Renewable Energy

Energy is what drives the global economy and since the 19th century fossil fuels have been the dominant source of energy. While fossil fuels enabled the Industrial Revolution, the combustion of fossil fuels has also had a detrimental effect on the environment. The excess amount of greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels may have a significant effect on the global climate and the earth’s ecological system.

There are several types of renewable energy systems that do not generate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydo, etc. Among all the renewable energy sources, solar energy is the most abundant. The amount of solar energy provided by the sun, that reaches the earth in one year, is greater than all the non-renewable resources combined. Solar energy is the energy derived from the sun through the form of solar radiation. Solar energy could provide all the electrical needs for the entire world. Solar technologies are broadly characterized as either passive solar or active solar depending on the way the energy is captured and converted to energy we can use. Active solar techniques include the use of photovoltaic (PV) modules and solar thermal collectors to harness the energy. Passive solar techniques include orienting a building to the sun and selecting materials with favorable thermal mass or light dispersing properties.

Renewable energy in the form of sun and wind provide energy that is free and limitless. While fossil fuel technologies have been the primary source of energy, renewable energy technologies are rapidly being improved. Innovation and ingenuity give us the ability to constantly increase the efficiency of renewable energy and continually reduce its cost. Once the world makes a clear commitment to shifting toward renewable energy, the volume of production will itself sharply reduce the cost of each solar module and windmill. Continued research and development has added to the innovation process.

Photovoltaic production has been increasing by an average of some 20 percent each year since 2002, making it a fast-growing energy technology. At the end of 2009, the cumulative global PV installations surpassed 21,000 megawatts. The largest photovoltaic power plants are in Spain and Germany. There are megawatt PV power plants being built in California, however renewable energy systems is not just large systems; systems are also designed for roof tops so the energy is supplied close to where it is needed. Solar power modules that use nanotechnology, which can create circuits out of individual silicon molecules, may cost half as much as traditional photovoltaic cells. This technology is called thin-film solar modules.

If you’re worried that the push for solar power will cover the earth with solar hardware; there’s no need to worry. In the United States, cities and buildings cover about 140 million acres of land. We could meet all our current electricity needs simply by putting PV systems on 7% of that area, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.