In the past few decades, renewable energy has gone from a niche idea to an integral part of the world’s power systems. But for many average electric users, the source of their energy may not be apparent — nor the benefits of using clean, green renewables instead of traditional fossil fuels. So let’s take a closer look and explore the many benefits of renewable energy, both for you and society as a whole.
What Is Renewable Energy?
The definition of renewable energy is right in the name! Renewable energy is any form of energy that isn’t drawn down or depleted as it’s used. That’s in contrast to non-renewable forms of energy like fossil fuels, which exist in only finite quantities (at least on a human time scale). Therefore, renewables have gained a lot of attention as a viable solution for a future where oil and gas are more difficult or expensive to obtain.
Sources of Renewable Energy
Ultimately most renewable energy comes from the sun. It can be collected directly with solar panels or indirectly via wind or hydropower. The only exception to this is geothermal. Geotherm energy mostly comes from heat left over from the earth’s formation and nuclear degradation of minerals within the earth.
It’s possible to harvest the energy of these naturally occurring phenomena to create electricity that can be fed into an electric grid and stored in batteries for later use. Each form has its own unique method of harvesting power. Solar uses specially designed solar panels, wind uses windmills that turn turbines, and hydro uses the force of rushing water to turn turbines for energy.
What Are the True Benefits of Renewable Energy?
When you plug in an appliance or turn on a light, it’s not always obvious where that electricity is coming from. But whether you notice it or not, renewable energy sources have some fantastic and diverse benefits.
- No Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Fossil Fuels
This is the most obvious and most well-known of the benefits of renewable energy. A significant amount of interest in renewables comes from those interested in protecting the planet, and with good reason. Hydro, solar, and wind power all produce unlimited energy without using any fossil fuels post-manufacturing. Every watt replaced with green sources is one step closer to preserving the Earth!
Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases (gases that absorb infrared radiation, e.g., carbon dioxide, methane, and others). These contribute to the greenhouse effect by re-radiating heat back to Earth’s surface. This traps the heat and warms the planet’s surface. Renewable energy does not release greenhouse gas.
- Reduction in Some Types of Air Pollution
Air pollution affects all of us right here and now. Traditional fossil fuels can produce significant amounts of smog and other air pollutants. These can harm your health in obvious ways like asthma or breathing trouble and long-term via lung damage or increased risk of respiratory issues or cancer. On the other hand, solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric dams produce their power without generating any additional particulate matter, helping to keep the air clean and safe.
- Diversification of Energy Supply
It’s an unfortunate reality that America doesn’t produce enough energy to fuel the country. Many of the countries we buy it from have questionable records when it comes to global affairs and human rights. In some cases, the United States and its energy patrons may have opposing views, adding tension to international affairs.
We can avoid all this through the increased use of renewable energy, which we can create in abundance right here at home. The sun will always shine, and the wind will always blow, making renewables an essential step toward a future of energy independence.
- Creation of Economic Development
Opponents of renewables often point to the jobs that the fossil fuel industry supports. But the truth is renewable energy is actually a path to significant job growth. The renewable energy industry is still in its relative infancy, meaning there’s still room for massive growth, both in the size of companies and the number of firms out there.
And there’s something for everyone in the renewables world! Executive and science-related jobs form part of the industry. There’s also the potential for thousands of skilled and unskilled labor positions manufacturing and installing renewable systems. Even marketing and sales-focused people can get involved with what’s likely to be a significant increase in demand in the coming years.
- Stabilization of the Electrical Grid
Another benefit of renewable energy is supporting and stabilizing the current grid, especially in high-usage areas. For example, the more people who install solar panels on their homes, the less of a spike in demand utilities will have to contend with on sweltering days. This extra energy can make a big difference in avoiding blackouts or other grid-related problems.
Availability of Backup And Remote Power
On an individual level, one of the biggest benefits of renewable energy is the ability to keep your lights on when the grid goes down with backup power. This could be from a car crash that knocks out a power pole or a hurricane, wildfire, or other natural disasters. Home solar or wind power systems can help provide electricity to at least your most essential systems and appliances despite outages. This added comfort is one of the most obvious benefits for the average homeowner who uses renewables.
On an industrial scale, work crews don’t typically have time for power setbacks as this can increase project cost and timeline. Utilizing an off-grid power system means that you aren’t at the mercy of the electrical company when an outage wreaks havoc on the surrounding community.
What Are the Social Benefits of Renewable Energy?
The social benefits of renewable energy provide extra support for this valuable technology. In addition to a cleaner environment, renewable energy has the potential to dramatically lower power prices when used at scale. This can help ease one of the burdens of the world’s growing population. Extracting fossil fuels also tends to be damaging, both to the environment and those who live in it. Reducing our dependence on these fuels can help lessen the disruptive effects of coal mining and oil and gas drilling.
Why Renewable Energy Is Important for a Sustainable Future
If you’re familiar with how fossil fuels come to be, you’ll know how long they take to create. It’s measured in millions of years, meaning we’re depleting them far faster than they’re being created. This means that someday in the future, we’ll need renewable energy to keep the lights on. Once easily accessible fossil fuels have been depleted, power companies will face no choice but to find alternatives or dramatically hike prices and face shortages.
The good news is that the sun won’t stop shining, the wind won’t stop blowing, and rivers won’t stop running. These three key energy sources can help fill the increasingly large gap left by fossil fuels in the years ahead. Plus, wind and solar can scale up almost as much as demand dictates. This provides a path toward a sustainable energy future. Just think of otherwise unused portions of sunny deserts or windy coastlines. These can generate clean, green, renewable power for millions of people.