The Main Types of Renewable Energy & Why They Matter

We all know we need to find new and renewable energy sources, and we need to do it quickly. Finding sustainable sources of energy that don’t rely on fossil fuels will be a key component to fighting climate change.

There are many complications in the shift toward renewable energy and away from nonrenewable energy. So, it’s helpful to go over some of the basics and most frequently asked questions. That includes questions like:

what is renewable energy, what types of renewable energy are there, and how does this affect consumers?

Here’s what you should know about renewable energy types.

What is Renewable Energy?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) defines renewable energy as energy from naturally replenishing sources. Some of the major types include solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy.

Despite its natural replenishing tendencies, renewable energy is often flow-limited. In other words, there might be an “unlimited” amount of renewable energy. Yet, there will be a limit to how much of that energy is available at specific points in time.

A good example is solar energy. Although we can’t exhaust the energy produced by the sun, solar energy production gets limited to daylight hours and clear skies. However, as a renewable source that won’t “run out,” solar energy doesn’t require conservation.

From renewable energy comes electricity, the Department of Energy points out. Through various conversion processes, the energy produced by the sun, wind, or other renewable energy transforms into usable electricity. This electricity can power your home, charge up your favorite devices, and ensure the operation of critical infrastructure; like hospitals and the internet.

It’s worth pointing out that renewable energy refers to the ability of an energy source to renew itself. It’s different from clean energy, which generally refers to energy sources that don’t pollute the atmosphere. However, most renewable energy sources are also clean.

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy types are becoming increasingly common across the globe as alternatives to nonrenewable sources for the production of electricity. Here are some of the most common — and important — types of renewable energy.

Solar Energy

Solar energy is one of the most talked-about renewable energy types. Basically, it’s energy from the sun. A technology called photovoltaics transforms radiant light and heat harnessed from the sun into usable electricity.

Compared to renewable energy types like wind energy or geothermal energy. It’s also one of the easiest for consumers to adopt themselves. There are a plethora of solar panels on the market. Although the initial cost can be steep, customers have the option to add solar energy to their own homes.

Wind Energy

Wind energy, which leverages wind to provide mechanical power through turbines, is one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world. Technically, it’s a form of solar energy since winds are caused by the sun heating up the atmosphere. Because of that, wind energy is a renewable energy type that’s sustainable.

Wind energy is making tremendous strides and creating new innovations for how the world can approach generating clean renewable energy. Companies are beginning to create wind turbines that no longer require blades. This lessens the cost, is silent and safer for birds when flying near these wind turbines. Other manufacturers are creating flying wind turbines operating in altitudes of 1,000 feet. This is done to gain access to more powerful and consistent sources of wind. There are even wind turbines now generating electricity at both high and low wind speeds.

Wind energy can come with a few downsides; including that good sites for land-based wind energy farms are typically located in remote areas far from the cities that need the electricity the most. Owners of farms or ranches can install wind turbines, and one would think it’s not likely to see massive wind energy operations in densely populated areas. 

However, companies are creating ways to incorporate the use of wind energy in high populated cities such as New York. Our products at Alternative Sustainability for example, harness the power of air movement while saving money, space and time which is perfect for any densely populated city. They make for a great fit for any building or home to reduce the overall carbon footprint and improve the use of clean energy. Learn more about how you can benefit from our products at Alternative Sustainability

Geothermal Energy

The EIA points out that heat is produced in the sub-surface of the earth by the slow decay of radioactive particles. Water or steam can carry this heat to the surface, harnessing it to produce clean electricity.

There are many examples of geothermal energy. If you’ve ever bathed in a naturally occurring hot spring, you’ve taken advantage of this energy. Geothermal plants can convert other types of this renewable energy to usable electricity but come with some risks. For one, they can trigger a damaging earthquake. 

Biomass

Biomass energy refers to energy produced by plants or animals — think burning wood in a campfire to generate light and heat. Because of that, you could compare biomass energy to fossil fuels, which also come from the remains of dead plants and animals. Unlike fossil fuels, however, biomass energy is renewable.

Until the mid-1800s, biomass energy was the largest source of energy in the U.S. Biomass energy can include sources like wood, agricultural waste, or animal manure and is generally used to avoid carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use. There are, however, some questions about how clean the renewable energy type actually is.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a fuel that several different sources can produce, including biomass and nuclear power. The most common type of hydrogen production involves steam reforming of natural gas. Because it produces only water when used, it is often championed as a clean and renewable alternative to petroleum. 

Through hydrogen fuel cells, users of this renewable energy can leverage hydrogen to power cars — or even rockets. NASA, for example, uses liquid hydrogen for rocket fuel. However, most hydrogen today is produced by fossil fuel sources, although it can also be produced by biomass, solar, or wind energy, making it renewable.

Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectricity, which is also known as hydroelectric or hydropower, is electricity produced through harnessing falling or fast-running water. Basically, this renewable energy type uses turbines or generators to convert the kinetic force generated by water into usable electricity. It’s sustainable because it doesn’t deplete or “use up” the water involved in the process.

It happens to be one of the oldest sources of producing mechanical and electrical energy — from grinding grain to being involved in industrial manufacturing. It was also the largest source of annual renewable energy production until 2019. Because it doesn’t deplete anything or spew pollutants, it’s both a renewable and clean energy source.

Ocean Energy

Ocean energy is technically an offshoot from hydropower but relies on the kinetic motion of the waves, tides, and currents of the world’s oceans and seas. For example, think of the force of a wave crashing against a coastline. Ocean energy takes that force and converts it into usable electricity.

Other types of ocean energy include buoys that can harness power from the rise and fall of ocean waves or the tide. According to the National Renewables Energy Laboratory, because oceans cover 75% of the planet and population centers are often located near the coast, ocean energy has excellent potential to become a plentiful renewable energy type.

Nonrenewable Energy Types

To understand the difference between renewable energy and nonrenewable energy, we’ll need a broad overview of the latter energy type.

Nonrenewable energy includes coal, natural gas, oil, or nuclear energy. Such forms of energy get considered nonrenewable because they rely on a finite resource. Take oil. There’s only so much oil hidden beneath the earth’s surface. Once it’s gone, nothing can replenish it.

Currently, we source most nonrenewable energy types from fossil fuels, which are the buried remains of ancient life. Nuclear energy is different but since its source is uranium, it is still nonrenewable. It can also be difficult to mine and extract from the earth’s crust.

The Future of Renewable Energy

There’s a great debate about what the future of renewable energy could look like. It’s likely that, in the future, we will use a variety of renewable and clean energy sources to power our homes and keep the electrical grid running.

With climate change threatening virtually everyone on the planet, renewable energy types will need harnessing to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

No matter what energy types we come to rely on, one thing is certain: renewable energy is the future, with many projections suggesting significant growth in types like wind energy, solar energy, and hydro energy.

One of the more exciting developments in renewable energy is Alternative Sustainabilituy’s innovative product lineup. The company has created several ground-breaking products that can easily add clean and renewable energy production to businesses, residences, and other buildings. More than that, Alternative Sustainability’s products are easier to install, more cost-effective, and more efficient than options like solar panels.

How to add clean energy to your home or business

If you’d like to incorporate sustainable and renewable energy methods in your own home, a good idea is to invest in solar panels or a cheaper and easier solution like those made by Alternative Sustainability, which produces specialized turbines that use the air in your HVAC system to generate power.

The options below are renewable energy solutions that consumers can adopt themselves — after all, you’re not going to install a geothermal energy facility in your home. Compared to solar panels or more expensive renewable solutions, their benefits could also make them a better and more realistic choice for many consumers.

Low Carbon PTAC

The Low Carbon PTAC is a patent-pending device using highly efficient electric heating coils that can provide cooling and heating without the need for central air. It comes with better sound and thermal insulation, easy digital control options, and built-in UCV sterilization. Customers and businesses can reduce gas usage up to 70% with this solution.

Learn more.

Turbine Slide Frame 

Installers equip many buildings with systems that bring air in and exhaust air out. The Turbine Slide Frame can help you harness the air to produce clean energy. The Turbine Slide Frame, which you can install in any HVAC unit or ductwork, can create large amounts of power using the existing systems in a building.

Learn more.

T7 Exhaust Turbine 

The T7 Exhaust Turbine is a product that can produce renewable energy through a building’s exhaust systems. All you need to do is replace your existing exhaust fans with the T7 Exhaust Turbine to produce energy. This is possible without any major retrofitting to your building’s roof.

Learn more.

ECap Rack 

Alternative Sustainability’s ECap Rack works like wind turbines, just on a smaller scale. A single ECap Rack is a standalone unit you can place in a variety of locations. However, it can produce as much as 3,000 watts using just air. That’s much more than the 300 watts produced by a single solar panel, and in a smaller space. Compared to other popular clean energy options like solar panels, they’re also more efficient, reliable, cheaper and easier to install.

Learn more.