Traditional sources of energy cause great harm to the environment as well as exhaust the limited resources of the planet. Therefore, humanity is forced to seek new sources of energy, main principle of which is their inexhaustibility. Moreover, basic task of using renewable energy is to extract it from the processes that occur in the environment. In most cases, it is derived from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, geothermal heat, tidal energy, and so on. This paper, however, provides a thorough description of modern renewable energy sources.
Solar energy is one of the most common energy sources in our time. For the first time, Archimedes used solar energy in 214 BC for military purposes. In 2016, more than 60 gigawatts of solar energy were produced. Basically, the chief advantage lies in its infinite renewability (Alrikabi 62). However, such energy can be generated only in the daytime and under good weather conditions. Besides, the implementation costs of one solar energy project amount to $4,000, while the price of one kilowatt of solar energy is $6 (The Economist). Thus, such energy has a high potential benefit since solar systems are safe to install and durable.
The photovoltaic system is a kind of solar energy. Its main principle is the use of photovoltaics as a source of generation. French physicist Edmond Becquerel used photovoltaics in 1839. Today, photovoltaic devices are rapidly gaining popularity in countries such as China, Germany, and Japan (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 62). The cost of photovoltaic energy is constantly decreasing, which affects its spread throughout the world. Furthermore, main advantage of this energy lies in its purity and naturalness. At the same time, it depends on weather conditions and needs additional equipment. To date, the cost of one kilowatt of photovoltaic energy is $0.3. Therefore, photovoltaic energy is very beneficial due to its simplicity, cheapness, and energy purity.
Water power, however, has three types: hydroelectric power, wave energy, and tidal energy., Wave and tidal energy was first used in 1799 and 1732 respectively; but the first hydroelectric power station was built in 1882. The status of the industry shows positive tendencies in its development and becomes an increasingly popular energy source (Alrikabi 63). This source of energy is characterized by its low cost; hydropower is $157,000 per MW per year cheaper than traditional coal energy (The Economist). The installation of a hydroelectric station stimulates the loss of terrestrial plots, and they often have harmful methane emissions. This does not prevent the water industry from receiving potential benefits for the society: hydroelectric plants produce huge amounts of cheap energy in a short time.
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Biomass energy principle is the use of waste from production for advanced energy generation. The energy of biomass was widely spread at the beginning of the 21st century along with the growing trends of other renewable energy sources. Analysts predict that such energy will overtake all other sources within the next three years. Meanwhile, such energy is cheap and affordable for most households (Alrikabi 63). At the same time, biomass energy damages the environment due to carbon and nitrogen oxides emissions. On the whole, the potential use of such energy is meaningful as an additional source of energy for households or small industries.
Corn fuel is ethanol produced from corn as a biomass. Mainly, such fuel began to gain popularity in the late 1970s, and today it is one of the most common types of fuel. However, analysts predict a possible collapse of the corn fuel industry because of its high cost, competition with other fuels, and harmful emissions into the atmosphere (Alrikabi 62). The production of corn ethanol requires a large amount of thermal energy, which significantly reduces its attractiveness. However, corn fuel stimulates the economic growth due to the increasing demand for corn. Besides, corn ethanol is cheaper than traditional fuel; thus, it may occupy significant positions in the market for several more years.
Nuclear energy is contained in atomic nuclei and released during radioactive decay. The energy of radioactive decay was first applied in practice in 1954. However, after several major accidents at nuclear power plants, many countries stopped the development of nuclear power. Nevertheless, today its popularity is returning due to such advantages as the absence of carbon dioxide emissions and large amount of energy produced (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 135). Among the shortcomings there is a high risk of accidents, which entail enormous radiation contamination. The cost of one MW of energy produced in this way is $262,000 cheaper than traditional energy sources (The Economist). On the whole, the potential use of such a source is economically sound as it is cheap and provides job opportunities.
Wind energy is one of the most popular energy sources in our time. Such energy has a long history: the Persians used windmills already in 200 BC. Nowadays, the total installed capacity of all wind generators is more than 400 gigawatts. Furthermore, this source has great prospects: it reserves are more than a hundred times higher than the hydroelectric ones of all the rivers on the planet (Alrikabi 62). The main advantage of wind energy is its simplicity and safety. Alternatively, wind generators create loud noise and vibration, and negatively affect wind currents. Moreover, wind energy is cost-effective comparing to the one produced from coal (The Economist). Nevertheless, the potential use of such energy promotes the popularization of wind turbines around the world.
To conclude, each type of renewable energy has its benefits and drawbacks, which contributes to the growth or reduction of popularization. Nowadays, one could observe a rapid development of wind energy, while corn ethanol begins to decline. Nuclear power, however, is developing unstably, in contrast to the solar one. Nevertheless, all the above sources of energy have one common property, which is renewability and benefits for society.