What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy refers to energy sources that will never run out because they are constantly replenished by our natural environment. There are many types of renewable energy resources, including solar energy, wind power, bioenergy, hydrogen fuel, geothermal energy, and hydropower. Many countries, including the United States, rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. However, these energy resources are non-renewable; there is a finite amount of these resources on the planet, and as we burn them for fuel, those resources will dwindle to nothing, or will become too expensive or destructive to procure.
How does renewable energy help the environment?
Fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by trapping heat within our atmosphere. Global warming has devastating effects on the planet, including stronger storm systems, rising sea levels, droughts, and mass extinctions. Fossil fuels also cause dangerous levels of air and water pollution that has a negative impact on public health.
However, most renewable energy sources (including solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric) emit little to no greenhouse gases throughout the entire life-cycle. Solar energy can be used for heating, cooling, lighting, and electricity generation. Wind power and hydroelectric power also harness the weather to produce electricity. Geothermal energy can convert the internal heat of the planet into electric power production and heating as well.
What other impact do renewables have?
In addition to the environmental and public health benefits of renewable energy, there are also economic benefits. On average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels, and renewable energy investments are typically spent locally rather than overseas. After the upfront cost of building a renewable energy production site, the long-term cost of procuring and maintaining the energy is very low. This creates low, stable pricing.
Renewables also provide energy security, since abundant energy can be produced within the United States instead of requiring a reliance on foreign oil supplies. Distributed wind and solar systems help prevent localized weather events from cutting off power to a large region. Renewable power plants also have a reduced risk for water scarcity; most fossil fuel-powered plants require sufficient water for electricity generation and for cooling, which means that severe droughts and heat waves can put electricity generation at risk.