You’ve probably heard terms like “renewable energy”, “green energy”, or “sustainable solutions” being thrown around. What is renewable energy? Quite simply, it’s any energy that is produced from a source that can replenish itself; generally, it’s also cleaner. Traditionally, most energy has been powered by fossil fuels, which are in danger of being depleted. Fossil fuels—oil, natural gas, and coal—developed when dead plants and animals were trapped underneath sedimentary deposits and land. This carbon-rich material is extracted and turned into energy for electricity, HVAC systems, and transportation. Experts have estimated that oil could run out as early as 2025 and that natural gas could run out within 50 years, which is why there’s a push for renewable energy sources.
Hydropower, which is energy derived from falling or flowing water, is the most widely-used form of renewable energy and is responsible for 70 percent of the production from all renewable sources. A hydro plant typically includes a dam and a reservoir where water is stored. There are over 1,400 such hydroelectric plants in California, with Oroville Dam claiming the prize as the largest dam in the United States. Normally, hydropower produces 15 percent of California’s electricity. However, when the drought hit, that dropped to 8 percent.
Power generated from wind energy accounts for the second most common form of renewable energy. Wind turbines turn air flow into mechanical power, which then generates electricity. Wind power has been used ever since humans invented sailboats. Windmills were used to grind grain and pump water. Today, wind turbines are connected to an electrical power system. When there is a group of turbines, it’s called a wind farm.
Solar energy, using sunlight, is possibly the best-known renewable energy. Since California is a sunny state, sunlight is more readily available than water or wind. According to one report, solar energy is now the #1 source for renewable energy in California. Indeed, California leads the nation with a solar production of 13,241 megawatts in contrast to the next state, Arizona, which produces only 2,300 megawatts.
Hydropower, wind power, and solar power are all growing sources of renewable energies, which are now supplying 19 percent of the world’s energy needs. Renewable energy options are especially attractive to homeowners who want to cut costs on electricity and HVAC systems. Consider switching your home from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy solutions.