By Susannah Bruck
As we continue to explore new forms of renewable energy, in order to decrease our dependence on oil and coal, researchers are beginning to see which energy sources are the cleanest and most efficient. We also need to consider which forms of renewable energy are viable options to power our homes, businesses, cars, and devices on a large scale. The use of renewable energy in the United States has steadily increased in recent years as the public’s awareness and interest has grown. However, in 2015, only 10 percent of the United States’ energy usage came from renewable sources. To decrease our dependence on oil and coal, it is important to expand our use of renewable energy—first, by considering which energy sources are most promising alternatives for our current energy sources.
The most efficient power sources
Though solar energy has received a lot of attention, it’s actually one of the least efficient renewable energy sources we currently use. The efficiency of solar energy is 207 percent, but wind energy is 1164 percent efficient, and geothermal energy and hydroelectricity fall between these two numbers. All of these renewable resources are part of our renewable energy future. By 2050, it is estimated that wind energy will make up 35 percent of the US’s electricity production, since one large turbine can power about 1400 homes.
There are some drawbacks to these energy sources, however, including the high startup costs that make investors pause. But once the power source has been established, it costs very little to keep them going. Additionally, although these renewable energy sources are mostly environmentally friendly, there may be unforeseen problems, such as higher bird fatalities caused by wind turbines.
Diversifying renewable energy
Wind power may be the most efficient source of renewable energy, but we won’t be able to rely on it as the sole source of power, because wind is intermittent and unpredictable. Nor is solar power a reliable source of power on its own, because some areas do not get a lot of sunlight.
To generate enough energy to power our world, we will need to combine all of these clean, free, and renewable sources—from solar, geothermal, wind, to hydroelectric power—in a diversified energy consumption strategy.
Featured image: Globo verde. Credit: Olearys.
New Jersey Institute of Technology. n.d. “The most efficient form of renewable energy.” [Infographics.] Retrieved from https://graduatedegrees.online.njit.edu/resources/msee/msee-infographics/the-most-efficient-form-of-renewable-energy/.
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