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Renewable energy - What is it?

Renewable energies - what is that actually?

What are actually renewable energies? In the context of the sustainable development of our society, one inevitably comes to the infinitely available natural energy sources. In contrast to finite resources, such as coal and lignite, they are to play a decisive role in the energy transition, which describes the transition to a sustainable energy supply.

In this article, I would like to provide you with everything you need to know about renewable energies. From the definition and advantages to the individual forms and examples. Let's go!

In advance you can find here already a short Table of contents about the contribution:

  1. Definition
  2. Advantages
  3. Forms
  4. Frequently asked questions
  5. Closing words

What is behind the term "renewable energies"?

The renewable energies (also called regenerative energies) describe Forms of energy that draw on infinite or rapidly renewable natural resources. This contrasts with fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas - as well as nuclear power - which are made up of finite resources.

Renewable energies, such as Solar and wind energy, hydropower, biomass and geothermal energy, are intended to support the development of a sustainable lifestyle of our society.

What are the advantages of renewable energies?

Advantages of renewable energies

In 2020 their Share of gross electricity consumption in Germany already at 45.4 percent - But why is this the case? What are the advantages of infinite energy sources for consumers, the environment and people around the world? And are there any disadvantages?

Advantages

First of all, I will look at the motivating reasons for using electricity from renewable sources:

  • Climate change: CO2 emissions from energy use are massively reduced, thus helping to protect the environment. global warming counteracted.
  • Availability: Sun and wind are infinitely available and usable, Natural resources.
  • Independence: By using renewable energy sources, countries are less dependent on fossil fuels and energy imports.
  • Environmental protection: No more radioactive waste from nuclear power plants would have to be stored and no more landscapes and forests would have to be sacrificed to coal mining. The species extinction is thus counteracted.
  • Safety: Turning away from fossil fuels and nuclear power reduces the potential risk to people and the environment.
  • Workplaces: Countless new and, above all, sustainable jobs are being created in the renewable energy sector.
  • Paris Climate Agreement: Germany can only achieve its climate targets with the help of a serious, active expansion of renewable energies for electricity, heating and transportation.
  • Regionality: Because the electricity can be generated locally, transportation and infrastructure costs can be saved and the regional economy promoted.
  • Comparable consumption costs: With the growing demand and the resulting increase in supply is Green electricity are now available to consumers at absolutely comparable and often even better rates.
  • Subsidies: As a consumer, you can benefit from government subsidies by investing in future-oriented, environmentally friendly photovoltaic systems or geothermal heat pumps.

Disadvantages

Even if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, there are a few aspects that could be described as disadvantages in some ways:

  • Investment costs: Both consumers and authorities incur costs for the construction of plants, grids and the entire infrastructure. However, this investment usually pays off in the medium and long term, as you benefit from energy sources that are basically free and infinitely available.
  • Short-term fluctuations in availability: The sun does not shine at all at night and only rarely in winter - the output of solar energy is therefore very low at these times. This is why larger storage systems may be needed in households in order to be able to use energy from renewable sources even at times/seasons of poor availability. However, there are already sensible storage solutions for this.
  • Fluctuations in performance: As the power produced from solar and wind energy, for example, fluctuates and is not absolutely guaranteed, grid operators (grids based largely on renewable energy sources) must constantly react to the fluctuations. The focus is therefore on the correct distribution and storage of energy. Fortunately, biomass, hydropower and geothermal energy are inherently less volatile energy sources.

Can you think of any other pros and cons? Then, as always, feel free to write me a comment with a short explanation!

What forms of renewable energy are there?

When the Energy industry with nuclear energy, oil, natural gas or lignite and hard coal not sustainable what alternative forms of energy are available to us? I have already mentioned them in the course of this article. I would now like to explain them to you in a little more detail.

Solar energy

Solar panels for renewable energy from solar power

With the help of solar power, it is possible to use the unlimited energy available from the sun to generate electricity and heat at low cost. The solar cells convert the sunlight through the "photovoltaic effect" directly into electricity. Solar collectors convert the sun's radiation into heat and are therefore able to generate hot water or heat for buildings.

In your own home, you can enjoy the benefits of solar energy both through the Switch to a green electricity tariff, as well as by the Installation of a solar or photovioltaic system benefit. When buying a solar system you should definitely note some things. How much energy is generated depends heavily on the weather - but the otherwise unused roof areas are ideal for generating green electricity on your own property.

Wind energy

Wind turbines at sunset

The sun's rays also create another renewable source that is used to generate electricity: the wind. The large rotors of the wind turbines use the Movement of air masses in the atmosphereto convert this wind energy into electricity using a generator. In order to produce as much energy as possible, there are often direct several wind turbines in particularly windy regions. So-called wind farms exist both On-Shore (on land) as well as Off-Shore. (off the coast in the water)

You can also use the green electricity generated in this way with a corresponding electricity tariff at your home. Use at home - or to use it with the help of a Small wind turbine on the roof, balcony or garden, even produce on site.

Notice: One of the reasons why wind turbines are criticized is that birds can be hit by the rotors. The well-considered choice of location at a distance from nesting sites and nature reserves is therefore an environmentally and animal-friendly measure. Apart from this, only a fraction of the birds that die on the glass panes of buildings, in traffic or not least for human meals die on wind turbines.

Hydropower

Hydropower - Renewable energy through dam

Running water has incredible power. In the past, it was used in traditional mills to grind grain. Today, in a modern hydroelectric power plant, it drives a turbine that produces electricity with the help of the water movement and a generator. This works both with dammed waters (e.g. reservoirs) by means of integrated downpipes, at Running waters and with the help of Ocean currents. Hydropower is definitely one of the most stable renewable energies, as it generates energy at any time of the year - day or night.

If a river flows through or by your property, it is theoretically possible to use the potential of a private hydropower plant to be exploited. However, this definitely requires at least a permit under water law. Otherwise, you will also benefit again by switching to a Green electricity provider, which relies on hydropower, from this renewable energy source.

Tip: Do you have a website? CareElite's servers, for example, run on energy generated from hydropower. Switching to a green host can therefore also make sense.

Biomass

Corn cultivation for the production of renewable energy

Biomass is another inexhaustible natural resource. This means that in the energy industry Energy production from plants or plant residues This refers to plants that have grown through photosynthesis, i.e. with the help of solar energy. Around 7.8 percent of gross electricity generation in Germany is attributable to this form of energy.₅

Fast-growing plants are suitable for this, for example Woody plantsspecially cultivated for this purpose Field crops such as corn or rapeseed, as well as vegetable Waste from households and industry. A fermentation process takes place in closed tanks - with the help of bacteria - which produces usable gases such as methane. The fermentation residue is used as fertilizer, while the burnt biogas and waste heat are used to generate electricity and heat.

At home, you can use this renewable energy, for example, with a Pallet heating use. To do this, the renewable raw material wood is used as efficiently as possible by processing sawdust into wood pellets. Of course, you can also benefit from this regenerative energy source by using an appropriate Electricity tariff benefit.

Geothermal energy

Energy production from the earth's crust

The earth's interior holds another usable, regenerative source of energy: geothermal energy (energy stored in the earth's crust). Thermal energy) or, near the surface, geothermal energy. Hot water and steam drive a turbine. The energy can ultimately be used to generate electricity with the help of a generator.

With the help of a Geothermal heat pump you can also use this green energy on your own property. The device itself is somewhat inconspicuous and looks more like a refrigerator. In order to make the energy from the ground available, geothermal boreholes between 50 and 300 meters deep (usually in the garden area) are required. Geothermal energy is definitely one of the most sustainable sources of energy, which also makes you independent of gas prices, for example.

Frequently asked questions about renewable energies

To conclude this article, I would like to briefly answer the most frequently asked questions about renewable energies.

What are renewable energies?

Renewable energies are forms of energy that draw on infinite or rapidly renewable natural resources. These include solar, hydro and wind power, for example.

What renewable energies are there?

Inexhaustible and rapidly renewable energy sources include wind, sun, water, biomass and geothermal energy. 

What is meant by the energy transition?

The energy transition is the transition from the socially inefficient use of fossil and nuclear energy sources to the efficient use of renewable energy sources. In short, the term refers to the transformation of energy from Nuclear and coal power to solar, wind and hydropower.

What are the types of biomass?

Biomass is generally defined as all gaseous, liquid or solid substances, residues and waste of biogenic origin. For example, arable plants, algae and organic waste from food, animal husbandry and landscape conservation. Wood pellets, maize, rapeseed, straw and biogas are all forms of biomass.

Can Germany only be supplied with renewable energies?

According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, it is possible to supply one hundred percent of Germany's energy from renewable energy sources. This means that Germany's energy requirements can be met using locally available energy sources - without any energy imports from abroad.

How large is the share of renewable energies in the German electricity mix?

In 2020, the share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption in Germany was already 45.4 percent: with a strong upward trend. According to the Working Group on Renewable Energies Statistics (AGEE-Stat), the shares of sustainable electricity generation in the first half of the year went to onshore wind power at around 42.9 percent, offshore wind at around 10 percent, photovoltaics at around 20.1 percent, biomass at around 18.5 percent and hydropower at around 8.1 percent.

Why are "renewable energies" called renewable energies?

Renewable energies such as hydro, solar and wind power owe their name to the fact that they are practically inexhaustible for living beings on earth or regenerate quickly. They are therefore renewable compared to limited fossil or nuclear energy sources.

Which renewable energy source is the most important in Germany?

The most important energy source for electricity generation in Germany is wind power. In the first half of 2020, wind power accounted for around 53 percent of renewable energies in Germany, according to the Working Group on Renewable Energies Statistics (AGEE-Stat).

Renewable energies for a sustainable energy transition

By switching to electricity from sustainable, inexhaustible sources, we are ultimately not only protecting our environment, but also ourselves. We have a wide range of alternative energies at our disposal. Switching to a green electricity provider really only takes a few minutes - and the installation of a photovoltaic system also pays for itself relatively quickly. Why should we continue to cling to fossil fuels?

Relying on sustainable, natural energy sources and conserving the earth's resources also means Respect towards the planet, towards animals and, above all, towards other people and, last but not least, towards your own children and grandchildren. Finally, I would like to provide you with some further articles that could be useful in this regard:

I hope that I have been able to help you with this article and provide you with all the important information about renewable energies. Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Then I look forward to your comment!

Stay sustainable,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Using renewable energy is good - but it's even better if you use as little of it as possible. Below Save electricity and Conserve resources you will receive further valuable tips! Have fun!

References:
₁ E. Günther: Renewable energies, available at https://wirtschaftslexikon.gabler.de/definition/erneuerbare-energien-53729. [21.12.2021].

₂ A. Breitkopf: Share of renewable energies in gross electricity consumption in Germany in the years 1990 to 2020 (as of March 2021), available at https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/2142/umfrage/erneuerbare-energien-anteil-am-stromverbrauch. [21.12.2021].

₃ Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection: Solar energy, available at https://www.erneuerbare-energien.de/EE/Navigation/DE/Technologien/Solarenergie-Photovoltaik/solarenergie-photovoltaik.html. [21.12.2021].

₄ Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz (BUND) e.V. Regionalverband Südlicher Oberrhein: Windenergie, Windräder, Windkraft, Vögel, Fledermäuse & Vogelschlag (as of 04.08.2021), available at http://www.bund-rvso.de/windenergie-windraeder-voegel-fledermaeuse.html. [21.12.2021].

₅ A. Breitkopf: Share of biomass in gross electricity generation in Germany in the years 1991 to 2020 (as of December 2020), available at https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/251214/umfrage/anteil-der-biomasse-an-der-stromerzeugung-in-deutschland. [21.12.2021].

₆ A. Franck: Erneuerbare Energien - Energie aus Biomasse (as at: 02.03.2021), available at https://www.planet-wissen.de/technik/energie/erneuerbare_energien/energie-aus-biomasse-100.html. [21.12.2021].

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Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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