrors typically redirect rays to a tall thin tower in a CSP power station. Thus, numerous large flat heliostats (mirrors) are used to track the Sun and concentrate its light onto a receiver in power tower systems, sometimes known as central receivers. The hot fluid could be utilized right away to produce steam or stored for later usage. Another of the great benefits of a CSP power station is that it may be built with molten salts to store heat and generate electricity outside of daylight hours.
Mirrored dishes are used in dish engine systems to focus and concentrate sunlight onto a receiver. The dish assembly tracks the Sun’s movement to capture as much solar energy as possible. The engine includes thin tubes that work outside the four-piston cylinders and it opens into the cylinders containing hydrogen or helium gas. The pistons are driven by the expanding gas. Finally, the pistons drive an electric generator by turning a crankshaft.
A further water-treatment technique, using reverse osmosis, depends on the solar-thermal and using solar concentrated power through the parabolic trough technique. The desalination employs CSP technology that utilizes hybrid integration and thermal storage allows continuous operation and is a cost-effective solution. Solar thermal can be used for domestic purposes such as a dryer. In some countries or societies, the so-called food dehydration is traditionally used to preserve some food materials such as meats, fruits and vegetables.
Sustainable energy development is defined as the development of the energy sector in terms of energy generating, distributing and utilizing that are based on sustainability rules [ 28 ]. Energy systems will significantly impact the environment in both developed and developing countries. Consequently, the global sustainable energy system must optimize efficiency and reduce emissions [ 29 ].
The sustainable development scenario is built based on the economic perspective. It also examines what activities will be required to meet shared long-term climate benefits, clean air and energy access targets. The short-term details are based on the IEA’s sustainable recovery strategy, which aims to promote economies and employment through developing a cleaner and more reliable energy infrastructure [ 15 ]. In addition, sustainable development includes utilizing renewable-energy applications, smart-grid technologies, energy security, and energy pricing, and having a sound energy policy [ 29 ].
The demand-side response can help meet the flexibility requirements in electricity systems by moving demand over time. As a result, the integration of renewable technologies for helping facilitate the peak demand is reduced, system stability is maintained, and total costs and CO 2 emissions are reduced. The demand-side response is currently used mostly in Europe and North America, where it is primarily aimed at huge commercial and industrial electricity customers [ 15 ].
International standards are an essential component of high-quality infrastructure. Establishing legislative convergence, increasing competition and supporting innovation will allow participants to take part in a global world PV market [ 30 ]. Numerous additional countries might benefit from more actively engaging in developing global solar PV standards. The leading countries in solar PV manufacturing and deployment have embraced global standards for PV systems and highly contributed to clean-energy development. Additional assistance and capacity-building to enhance quality infrastructure in developing economies might also help support wider implementation and compliance with international solar PV standards. Thus, support can bring legal requirements and frameworks into consistency and give additional impetus for the trade of secure and high-quality solar PV products [ 19 ].
Continuous trade-led dissemination of solar PV and other renewable technologies will strengthen the national infrastructure. For instance, off-grid solar energy alternatives, such as stand-alone systems and mini-grids, could be easily deployed to assist healthcare facilities in improving their degree of services and powering portable testing sites and vaccination coolers. In addition to helping in the immediate medical crisis, trade-led solar PV adoption could aid in the improving economy from the COVID-19 outbreak, not least by providing jobs in the renewable-energy sector, which are estimated to reach >40 million by 2050 [ 19 ].
The framework for energy sustainability development, by the application of solar energy, is one way to achieve that goal. With the large availability of solar energy resources for PV and CSP energy applications, we can move towards energy sustainability. Fig. 3 illustrates plans for solar energy sustainability.
Framework for solar energy applications in energy sustainability.
The environmental consideration of such applications, including an aspect of the environmental conditions, operating conditions, etc., have been assessed. It is clean, friendly to the environment and also energy-saving. Moreover, this technology has no removable parts, low maintenance procedures and longevity.
Economic and social development are considered by offering job opportunities to the community and providing cheaper energy options. It can also improve people’s income; in turn, living standards will be enhanced. Therefore, energy is paramount, considered to be the most vital element of human life, society’s progress and economic development.
As efforts are made to increase the energy transition towards sustainable energy systems, it is anticipated that the next decade will see a continued booming of solar energy and all clean-energy technology. Scholars worldwide consider research and innovation to be substantial drivers to enhance the potency of such solar application technology.
2.1 Employment from renewable energy
The employment market has also boomed with the deployment of renewable-energy technology. Renewable-energy technology applications have created >12 million jobs worldwide. The solar PV application came as the pioneer, which created >3 million jobs. At the same time, while the solar thermal applications (solar heating and cooling) created >819 000 jobs, the CSP attained >31 000 jobs [ 20 ].
According to the reports, although top markets such as the USA, the EU and China had the highest investment in renewables jobs, other Asian countries have emerged as players in the solar PV panel manufacturers’ industry [ 31 ].
Solar energy employment has offered more employment than other renewable sources. For example, in the developing countries, there was a growth in employment chances in solar applications that powered ‘micro-enterprises’. Hence, it has been significant in eliminating poverty, which is considered the key goal of sustainable energy development. Therefore, solar energy plays a critical part in fulfilling the sustainability targets for a better plant and environment [ 31 , 32 ]. Fig. 4 illustrates distributions of world renewable-energy employment.
World renewable-energy employment [ 20 ].
The world distribution of PV jobs is disseminated across the continents as follows. There was 70% employment in PV applications available in Asia, while 10% is available in North America, 10% available in South America and 10% availability in Europe. Table 1 details the top 10 countries that have relevant jobs in Asia, North America, South America and Europe.
List of the top 10 countries that created jobs in solar PV applications [ 19 , 33 ]
Solar energy investments can meet energy targets and environmental protection by reducing carbon emissions while having no detrimental influence on the country’s development [ 32 , 34 ]. In countries located in the ‘Sunbelt’, there is huge potential for solar energy, where there is a year-round abundance of solar global horizontal irradiation. Consequently, these countries, including the Middle East, Australia, North Africa, China, the USA and Southern Africa, to name a few, have a lot of potential for solar energy technology. The average yearly solar intensity is >2800 kWh/m 2 and the average daily solar intensity is >7.5 kWh/m 2 . Fig. 5 illustrates the optimum areas for global solar irradiation.
World global solar irradiation map [ 35 ].
The distribution of solar radiation and its intensity are two important factors that influence the efficiency of solar PV technology and these two parameters vary among different countries. Therefore, it is essential to realize that some solar energy is wasted since it is not utilized. On the other hand, solar radiation is abundant in several countries, especially in developing ones, which makes it invaluable [ 36 , 37 ].
Worldwide, the PV industry has benefited recently from globalization, which has allowed huge improvements in economies of scale, while vertical integration has created strong value chains: as manufacturers source materials from an increasing number of suppliers, prices have dropped while quality has been maintained. Furthermore, the worldwide incorporated PV solar device market is growing fast, creating opportunities enabling solar energy firms to benefit from significant government help with underwriting, subsides, beneficial trading licences and training of a competent workforce, while the increased rivalry has reinforced the motivation to continue investing in research and development, both public and private [ 19 , 33 ].
The global outbreak of COVID-19 has impacted ‘cross-border supply chains’ and those investors working in the renewable-energy sector. As a result, more diversity of solar PV supply-chain processes may be required in the future to enhance long-term flexibility versus exogenous shocks [ 19 , 33 ].
It is vital to establish a well-functioning quality infrastructure to expand the distribution of solar PV technologies beyond borders and make it easier for new enterprises to enter solar PV value chains. In addition, a strong quality infrastructure system is a significant instrument for assisting local firms in meeting the demands of trade markets. Furthermore, high-quality infrastructure can help reduce associated risks with the worldwide PV project value chain, such as underperforming, inefficient and failing goods, limiting the development, improvement and export of these technologies. Governments worldwide are, at various levels, creating quality infrastructure, including the usage of metrology i.e. the science of measurement and its application, regulations, testing procedures, accreditation, certification and market monitoring [ 33 , 38 ].
The perspective is based on a continuous process of technological advancement and learning. Its speed is determined by its deployment, which varies depending on the scenario [ 39 , 40 ]. The expense trends support policy preferences for low-carbon energy sources, particularly in increased energy-alteration scenarios. Emerging technologies are introduced and implemented as quickly as they ever have been before in energy history [ 15 , 33 ].
The CSP stations have been in use since the early 1980s and are currently found all over the world. The CSP power stations in the USA currently produce >800 MW of electricity yearly, which is sufficient to power ~500 000 houses. New CSP heat-transfer fluids being developed can function at ~1288 o C, which is greater than existing fluids, to improve the efficiency of CSP systems and, as a result, to lower the cost of energy generated using this technology. Thus, as a result, CSP is considered to have a bright future, with the ability to offer large-scale renewable energy that can supplement and soon replace traditional electricity-production technologies [ 41 ]. The DESERTEC project has drawn out the possibility of CSP in the Sahara Desert regions. When completed, this investment project will have the world’s biggest energy-generation capacity through the CSP plant, which aims to transport energy from North Africa to Europe [ 42 , 43 ].
The costs of manufacturing materials for PV devices have recently decreased, which is predicted to compensate for the requirements and increase the globe’s electricity demand [ 44 ]. Solar energy is a renewable, clean and environmentally friendly source of energy. Therefore, solar PV application techniques should be widely utilized. Although PV technology has always been under development for a variety of purposes, the fact that PV solar cells convert the radiant energy from the Sun directly into electrical power means it can be applied in space and in terrestrial applications [ 38 , 45 ].
In one way or another, the whole renewable-energy sector has a benefit over other energy industries. A long-term energy development plan needs an energy source that is inexhaustible, virtually accessible and simple to gather. The Sun rises over the horizon every day around the globe and leaves behind ~108–1018 kWh of energy; consequently, it is more than humanity will ever require to fulfil its desire for electricity [ 46 ].
The technology that converts solar radiation into electricity is well known and utilizes PV cells, which are already in use worldwide. In addition, various solar PV technologies are available today, including hybrid solar cells, inorganic solar cells and organic solar cells. So far, solar PV devices made from silicon have led the solar market; however, these PVs have certain drawbacks, such as expenditure of material, time-consuming production, etc. It is important to mention here the operational challenges of solar energy in that it does not work at night, has less output in cloudy weather and does not work in sandstorm conditions. PV battery storage is widely used to reduce the challenges to gain high reliability. Therefore, attempts have been made to find alternative materials to address these constraints. Currently, this domination is challenged by the evolution of the emerging generation of solar PV devices based on perovskite, organic and organic/inorganic hybrid materials.
This paper highlights the significance of sustainable energy development. Solar energy would help steady energy prices and give numerous social, environmental and economic benefits. This has been indicated by solar energy’s contribution to achieving sustainable development through meeting energy demands, creating jobs and protecting the environment. Hence, a paramount critical component of long-term sustainability should be investigated. Based on the current condition of fossil-fuel resources, which are deemed to be depleting energy sources, finding an innovative technique to deploy clean-energy technology is both essential and expected. Notwithstanding, solar energy has yet to reach maturity in development, especially CSP technology. Also, with growing developments in PV systems, there has been a huge rise in demand for PV technology applications all over the globe. Further work needs to be undertaken to develop energy sustainably and consider other clean energy resources. Moreover, a comprehensive experimental and validation process for such applications is required to develop cleaner energy sources to decarbonize our planet.
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
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Electricity from renewable sources up to 41% in 2022.
In 2022, renewable energy sources made up 41.2% of gross electricity consumption in the EU , 3.4 percentage points (pp) more than in 2021 (37.8%) and well ahead of other electricity-generation sources such as nuclear (less than 22%), gas (less than 20%) or coal (less than 17%).
In total, renewable energy sources increased by 5.7% from 2021 to 2022.
Wind and hydropower accounted for over two-thirds of the total electricity generated from renewable sources (37.5% and 29.9%, respectively). The remaining one-third of electricity came from solar (18.2%), solid biofuels ( 6.9%) and other renewable sources (7.5%). Solar power is the fastest-growing source: in 2008 it only accounted for 1% of the electricity consumed in the EU.
Source dataset: nrg_ind_ured
Electricity from renewables dominates in Sweden
The majority of Sweden's electricity consumption in 2022 came from renewable sources (83.3%, mostly hydro and wind) followed by Denmark (77.2%, mostly wind) and Austria (74.7%, mostly hydro). Shares above 50% were also registered in Portugal (61.0%), Croatia (55.5%), Latvia (53.3%) and Spain (50.9%).
Source dataset: nrg_ind_ren
At the other end of the scale, the lowest shares of electricity from renewable sources were reported in Malta (10.1%), Hungary (15.3%), Czechia (15.5%) and Luxembourg (15.9%).
For more information
Statistics Explained article on renewable energy
Thematic section on energy
Database on energy
- Hydro is normalised (averaged over a number of years to smooth out the effects of climatic variation) and excludes pumping. Wind is normalised (and from 2021 onwards separately for on-shore and off-shore). Solar includes solar photovoltaics and solar thermal electricity generation. All other renewables include electricity generation from gaseous and liquid biofuels, renewable municipal waste, geothermal, and tide, wave & ocean.
- The percentage of electricity produced from nuclear, gas and coal has been extracted from Eurostat’s energy balances (source dataset: nrg_bal_c ), calculated according to the Regulation on energy statistics . However, the indicator on the share of electricity from renewable sources presented in this article has been calculated according to the methodology of the Renewable Energy Directive . Therefore, there are certain methodological differences between both calculations, such as the normalisation of hydro and wind power to remove seasonal effects or the sustainability of solid, liquid and gaseous biofuels. More details on these differences can be found in the Energy balance guide and the SHARES Manual .
- Results exceeding 100% are possible because of how the calculation is defined. In this calculation, the numerator represents the gross electricity production from renewable sources, while the denominator accounts for the gross electricity production from all sources plus imports minus exports. So, if a country generates more electricity from renewables than it consumes in total, the share can surpass 100% (e.g. Norway)
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© FotograFFF/Shutterstock.com EU economy greenhouse gas emissions: -7.1% in Q3 2023 14 February 2024
© Alexander Steamaze/Shutterstock.com Share of renewables in transport increased slightly in 2022 5 February 2024
© Mark Agnor/Shutterstock.com Fossil fuel reliance in EU increased slightly in 2022 30 January 2024
© TTstudio/Shutterstock.com Drop in nuclear power production in 2022 12 January 2024
Home — Essay Samples — Environment — Renewable Energy — Renewable Energy: Investments and Economic Dynamics
Renewable Energy: Investments and Economic Dynamics
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Published: Feb 22, 2024
Words: 818 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read
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Viability of renewable energy stocks as investments, private sector’s role in bolstering the renewable energy sector, impact of renewable energy on job creation and economic upliftment, utilizing renewable energy to fortify economic structures.
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Here’s Where Biden’s Climate Law Is Working, and Where It’s Falling Short
Electric vehicles are booming as expected, a new analysis found, but renewable power isn’t growing as quickly as hoped.
By Brad Plumer
Reporting from Washington
A year and a half after President Biden signed into law a sweeping bill to tackle climate change, sales of electric vehicles have largely boomed in line with expectations, according to a new analysis by three groups tracking the impact of the law.
But problems with supply chains, obtaining permits and overcoming local opposition have bogged down one of the climate law’s other big goals: generating vastly more electricity from wind, solar and other nonpolluting sources. Even though the United States added record amounts of renewable power and batteries last year, that rapid growth fell short of the levels needed to meet the country’s goals for slashing the emissions that are rapidly heating the planet, the analysis said.
When the law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, was approved in 2022, analysts predicted that it would help cut America’s greenhouse gas emissions roughly 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The measure contains hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits and spending for clean energy technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuels.
The law is meeting expectations in some areas and falling short in others, according to the new assessment by researchers from the Princeton-led REPEAT project, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, the research firm Rhodium Group, and Energy Innovation, a nonprofit organization.”
Electric vehicle sales are largely on track to help fulfill the law’s projected emissions reductions after increasing more than 50 percent over the past year. A record 9.2 percent of all new cars sold in the United States in 2023 were either fully electric or plug-in hybrid models, which was on the high end of what analysts had predicted would happen after the law passed.
It is less certain that automakers will repeat that torrid sales growth this year. Many of the most enthusiastic early adopters have already bought plug-in vehicles, while potential buyers are put off by high sticker prices and the relative scarcity of charging stations. Companies like Tesla are already warning that sales growth will probably slow in the near term.
Still, if electric vehicle sales only rise between 30 and 40 percent in 2024, a noticeable slowdown from last year, that would be in line with the law’s emissions targets, the analysis found.
The picture for renewable power is mixed, however. Last year, the United States added a record 32.3 gigawatts of electric capacity to the grid from solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. In many parts of the country, the tax credits provided by the law are making renewable sources of electricity cheaper to build than more polluting sources like coal or natural gas.
But when the Inflation Reduction Act passed, analysts had projected that the United States would add an average of 46 to 79 gigawatts of carbon-free electricity to the grid annually in 2023 and 2024. There are projects pending this year that would deliver about 60 gigawatts but not all of them are expected to be completed on time, the analysis said. That means the country will be behind schedule in deploying new clean electricity sources.
The biggest obstacles facing renewable electricity are logistical, the report said. Wind and solar projects are facing lengthy waits to connect to the nation’s clogged electric grids, and it can take a decade or more to get permits for new high-voltage transmission lines and build them. In many parts of the country, new wind or solar farms are facing opposition from local residents . Plans for offshore wind farms have been bogged down by snarled supply chains and shipping restrictions.
These obstacles could pose an even bigger challenge over time. To meet the law’s expected emissions reductions, the nation would need to add roughly 70 to 126 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity each year between 2025 and 2030 — a staggering increase from today’s levels, the analysis found. Without major changes to permitting and transmission, neither of which were addressed by the Inflation Reduction Act, those numbers could prove unattainable.
“Tackling these non-cost barriers will be critical,” the analysis says, for the law “to achieve its full clean energy deployment and emissions reduction potential.”
Separately, the Inflation Reduction Act also provided hefty tax credits to companies that manufacture batteries, solar panels, wind turbines and other technologies in the United States rather than abroad. That provision has proved popular: Companies invested $44 billion last year in domestic clean-energy manufacturing, with more planned in the years ahead.
Other aspects of the law will take longer to have an impact. There are tax credits for businesses that build advanced nuclear reactors or create hydrogen fuels using renewable electricity or add devices to factories that capture carbon dioxide emissions and bury them underground . While multiple companies are developing such projects in the United States, none have been built yet.
Brad Plumer is a Times reporter who covers technology and policy efforts to address global warming. More about Brad Plumer
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- 20 February 2024
Generative AI’s environmental costs are soaring — and mostly secret
- Kate Crawford 0
Kate Crawford is a professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg, a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research in New York City and author of the 2021 book Atlas of AI .
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Last month, OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman finally admitted what researchers have been saying for years — that the artificial intelligence (AI) industry is heading for an energy crisis. It’s an unusual admission. At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Altman warned that the next wave of generative AI systems will consume vastly more power than expected, and that energy systems will struggle to cope. “There’s no way to get there without a breakthrough,” he said.
I’m glad he said it. I’ve seen consistent downplaying and denial about the AI industry’s environmental costs since I started publishing about them in 2018. Altman’s admission has got researchers, regulators and industry titans talking about the environmental impact of generative AI.
So what energy breakthrough is Altman banking on? Not the design and deployment of more sustainable AI systems — but nuclear fusion. He has skin in that game, too: in 2021, Altman started investing in fusion company Helion Energy in Everett, Washington.
Is AI leading to a reproducibility crisis in science?
Most experts agree that nuclear fusion won’t contribute significantly to the crucial goal of decarbonizing by mid-century to combat the climate crisis. Helion’s most optimistic estimate is that by 2029 it will produce enough energy to power 40,000 average US households; one assessment suggests that ChatGPT, the chatbot created by OpenAI in San Francisco, California, is already consuming the energy of 33,000 homes. It’s estimated that a search driven by generative AI uses four to five times the energy of a conventional web search. Within years, large AI systems are likely to need as much energy as entire nations.
And it’s not just energy. Generative AI systems need enormous amounts of fresh water to cool their processors and generate electricity. In West Des Moines, Iowa, a giant data-centre cluster serves OpenAI’s most advanced model, GPT-4. A lawsuit by local residents revealed that in July 2022, the month before OpenAI finished training the model, the cluster used about 6% of the district’s water. As Google and Microsoft prepared their Bard and Bing large language models, both had major spikes in water use — increases of 20% and 34%, respectively, in one year, according to the companies’ environmental reports. One preprint 1 suggests that, globally, the demand for water for AI could be half that of the United Kingdom by 2027. In another 2 , Facebook AI researchers called the environmental effects of the industry’s pursuit of scale the “elephant in the room”.
Rather than pipe-dream technologies, we need pragmatic actions to limit AI’s ecological impacts now.
There’s no reason this can’t be done. The industry could prioritize using less energy, build more efficient models and rethink how it designs and uses data centres. As the BigScience project in France demonstrated with its BLOOM model 3 , it is possible to build a model of a similar size to OpenAI’s GPT-3 with a much lower carbon footprint. But that’s not what’s happening in the industry at large.
It remains very hard to get accurate and complete data on environmental impacts. The full planetary costs of generative AI are closely guarded corporate secrets. Figures rely on lab-based studies by researchers such as Emma Strubell 4 and Sasha Luccioni 3 ; limited company reports; and data released by local governments. At present, there’s little incentive for companies to change.
There are holes in Europe’s AI Act — and researchers can help to fill them
But at last, legislators are taking notice. On 1 February, US Democrats led by Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced the Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act of 2024 . The bill directs the National Institute for Standards and Technology to collaborate with academia, industry and civil society to establish standards for assessing AI’s environmental impact, and to create a voluntary reporting framework for AI developers and operators. Whether the legislation will pass remains uncertain.
Voluntary measures rarely produce a lasting culture of accountability and consistent adoption, because they rely on goodwill. Given the urgency, more needs to be done.
To truly address the environmental impacts of AI requires a multifaceted approach including the AI industry, researchers and legislators. In industry, sustainable practices should be imperative, and should include measuring and publicly reporting energy and water use; prioritizing the development of energy-efficient hardware, algorithms, and data centres; and using only renewable energy. Regular environmental audits by independent bodies would support transparency and adherence to standards.
Researchers could optimize neural network architectures for sustainability and collaborate with social and environmental scientists to guide technical designs towards greater ecological sustainability.
Finally, legislators should offer both carrots and sticks. At the outset, they could set benchmarks for energy and water use, incentivize the adoption of renewable energy and mandate comprehensive environmental reporting and impact assessments. The Artificial Intelligence Environmental Impacts Act is a start, but much more will be needed — and the clock is ticking.
Nature 626 , 693 (2024)
Li, P., Yang, J., Islam, M. A. & Ren, S. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2304.03271 (2023).
Wu, C.-J. et al. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2111.00364 (2021).
Luccioni, A. S., Viguier, S. & Ligozat, A.-L. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/2211.02001 (2022).
Kaack, L. H. et al. Nature Clim. Chang. 12 , 518–527 (2022).
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K.C. is employed by both USC Annenberg, and Microsoft Research, which makes generative AI systems.
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‘Historic’ expansion of renewable energy sources rewriting the future of global electricity: ‘We’re moving closer’
R enewable energy resources saw “ massive ” and “historic” expansion globally in 2023, with the fastest growth still to come, according to a major new report released in January.
Renewables 2023 , an assessment by the International Energy Agency , reported that the world’s capacity to generate electricity from renewables (solar, wind, and other power sources that don’t burn polluting fuels) expanded by 510 gigawatts in 2023, which is 50% more than the also-hefty amount added in 2022.
The 2023 expansion was “equivalent to the entire power capacity of Germany, France, and Spain combined,” IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol (@fbirol) shared on X, formerly known as Twitter. The post included a graph showing the expansion of renewables since 2015.
Along with its analysis of 2023 data, the IEA projected that renewable power will see its “fastest growth yet” over the next five years.
This forecast puts the renewables sector on track to see global capacity increase to 2.5 times its current level by 2030. That’s short of the pledge to triple renewables by that time. In December, 118 nations supported the initiative at the UN Climate Conference ( COP 28 ).
The IEA contends that governments can make up the difference. To do so, they will need to overcome hurdles such as insufficient financing for renewables in emerging and developing countries.
“Global renewable capacity is already on course to increase by two-and-a-half times by 2030. It’s not enough yet to reach the COP 28 goal of tripling renewables, but we’re moving closer — and governments have the tools needed to close the gap,” Birol said in a statement.
Other key points from the report include the finding that China’s 2023 expansion was enormous — the nation commissioned as much new solar last year as the entire world did in 2022. Europe, the United States, and Brazil all set their own records for renewable expansion in 2023. And solar and wind are expected to continue to drive the vast majority (up to 95%) of future renewables expansion.
Meeting future goals for clean, renewable energy capacity has significant implications for the worldwide efforts to limit the worst effects of an overheating planet. Put simply, countries will need new sources of electricity if they are to replace fuels that produce planet-heating pollution.
As for impacts on individuals and businesses, the expanded production of renewables is already making solar panels much cheaper , as the IEA noted. Coupled with incentives , this should make it cheaper and more favorable for more people to invest in rooftop panels or community solar .
Despite the positive news about renewables, the IEA and others responding to the report recognize that progress should continue to be tracked .
An article in Utility Dive quoted Ray Long, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy: “The IEA’s new report highlights two major themes we know to be true: 1) a record amount of clean energy is being deployed worldwide and 2) while impressive, we can’t rest on our laurels now.”
Kaveh Guilanpour, vice president of international strategies at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions told Utility Dive: “What some people were saying was impossible only a few years ago is not only possible, but it is happening. We now just need to make it happen faster.”
‘Historic’ expansion of renewable energy sources rewriting the future of global electricity: ‘We’re moving closer’ first appeared on The Cool Down .