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Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, at the entrance to the River Mersey in North West England.

Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services.

Based on REN21's 2014 report, renewables contributed 19 percent to our energy consumption and 22 percent to our electricity generation in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Modern renewables (such as hydro, wind, solar and biofuels) and traditional biomass contributed in about equal parts to the global energy supply. Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$ 214 billion in 2013, with countries like China and the United States heavily investing in wind, hydro, solar and biofuels.

Renewable energy resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits. In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power. At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20 percent of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond.

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas and developing countries, where energy is often crucial in human development. United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that renewable energy has the ability to lift the poorest nations to new levels of prosperity.

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Nellis AFB Solar panels.jpg

There are several solar power plants in the Mojave Desert which supply power to the electricity grid. Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is the name given to nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert which were built in the 1980s. These plants have a combined capacity of 354 megawatts (MW) making them the largest solar power installation in the world. Nevada Solar One is a solar thermal plant with a 64 MW generating capacity, located near Boulder City, Nevada. The Copper Mountain Solar Facility is a 48 MW photovoltaic power plant in Boulder City, Nevada. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is a 370 MW facility under construction which will consist of three separate solar thermal power plants. There are also plans to build other large solar plants in the Mojave Desert.

Insolation (solar radiation) in the Mojave Desert is among the best available in the United States, and some significant population centers are located in the area. This makes the Mojave Desert particularly suitable for solar power plants. These plants can generally be built in a few years because solar plants are built almost entirely with modular, readily available materials.

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Solar-Panel-Cooker-in-front-of-hut.jpg
Solar cookers use sunlight as energy source for outdoor cooking.

Selected biography

David Faiman of the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center.jpg

David Faiman (born 1944 in the United Kingdom) is an Israeli engineer, physicist, and expert on solar power. He is the director of the Ben-Gurion National Solar Energy Center and Chairman of the Department of Solar Energy & Environmental Physics at Ben-Gurion University's Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research in Sde Boker.

He is Israel's representative to the Task 8 Photovoltaic Specialist Committee of the International Energy Agency and co-authored their book Energy from the Desert: Practical Proposals for Very Large Scale Photovoltaic Systems.

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Did you know?

... that The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity, the 2007 book by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, argues that commercializing clean technologies is a profitable enterprise that is moving steadily into mainstream business ? As the world economy faces challenges from energy price spikes, resource shortages, global environmental problems, and security threats, clean technologies are seen to be the next engine of economic growth.

Pernick and Wilder highlight eight major clean technology sectors: solar power, wind power, biofuels, green buildings, personal transportation, the smart grid, mobile applications (such as portable fuel cells), and water filtration. Very large corporations such as GE, Toyota and Sharp, and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are making multi-billion dollar investments in clean technology.

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  • "Renewable energy provides 18 percent of total net electricity generation worldwide. Renewable energy generators are spread across the globe, and wind power alone already provides a significant share of electricity in some regions: for example, 14 percent in the U.S. state of Iowa, 40 percent in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, and 20 percent in the nation of Denmark. Some countries get most of their power from renewables, including Iceland (100 percent), Brazil (85 percent), Austria (62 percent), New Zealand (65 percent), and Sweden (54 percent)."
  • "Solar hot water provides an important contribution to meeting hot water needs in many countries, most importantly in China, which now has fully 70 percent of the global total (180 GWth)... Worldwide, total installed solar water heating systems meet a portion of the water heating needs of over 70 million households. The use of biomass for heating continues to grow as well. Notable is Sweden, where national use of biomass energy has surpassed that of oil. Direct geothermal for heating is also growing rapidly."
  • "Renewable biofuels are meanwhile making inroads in the transportation fuels market and are beginning to have a measurable impact on demand for petroleum fuels, contributing to a decline in oil consumption in the United States in particular starting in 2006... The 93 billion liters of biofuels produced worldwide in 2009 displaced the equivalent of an estimated 68 billion liters of gasoline, equal to about 5 percent of world gasoline production."

Christopher Flavin in REN21 (2010). Renewables 2010 Global Status Report p. 53.

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