Currently, renewable energies are gaining importance within the energy models of different countries and, in fact, more and more countries are producing their energy from natural sources. An exemplary case is Costa Rica, which bases practically all of its electrical matrix on renewable energy.
What are renewable energies and what is their importance
Let’s start this section by defining what renewable energy is. These are defined as the energy obtained from renewable or inexhaustible sources . The fact that they are inexhaustible is due to the fact that they exist in immense quantities or that they have the ability to regenerate through natural processes at a higher rate than they are consumed.
Characteristics of renewable energies
Its main peculiarity is that its obtaining and subsequent use does not generate serious polluting products or emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Therefore, many refer to renewable energies as clean or green energies, since they are friendly to the environment. It does not mean that they are innocuous, everything has its impact on the environment, but it is much less and different from that of energies that are not renewable.
Importance of renewable energies
So why is renewable energy important? As we mentioned before, renewable energies themselves do not emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, therefore they are carbon neutral and do not contribute to climate change. Taking into account that we are going through an unprecedented climate crisis and that one of the causes that triggered this crisis is the exploitation of fossil fuels for power generation, renewable energies are the environmentally friendly replacement for fossil fuels. For this reason, renewable energies are of enormous importance at the global level when it comes to developing climate change mitigation plans.. Undoubtedly, renewable energies are and will be fundamental in the sustainable development models that countries must design to combat climate change.
Fortunately, depending on the characteristics of each site, there are different types of renewable energy . Here we will give some examples:
- Solar energy: it is the energy obtained from the sun’s rays that reach the earth’s surface and can be classified into photovoltaic solar energy and thermal solar energy. It is possibly the most used.
- Wind energy: it is that which is generated from the force of the wind and is obtained thanks to wind turbines. There are wind farms both on land and in the middle of the sea.
- Hydroelectric energy: in this case the movement of water from rivers or other bodies of water is used, specifically currents or waterfalls. For its use, hydroelectric dams are installed.
- Geothermal energy: the internal heat of the Earth linked to volcanoes, fumaroles, geysers and hot springs is used here. It is one of the least exploited renewable energies.
- Marine energy: it is obtained by the force of the waves, tides and currents of the sea. This also includes the osmotic energy produced from the salinity gradients of the sea.
- Biomes a: thanks to biomass, that is, the organic fraction from living beings can obtain energy. An example of biomass as an energy source is the combustion of wood used for heating. Following this example, we can say that biomass is one of the first sources of energy used by humans.
- Biogas: the raw material for biogas arises from the gases that are released when organic matter decomposes. These gases go through a purification process and can then be used as electrical energy or heat.
- Biofuels: biofuels, such as bioethanol or biodiesel, can replace conventional fuels. Each type of biofuel has its specific production process, but in common we can highlight that all of them are obtained from plant biomass. The positive of this is that agricultural-industrial waste can be used to obtain biofuels.
In the case of nuclear energy, also called nuclear fission, we want to mention it separately because it tends to cause confusion. It is the one that is released as a result of a reaction where heavy atomic nuclei are divided, in general uranium is used. Thus, nuclear energy is not a renewable energy , since the presence of uranium on Earth is finite and it does not regenerate in the quantities that are required. However, it is considered a clean energy , since its obtaining does not emit greenhouse gasesinto the atmosphere, that is, it does not emit polluting gases in the process of obtaining and using them (although this is not the case when the facilities and other aspects have to be built). On the other hand, if the waste it can generate is polluting.
Advantages and disadvantages of renewable energies
Next, we will mention the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energies in order to know them a little better:
Advantages of renewable energies
- In themselves they are carbon neutral, therefore, they help fight climate change.
- They allow the conservation of non-renewable resources on the planet.
- They are inexhaustible, so that their use for future generations is guaranteed.
- They do not generate waste or polluting by-products.
- They are safe energies, their use does not put human health at risk.
- They can be used in places where the electricity grid does not reach, consequently they allow to reduce the energy dependence of third parties.
- Its production constitutes a source of green employment.
Disadvantages of renewable energy
- The facilities required to produce renewable energy require large spaces and are expensive.
- The construction of these facilities can produce contamination.
- Some types of renewable energy, such as solar or wind, are not continuous. They depend on the time of day and also on the season of the year.
Differences between renewable and non-renewable energy
When we talk about renewable energies, it is impossible not to name those that are not renewable. That is why, to clarify concepts, here we will talk about their differences.
- The main difference is based on their availability. While renewables are inexhaustible, non-renewables can run out and their renewal is not possible, at least on a human time scale.
- Another difference is the footprint they leave on the environment. The exploitation of renewable energies does not imply great impacts on the environment compared to the exploitation of non-renewable energies, which leads to climate change and air, soil and water pollution.
- All countries have some type of renewable energy, but not all have non-renewable energy. That is why the use of non-renewable energies generates dependence on other countries while the use of renewable energies counteracts this dependence.