Historically, the primary sources of renewable energy were wind, firewood, and animal power. Today, we can find renewable energy in numerous forms, ranging from large facilities to small-scale production. The problem with fossil fuels is their detrimental impact on the environment. Not only have they increased global temperatures, but they have also lead to more extreme weather events and destruction of natural habitats. But recent advances in the field of capture and storage have made it possible to expand renewable energy production.
The growth of renewable energy has far-reaching benefits that extend beyond the environmental benefits. Increasing the use of renewable energy will help the world sustain its population, expand access to energy in developing nations, and lower energy bills for everyone. Today, the world is experiencing a renewable energy renaissance, with wind and solar power setting new records for electricity generation. After 150 years of using fossil fuels to power virtually everything, we are now at historic levels.
To encourage the development of renewable energy, the government has implemented policies that are beneficial to both the environment and the economy. Specifically, feed-in tariffs force electric utilities to buy renewable power from eligible generators at pre-established above-market rates. This gives renewable generators a guaranteed source of income. In 2009, Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington became the first states to adopt feed-in tariffs. And they continue to expand the use of renewable energy in these states.
Hydropower is the most widespread source of renewable energy for electricity production. It is a renewable source, but it is not without its drawbacks. For example, hydropower is dependent on stable rainfall patterns and can be affected by climate change and changes in ecosystems. It can also negatively impact ecosystems, which is why small-scale hydro projects are seen as more environmentally friendly. Other renewable energy sources include wave and tidal energy. These two sources can help to generate electricity and are gaining popularity all around the world.
Biomass can also be fermented to produce biofuels and hydrogen. Depending on the region, biomass can be used to generate electricity. In the United States, biomass is commonly used to produce biodiesel, gasoline, and other fuels. In Southeast Asia, agricultural waste is often used as biofuels. Several different types of biomass can be used to produce hydrogen and biofuels. There is also a variety of biomass that is cultivated to make alcohols and other products.
Wind turbines are noisy and unsightly. While wind turbines do not cause pollution, they do produce noise, and they often compete with the environment's arable land. In addition to aesthetic concerns, on-shore wind farms can also impact local wildlife. The Massachusetts Cape Wind project was delayed due to opposition due to aesthetic concerns, and the Ardrossan Wind Farm in Scotland is helping to enhance the landscape. Many renewable energy opponents are known as NIMBYs, which stands for "not in my backyard."
Renewable energy is a long-term solution to the problem of rising gasoline prices. Ashok Gupta has spent decades cleaning up New York's grid and reducing its dependence on dirty fuels. He is working on bringing this future to the Midwest. In the meantime, the Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribe is preparing to go solar and free itself of fossil fuels. With this kind of progress, renewable energy is poised to lead the recovery process.
While biomass energy sources are widely used for energy, the fastest growing sources of renewable energy are solar and wind. Solar electricity alone accounts for more than eleven percent of U.S. electricity generation in 2020. Other types of renewable energy include geothermal, solar, and landfill gas. And in rural areas, biomass energy remains the dominant source of fuel. The number of renewable sources is growing, especially hydro power. In 2020, renewable energy will account for nearly eleven percent of global electricity production.
Wind energy is the most popular and efficient of renewable energy sources, accounting for 9.2% of U.S. electricity production. It has also become one of the most affordable energy sources in the country. Wind turbines are placed anywhere where high wind speeds occur, whether on land or offshore in the open ocean. Hydropower is the second most popular renewable source in the U.S., converting the force of fast-moving water into electricity. While wind energy has made significant strides in the past decade, the demand for electricity has remained relatively stable.
Solar energy is also widely used for heating, cooling, and hot water. This source is vast, with huge potential. The sun's rays can provide enough power for nearly a third of human population by 2020. But solar energy has long been a challenge for humans, and a successful harnessing process is still necessary to realize this potential. A solar panel can generate enough electricity to power a home. Photovoltaic cells also produce electricity from the sun.