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The Five General Types of Renewable Energy and why They are Important

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Renewable energy is any naturally occurring, theoretically inexhaustible source of energy, as biomass, solar, wind, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric power that is not derived from fossil or nuclear fuel. There are five general types of renewable energies including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydro.(, N.D.) All of the following provide numerous benefits to our health, climate, and economy. Each source of renewable energy has unique costs and benefits, but all are very important and play a specific part in eliminating our dependency on nonrenewable resources.

Our atmosphere is being overloaded with carbon dioxide and other emissions because of human activity. This traps heat and will steadily increase the planet’s temperature, which in short will create significant and harmful impacts on our health, our environment, and our climate.

In the United States, electricity production accounts for more than one-third of global warming emissions. The majority of this is generated due to coal-fired power plants, and produces approximately 25 percent of the total global warming emissions. Natural gas-fired power plants produce six percent. In short, most renewable energy sources produce little to no global warming emissions (, N.D.).

According to data aggregated by International Panel on climate change, life-cycle global warming emissions associated with renewable-energy- including manufacturing, installation, operation, and maintenance, and dismantling and decommissioning are very minimal (, N.D.).

Wind power dates back to over a thousand years ago to the original documented windmills that were used for grain-grinding and water-pumping in Persia. Throughout these thousand years, the apparatus used for tackling the power of the wind changed exceedingly from primitive “vertical-axis” windmills used in Persia and China to the new modern-day wind turbines scattered globally. Similarly, changes in the uses for this energy have occurred throughout the years. Originally wind power was used for grinding grains and pumping water to harness electricity to powering entire cities. The history of wind power is very important although the present and future is more concerning to most (,N.D.) .

As long as the sun is shining and the earth is spinning the wind can be harnessed unlike fossil fuels. The most abundant and quickest growing resource is wind. It has been this way since 1990. With the depletion of fossil fuels it is essential that we continue to research different methods to lower the cost of adding wind turbines.

Today’s wind turbines are a much more evolved version of the windmill. Modern wind turbines use the wind’s kinetic energy to convert it into electricity. Most of these windmills have three blades and sit atop a steel tubular tower, and generally range in size from 80-foot-tall turbines that can power a single home. Turbines that are over 260 feet tall can power hundreds of homes (, N.D.).

There are three major types of wind power; they are utility-scale wind, distributed wind, and offshore wind. Utility-scale wind is wind turbines that are bigger than 100 kilowatts. They are developed with electricity delivered to the power grid and distributed to the end users by electric utilities or power system operators. Distributed wind is 100 kilowatts or smaller to directly power a farm, small business, or home. Offshore wind is wind turbines that are erected in bodies of water around the world; they are not in the United States yet. (,N.D).

Wind turbines work when wind blows past the turbine. The blades capture energy and then rotate. This rotation will trigger an internal shaft to spin, which is attached to a gearbox increasing the speed of rotation, which is connected to a generator that ultimately produces electricity. More commonly, wind turbines consist of a steel tubular tower, they can be up to 325 feet, which will support both a “hub” securing the wind turbine blades and the “nacelle”, which house the turbines shaft, gearbox, generator, and controls. A turbine is rigged with wind assessment equipment and will automatically rotate into the face of the wind, and angle or “pitch” its blades to enhance energy captured (, N.D.).

Generally, wind turbines stand together in an area with a lot of wind in a robust development process in an interconnected group called a wind project or wind farm. They function like a wind power plant. These turbines are connected, so that electricity can travel from the wind farm to the power grid. Once the wind energy is on the power grid, electric utilities or power operators will deliver the electricity where it is needed. Smaller transmission lines called distribution lines will collect the electricity created at the wind project site and then will transport it to larger “networks” transmission lines where the electricity can travel across long distances to the locations where needed. Finally, the smaller “distribution lines” deliver electricity directly into your town and home (,N.D.).

The United States is very fortunate because they have strong wind across the entire country. The present estimate of wind energy potential is ten times the amount of electricity consumption for the entire country. This powerful wind resource varies across the country by region and topography. By the end of 2013, America had over 46,000 operating wind turbines across thirty-nine states. These were responsible for representing 61,100 megawatts (enough to power over 15.5 million homes. This is roughly enough energy to power homes in six different states. The United States gets 4.1 percent of its electricity from wind overall, although some states consume much more. For instance, Iowa and South Dakota get more than 25 percent of their electricity from wind (brynmawr,N.D.).

There are many pros and cons when it comes to wind energy. Generally, the main concern is the cost. Now, it is very cost-effective in comparison to the previous costs. During 2013, the United States utilities signed at least sixty power purchase agreements totaling nearly 8,000 megawatts across 18 states. Utilities have the privilege of locking in wind energy prices for about 20 to 30 years because the fuel is free. This is one of the reasons wind power has added 31% of all new generating capacity to the United States grid over the past 5 years. In August 2012, a historical milestone was reached for wind power, which was 50 gigawatts of electric generating capacity. Five months later, the United States hit the 60-gigwatt milestone, which is enough power to generate electricity to 15 million homes each year. As of September 2014, the current installed capacity for wind energy is approximately 62 gigawatts (, N.D.).

Another important advantage of wind power is that it is green. Harnessing wind energy will not pollute the environment nearly as much as fossil fuels, nuclear power, and coals do. Yes, installing, manufacturing, and transportation does slightly contribute to global warming, but the production of this green energy itself does not involve any emissions. Some animals such as bats and birds have slim chances of surviving when directly hit by a rotating wind turbine blade, but other than this green energy is a very safe alternative. (

The potential for wind energy is absolutely incredible. As mentioned earlier we have advanced greatly with our knowledge on this topic. Every day we are taking steps towards being more dependent on these sources. The worldwide potential of wind power is more than 400 terawatts. Gathering wind energy can be done almost anywhere although is not affordable in every location (, N.D.).

According to the author: “From 1943 through 1999, cumulative federal government subsidies to these electricity-generating [nuclear, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal electricity] technologies (excluding hydropower) totaled almost $151 billion (in 1999 dollars). This figure includes all direct program budgetary outlays, plus several of the most notable off-budget subsidies and policies, including tax credits and incentive payments for renewable energy, as well as nuclear liability limitations. The nuclear industry received $145.4 billion, or over 96 percent of the subsidies. Those to photovoltaic and solar thermal power accounted for a cumulative total of $4.4 billion, while wind technology received $1.3 billion” (,N.D.) .

As stated in this quote, our money is not being invested in wind technology. Being that nuclear energy companies have so much money they will continue to be in power. This is how it works in almost every industry. It will be very difficult to reach these financial goals in the field of wind energy. It bothers me that nuclear power is so dirty and harmful, yet the government decides they need millions of dollars to generate them. I think if everyone did research on renewable energy they would see as I did that these alternatives create a better future for our generations.

Wind power is our only hope for a cleaner planet. The costs are going down substantially, so this can no longer be an excuse. I do not think that we need to place turbines everywhere throughout the world, but we should place enough to power every single home. I know that there are many barriers to wind power, but we have come so far already that I do not deem this as impossible.

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