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Finding renewable energy sources is becoming an increasingly popular trend as companies worldwide seek opportunities to minimize dependence on fossil fuels, reduce emissions, and do their part in battling climate change.
Several countries worldwide have made pledges announcing a net-zero emission commitment by a given date. For example, the U.K. plans to achieve this goal by 2050 and China by 2060.
Despite these efforts to make significant moves towards renewable energies, it is still not enough. According to reports released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the world’s energy consumption is anticipated to increase by 50% between now and 2050, half of which rely solely on fossil fuels.
But what other options are there? First, identifying the best renewable energy source is a great place to start.
Fastest Growing Renewable Energies
Renewable energy sources are sources of energy capable of replenishing themselves naturally and without the worry of depletion. Renewable energy sources include hydropower, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, bioenergy, and ocean (tide and wave) energy.
But, which of these is the best renewable energy? Let’s take a closer look.
Hydropower energy relies on the force of flowing water via streams and rivers to produce mechanical energy. Historically speaking, hydropower was one of the first sources of renewable energy used to generate electricity.
Of the renewable energy sources, hydropower was the most significant in the U.S. up until 2019. As of 2020, hydropower energy accounted for 7.3% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation and 37% of total utility-scale renewable electricity generation.
While hydropower remains one of the best renewable energy sources, its electricity generation has begun decreasing over time. Thankfully, the primary reason for the decrease is the direct result of increased electricity generation through other renewable energy sources.
How Hydropower Energy Works
Hydropower energy is powered by water, so plants producing this type of renewable energy are often located near large bodies of water. Generally speaking, the stronger the water flow, the more power a hydropower energy plant can produce. The process of how water is turned into energy follows these steps:
- Water flows through a penstock or pipe
- The penstock directs water to push against turbine blades
- As the blades turn, the turbine begins to spin a generator
- The generator then produces electricity
Solar and Wind Energy
Solar and wind energy are two additional forms of renewable energy that most consumers are familiar with. It is becoming more common to see solar panels and wind turbines regularly, but most don’t realize how closely the two are linked.
One of the most commonly recognized renewable energies is solar energy, which converts the energy from the sun into either thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is known for being the most abundant and cleanest form of renewable energy, with the U.S. providing the most powerful resources in the world.
Solar energy is one of the best renewable energy sources because it is incredibly flexible and can have multiple uses, including utility-scale solar power plants or a distributed generation. Thanks to modern developments, solar energy can now be stored and distributed later, even when the sun is not out.
One of the fastest-growing renewable energy sources in the world is wind energy because of the countless advantages it provides, including:
- Job creation
- U.S. industry growth and competitiveness
- Zero atmospheric emissions
- Considerably small footprint
- Additional income opportunities for landowners
- Inexhaustible resource
Many consumers do not realize that wind energy is a source of solar energy. The wind results from a combination of the sun heating the atmosphere, the earth’s rotation, and irregularities found on the planet’s surface.
The heat that originates from beneath the earth’s surface is known as geothermal energy. Currently, geothermal remains significantly underutilized but can provide electricity, heating, and cooling demands of the future.
There are countless advantages to geothermal energy, including:
- More environmentally friendly
- Increasing exploitable geothermal resources
- Always available, unlike solar and wind
- Easy to predict power output with a high degree of accuracy
Biomass energy is organic in the sense that it comes from living organisms, like plants and animals. Common examples of biomass materials used in energy, known as biomass feedstocks, include waste, wood, or plants.
The energy originates from the sun, which a plant or animal then absorbs. That energy is then transformed into usable energy through direct and indirect measures, including:
- Creation of heat (direct)
- Conversion into electricity (direct)
- Process into biofuel (indirect)
Despite the advantages, which include availability, costs, reduction of fossil fuel dependence, biomass energy remains highly controversial because of its disadvantages, which include:
- Escalation of methane gas, making it not entirely clean
- Biomass plants require a large footprint
- Potential for deforestation
- Lacks efficiency in comparison to fossil fuels
- Requires zero fuel
While each renewable energy source has its own set of pros and cons, one thing is for sure; depending on the needs of an individual or business, there is a renewable energy source that makes sense. What’s most important is knowing what options are available to then be able to make the most educated decision possible.
Although biomass energy remains highly debated in renewable energy news today, it is an alternative to fossil fuels, which is still moving in the right direction.
Whatever direction makes the most sense, what’s most important is that it is a step in the right direction in moving towards a more sustainable future.
Final Thoughts on the Fastest Growing Renewable Energy Source
In the end, the fastest growing renewable energy source remains to be solar, accounting for just over 2% of the world’s electricity in 2018. Geothermal is expected to grow in the future, given that its resources are not limited in any way.
But what about the best renewable energy? Overall, experts anticipate all renewable energy sources covered in this article to grow exponentially in the upcoming decades as more and more countries turn to net-zero emission commitments.