Understanding Renewable Energy Systems
- by Joe Weber
- updated on
In a world where climate change, the environment and rising utility bills are always in the news, renewable energy is seemingly the way to go. But what exactly is a renewable energy system, and is it feasible for you to use one?
What Are Renewable Energy Systems?
In simple terms, a renewable energy system is a way to create energy from things that regenerate naturally, like sunlight, wind or flowing water. These systems are better for the environment because they don't use up resources like oil or coal and don't create as much pollution to harm the planet.
When thinking about renewable energy for personal use, they can also be better for our pocketbooks because using these systems could allow you to cease using the utility grid, saving you money every month.
How Many Types of Renewable Energy Systems Are There?
Everyone is probably familiar with the two most popular forms of renewable energy, wind and solar. But, did you know that there are four more forms of renewable energy that are used around the world?
The renewable energy systems available are:
Solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into electricity. This process involves photovoltaic (PV) cells that generate a flow of electrons when exposed to sunlight which is sent from the panels through an inverter to convert it to usable electricity. This is a very common choice for residential renewable energy.
Wind turbines use the power of the wind to turn blades, which generates electricity through a generator that can be used to power communities, businesses and homes.
Electricity is generated by water flowing through turbines. Usually seen in areas with high amounts of water flow, like rivers or dams. This type of renewable energy has been used for decades in areas where water flow is plentiful.
Using the natural heat of the Earth, geothermal energy captures heat from beneath the Earth's surface to generate electricity. This type of energy is usually used to power heating and cooling systems for buildings.
Most people are probably at least familiar with the term biofuel. That's a form of Bioenergy. Bioenergy is produced from a variety of organic materials like wood, charcoal, manure and crops. These materials are burned or converted to biofuels. When used for Bioenergy, these materials are referred to as biomass.
Ocean energy, or tidal energy, uses tides and waves to generate electricity or heat. This is a newer technology that is still in the early stages of development but there are a number of prototype devices being researched and tested.
What Are the Benefits of Using Renewable Energy?
Switching to a renewable energy source has many benefits for the public and for the planet.
- Lower Environmental Impact: Renewable energy systems produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions, reducing air pollution and slowing climate change.
- Helps Public Health: By reducing the use of fossil fuels, we will reduce greenhouse gasses and other pollutants from being released into the atmosphere. We'll have healthier air to breathe and cleaner soil to grow crops.
- Technology Advancement: Chasing renewable energy has led to breakthroughs in power storage, grid management and efficiency of systems.
- Jobs: The renewable energy job market continues to provide new and exciting employment opportunities in manufacturing, maintenance, installation, research, sales and development.
- Sustainability: Renewable energy sources are virtually limitless. The wind isn't going to stop blowing or the sun stop shining. This helps ensure a continuous supply of power for future generations.
- Energy Independence: By changing energy sources, countries, communities and individuals can reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, reducing the need for aging technologies and saving money simultaneously.
Are There Any Challenges with Renewable Energy?
Every new technology encounters challenges and renewable energy is no different. Some of the challenges renewable energy is currently facing are
Not available 24/7: Let's face it, the sun isn't always shining and the wind isn't always blowing. When things like this happen, energy is not generated from some renewable sources, and homeowners and communities need to rely on other sources to provide power.
This is why, at least for solar, having a whole home battery backup is a must. A home battery backup battery will store excess energy collected from the solar panels for you to use at a later time. So even if there is no sun, you have the power to run your home appliances.
High initial costs: The installation costs for solar panels on homes can range from $10,000 to $20,000, which is a hard pill to swallow for homeowners. Luckily, many states offer tax incentives and there are federal tax credits for installing new solar systems on your home.
To learn more about your state's incentives for going solar, check out this helpful tool run by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University.
- Space requirements: Some renewable energy systems need a ton of space. Think about large wind farms or large solar farms to power communities or large buildings that you've seen driving through the country, it takes up a lot of space.
- Some renewable technologies must be recycled: According to an article by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) , not all solar panels can be thrown in the trash. Some solar panels are considered hazardous waste and homeowners disposing of any old solar panels should contact their local recycling center to see if they can be thrown out or if they have to be recycled.
- Public acceptance: For the most part, the general public has accepted the use of renewable energy sources. However, there are some groups that are trying to subvert the use of renewable energy to return to fossil fuels as our primary source of energy.
Are There Renewable Energy Products I Can Use Instead of a Generator?
For many of us, having extra power when we are camping, RVing or even keeping at home for emergencies is very important. However, gas generators can be noisy, rely on gas or propane to power them, and create harmful fumes. Not to mention they are heavy and tricky to transport.
Goal Zero makes a variety of solar generators and power stations that come in several sizes to provide enough power for whatever you are looking for. Whether you're camping, at a worksite or roughing it through a power outage, Goal Zero makes a power station that will fit your needs. Charge it up with the sun and never be without the power you need for your day. We have a great selection of Goal Zero Yeti bundles and solar panels online for ordering today!
Shop online or visit us in-store to speak to one of our experts to find out which option is best for you.