Do you feel like you’re completely at a loss with what renewable energy is about?
You’re not alone. There’s a simple reason for this, there’s still so much misconception and confusion on the topic. That's why we’ve put together 20 facts you may, or may not, know about.
Where does renewable energy come from?
Renewable energy comes from solar, wind, hydro, biofuel and geothermal which are all continually replenished.
All sources of renewable energy are used to generate electric power.
Renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.
In most places around the world renewable energy is a much cheaper alternative than fossil fuels. Globally, people can harness these sources of energy nearer their location.
According to a new report (1) unsubsidised renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. The report finds the cost of installation and maintenance of renewables, which was an important stumbling block to mass adoption, continues on a downward trajectory.
Renewable energy creates jobs.
Renewable energy is now creating three times more jobs than fossil fuels. They're becoming more available and well-paid because, according to a report, solar energy (2) supply companies are able to offer more jobs per dollar invested.
On the other hand, fossil fuel jobs have been declining (3) since 2012 when the gas and oil industry reached their peak.
Wind turbines are very powerful.
Turbines are becoming more and more powerful. One wind turbine is powerful enough to produce enough electricity to power up to 300 homes. The size of the turbine and the speed of the wind through the rotor blades are what determines how much electricity is produced.
Over the last decade, wind turbines have become taller, allowing for longer blades and the ability to take advantage of better wind resources available at higher heights.
China produces two wind turbines a day.
China is currently on a sprint of carrying out the world's biggest turbine installation program. According to the International Energy Agency, the country is building two wind turbines every hour.
Renewable energy is more reliable.
It’s suggested renewable energy solutions, like solar and wind, are less likely to fail due to severe weather. This is because they are spread out over a larger area and made up of multiple units of equipment.
According to a report (4), renewables can contribute to grid reliability and security by creating a grid that is more flexible, able to respond to system changes quickly and diverse.
Solar energy is not new.
Solar energy isn’t as new as it’s made out to be, but actually almost 200 years old. Surprised? We were! It was originally discovered by Alexandre Edmond Becquerel in 1839 when he found the ‘photovoltaic effect’ of electricity generation from direct sunlight.
NASA then was the first to adopt solar technology in the 1950s, using it aboard the satellite Vanguard (the oldest satellite in orbit). (5)
Renewable energy provides access to electricity.
Renewable energy is now much cheaper than fossil fuels. This gives it an advantage over fossil fuels to help over one billion people worldwide who don't have access to electricity.
It’s cheaper than extending the electric grid to under-populated areas and it’s much more affordable than other systems.
Some countries run solely on renewable energy.
There are various places worldwide where they rely solely on renewable energy. For example Portugal powered their entire nation for four consecutive days in 2016. This was done through a combination of wind, solar and hydro-generated electricity.
Solar energy can be stored in salt
Solar technologies can suffer the limitation of most renewable technologies. However, using the highly efficient properties of molten salt for heat transfer, one technology insulates electricity production from weather volatility and, more importantly, it offers the capability to dispatch electricity as needed without requiring the use of natural gas.
This technique was used in SolarReserve (7) in California, it uses concentrated sunlight to heat molten salt to 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit. The salt is then stored in a giant insulated tank that can be tapped to make steam to run a turbine, creating a battery of sorts.
100% Renewable energy is possible.
Iceland is getting all of their power from thermal and hydro and are one of the most eco-friendly nations on the planet.
In addition, about 80 percent of Brazil's electricity needs (7) for its 209 million people come from renewable sources, biomass and hydro mostly.
Renewable energy won't change.
What this means is the source of green power will never be depleted, unlike fossil fuels which need to be drilled, burned and mined from the earth. It is something that can never be replaced.
Renewable energy sources do not emit greenhouse gases.
Renewable energy is usually one of the top things that need to be changed so the planet can stave off the worst effects of rising temperatures.
This is because renewable energy sources such as solar and wind don't emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
You can power a plane using solar energy.
In 2016, the Solar Impulse 2 airplane flew around the world in 14 months of travel and 550 hours in the air (9). The plane travelled over 25,000 miles over four continents, two oceans and three seas without using a drop of liquid fuel.
It used a combination of the sun’s energy and two massive wings to help it glide through the air. Pretty impressive considering it had no engine!
Britain’s carbon emissions plunged during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
During the 2020 pandemic Great Britain’s carbon emissions produced from electricity plunged because of the increase in renewable energy usage (10).
A combination of wind turbines, solar farms, hydropower technologies and biomass generation meant the UK also experienced a record coal-free period.
Green energy contributes to a more reliable National Grid.
Sticking with one source of electricity, we’re constantly prone to power cuts. This may be due to unpredictable weather and an increase in demand at a certain time.
If we were to rely more on green energy, we would have multiple sources of green energy and a sure way to keep a constant stream of electricity feeding into every household.
Hydropower is the most widely-used renewable power source.
Hydropower is the most consistently used renewable power source, with the global hydroelectric installed capacity exceeding 1,295GW. It accounts for more than 54% of the global renewable power (11) generation capacity, and 18% of the world’s total power generation.
World’s power could be generated by renewables by 2050.
This could be a reality by 2050 if the right political, financial and societal decisions are made.
Solar power could account for 79% of the country's energy demand.
This would be supported by enhanced battery and water storage solutions to lower energy system costs.
Switching to renewable energy could eliminate four to seven million deaths.
If the world was to switch to wind, water and solar, this could eliminate four to seven million deaths from air pollution every year (12).
It would start slowing and then reversing the effects of global warming and, in doing so, stabilizing the global energy sector.