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What Is Renewable Energy?

Please note this is a new addition to our website. Over time, we will build it out and add more information we hope you will find useful.

“Renewable energy” is a phrase we hear a lot. But what exactly does it mean for an energy source to be “renewable”?

Let’s focus for a moment on how different energy sources replenish themselves. Fossil fuels are the products of ancient plants and marine organisms that decomposed over many millions of years to form coal, gas, and oil. Because of the massive timescales required to generate them, the deposits of fossil fuels stored in the Earth will not replenish themselves over a period of time that is useful to humans. They are therefore forms of “non-renewable” energy.

In contrast, renewable forms of energy replenish themselves constantly; their energy is sourced from naturally-occurring phenomena within Earth’s weather and climate systems. We can reliably assume some combination of sun, wind, and flowing water will be accessible just about anywhere you are on the planet, and we can harness these forces of nature to power our world using solar, wind, hydro and tidal power. Another renewable energy resource, geothermal power, harnesses the heat generated by the geological activities within the Earth.

 Electricity generation in the U.S. is powered by a mixture of fossil fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear power. Renewable technologies’ share of the total U.S. energy generation mix has grown significantly over the past 9 years. As of 2017, renewables accounted for 17% of generation, fossil fuels generated 63%, and nuclear generated 20%. Image: Climable.org Data source:  Energy Information Administration

Electricity generation in the U.S. is powered by a mixture of fossil fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear power. Renewable technologies’ share of the total U.S. energy generation mix has grown significantly over the past 9 years. As of 2017, renewables accounted for 17% of generation, fossil fuels generated 63%, and nuclear generated 20%. Image: Climable.org Data source: Energy Information Administration

Because the phenomena that power these energy technologies are essentially unending, they are defined as forms of renewable energy. As far as human timespans are concerned, these resources can be considered infinite. Even better, unlike fossil fuels, which release large amounts of carbon emissions through their use, renewable energy resources are carbon free in their power generation and therefore do not contribute to climate change. Because of the regenerative nature of renewable resources and their lack of harmful emissions, clean, renewable power is, without question, the logical path forward for humanity.

 There are multiple sources of renewable energy and their share in the generation mix has changed over the years. Hydroelectric remains the largest producer in 2017 with 44% of the total renewable generation, though wind power has seen the most significant increase, accounting for 37% in 2017. These are followed by solar with 11% and geothermal with 2%. Image: Climable.org Data source:  Energy Information Administration

There are multiple sources of renewable energy and their share in the generation mix has changed over the years. Hydroelectric remains the largest producer in 2017 with 44% of the total renewable generation, though wind power has seen the most significant increase, accounting for 37% in 2017. These are followed by solar with 11% and geothermal with 2%. Image: Climable.org Data source: Energy Information Administration