Increasingly, renewable energy is becoming the dominant source of power in the United States. In fact, more than one eighth of our power generation comes from renewable sources. Its use has become widespread, from small, residential homes to large offshore wind farms. As the use of renewable energy grows, so does the need for modernizing the electric grid. Some of the challenges faced by the energy industry are listed below. Learn about the challenges of renewable energy and its advantages.
Hydropower – Although wind turbines are unsightly and noisy, they can also provide usable power. Hydrolysis occurs when excess renewable electricity runs through water tanks. The water molecules break apart into hydrogen and oxygen, which are then used for different applications. Hydrogen can also be stored in fuel cells, which function like batteries. Hydrogen fuel cells can run several types of cars. Hydrogen fuel cells are used for renewable energy production. Hydrogen fuel cells are the most popular form of electric energy.
Electricity production from renewable energy sources has increased by a factor of ten since the early twentieth century. In fact, renewable energy sources accounted for nearly twenty percent of global energy consumption in 2015, primarily from traditional biomass. Wood, for example, is commonly used for heating and cooking. Large hydroelectric plants generated 16 percent of the world’s total electricity. Other renewable energy types contributed only six percent. Nuclear power is also considered renewable energy. In 2015, nuclear power generated 10.6 percent of the world’s electricity.
In the U.S., over thirty states have passed laws requiring major utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Some cities have even pledged to reach 100 percent renewable energy. The future of renewable energy development is bright, as most of us support it despite the challenges that it faces. Renewable energy is bipartisan in the United States. While Republicans are focused on its economic benefits, Democrats focus on climate change. For example, in 2018, a record amount of renewable energy was purchased by corporations.
In addition to the federal government’s support for renewable energy, the United States also offers several incentives for its use. For instance, the production tax credit is applicable to a variety of renewable technologies. These eligible technologies received a 2.2 C/kWh credit for their electricity produced during their first ten years of operation. However, this credit is phased out. The Consolidated Appropriations Act (2016) extended the ITC for another two years, but it will cease to apply after December 31, 2021.
Biomass is a solid fuel that is derived from plant materials and is burned to produce electricity. Biomass is a cleaner process and releases fewer emissions than pure gasoline. Biomass has the added benefit of being stored for future energy needs. Similarly, biomass can also be used for fuel in cars. Biomass fuels can be stored for future use, as they do not absorb water. However, growing biomass to produce biofuels requires extensive land, which can also be contaminated by pesticides.
Another form of renewable energy is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is only available in certain areas, and it requires a significant amount of freshwater to generate steam. This can be a disadvantage in places with dry heat underneath the earth. It can be used as an electricity generator, but requires a huge surface area. For more information, visit the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. So far, geothermal resources are abundant in the Great Plains and the Appalachian Mountains. Solar photovoltaic and concentrating power resources are concentrated in the West and the desert Southwest.
Canadian renewable energy resources are abundant and diverse. Canada’s active agricultural and forest industries produce a large amount of biomass that can be used for energy. Bioenergy in Canada ranks second only to wind and solar energy as a source of renewable energy. Wood is a historically important resource in Canada. A quarter of households use wood for cooking and space heating, and approximately 100 petajoules of wood energy is consumed each year in the residential sector. That’s about seven percent of residential energy use.
Solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal power are three of the most common sources of renewable energy. These renewable energy sources are often expensive to install, but are reducing in cost and increasing in popularity. Large wind turbines are used to convert wind energy into usable electricity. Wind turbines can be small and inexpensive to supplement a home or even an entire city. Large wind farms can power entire cities and countries. For the time being, this renewable energy source remains the cheapest source of energy.