Your crash course in how renewable energy works

With global warming being (rightly so) such a big deal and such a buzz word at the moment, it seems that everyone is always talking about it and that every time you turn on the TV someone is mentioning another related piece of jargon or terminology. One of the terms you’re likely to find people mentioning most often is ‘renewable energy’ – but what precisely does this mean? Renewable energy is any form of energy that can be re-used over and over again without running out, and usually this has the handy benefit of also being very low in by-products. Regular energy that we get from our home normally will come from some form of fossil fuel. For instance in the case of gas, the gas is simply burned in order to create heat energy or some force from a small controlled explosion.

This is all very well, but that means you have to get that gas from somewhere and eventually it’s going to run out. More to the point it creates fumes that are released into the atmosphere – greenhouse gases that trap the warmth from the sun in our atmosphere and thus lead to global warming. When you use electricity from your wall socket meanwhile you aren’t using a fossil fuel directly, but the source of that electricity still comes from a power plant that burns carbon products for energy and creates a lot of unwanted fumes.

Renewable Energy Alternatives

Renewable energy meanwhile though incorporates things like solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, biofuel and tidal power. There are many different ways that we can get energy from our environment and each of these works in a slightly different way.

When we burn biofuel this basically means burning plants and crops that have stored a lot of energy in the form of glucose. This then combusts in a similar way to fossil fuels releasing that energy for us to use. The only difference is the reduction in waste, and the fact that new crops can be grown almost immediately.

Many other types of renewable energy meanwhile harness kinetic energy – in other words they use movement energy in order to drive movement within their own mechanisms. For instance in the case of a windmill, the wind energy blows the blades of the windmill turning it, which in turn moves lots of connected cogs, and a similar process is used in tidal energy.

Kinetic energy then is transformed into electric current through a process called electromagnetic induction. Here a metal pole is rotated through an electromagnetic field which gets the electrons in that metal excited and causes them to move down the rod – creating a current.

Solar panels meanwhile work without this induction and in a way are a more ‘direct’ way of getting energy. Here the sunlight excites the panels which have their electrons positioned in a particular way which causes them to move as well. This in turn causes a current which can be used to power various devices.

Two other forms of energy simply rely on heat. Geothermal energy uses heat from deep underground to warm up tubes of water for various purposes, while solar thermal energy uses the heat from the sun to heat much smaller pipes of water.

These are the basics of how renewable energy works. Each is different, but each relies on a naturally occurring form of energy to either create current or to heat up bodies of water.

About the author: Gemma Hastings offers useful information to people who are interested in learning more about solar panel grants and their respective quotes.

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