In recent years, solar panels installed on homes and businesses and towering wind turbines placed on hilltops have become a common sight. Currently, renewable energy is a highly debated topic in Australia and around the country, especially in the face of global warming, rising energy costs and increased instability of the grid.
What does ‘renewable energy’ actually mean?
Renewable energy sources are called “renewable” for a good reason; they’re naturally renewed with time.
Unlike fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil, renewable energy sources are highly unlikely to ever run out, and so are a much more sustainable long-term solution for electricity generation. Using renewable energy sources is a great way to reduce our reliance on ever-dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.
Renewable energy can be generated from a wide range of naturally-occurring sources, including:
- Wind: using wind motion to generate electricity.
- Solar: tapping heat from the sun to generate electricity.
- Hydropower: uses the energy from moving water to produce electricity.
- Biomass: uses organic matter to produce electricity, chemicals or biofuels to power vehicles.
- Ocean: uses the rise and fall of ocean tides to generate electricity.
- Geothermal: uses the natural heat from deep underground to generate electricity.
The benefits for a household or business taking advantage of solar energy are obvious; generating your own electricity instead of paying for electricity from the grid, and possibly selling unused electricity back to the grid. But renewable energy in it’s various forms also has wider-ranging benefits for the community as a whole.
Renewable Energy is Clean and Green
This benefit is an obvious one; renewable energy comes from clean, green sources. Most emission that contribute to global warming come from the electricity sector, where fossil fuels are used to generate power. Burning fossil fuels releases high levels of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming, climate change and degradation of air quality. Renewable energy sources release minimal to zero greenhouse emissions, helping to slow global warming and keep our environment cleaner for longer.
Renewable Energy Helps to Improve Public Health
With less emissions we can stabilise the greenhouse effect and improve the quality of the air we breathe. Nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide released by fossils fuels can be risky to your health if inhaled over time. Cleaner air can help to save lives, especially when it comes to diseases such as lung disease, heart disease, respiratory conditions and even some cancers.
Renewable Energy Can Help to Reduce Future Energy Prices
Sunshine is abundant, and we can capture it with solar panels. The same applies for wind; wind turbines can turn this energy into electricity with minimal environmental impact. What’s more, renewable energy creation doesn’t require buying and selling the source of energy. Unlike coal, gas or oil, sunlight, wind, oceans and underground heat cannot be bought and sold on a fluctuating market. Strong winds, heat emanating from beneath the earth, sunshine and moving water can provide a steady, cheap energy supply for many years to come. Renewable energy sources are as good as free; the only investment is in the build of the facility to convert the energy into electricity. While this upfront investment can often seem large, the ongoing cost to generate electricity is extremely low. With renewables, initial costs are close to the only costs. This has a flow-on effect to help stabilise and decrease power prices for consumers.
Renewable Energy Can Help Households Gain Energy Independence
Self-generated renewable energy and energy storage can help households become independent from the primarily coal-powered energy grid. If you have solar panels installed on your grid-connected home or business, you automatically reduce your reliance on grid electricity and the costs that come with it. In addition, any solar electricity you generate but don’t use is sent back to the grid for a small credit. If you have batteries installed, your ability to become even more grid independent increases as your excess solar electricity is stored for those times when your power usage overtakes what your solar panels are generating.
Renewable Energy Creates More Jobs
Renewable energy has the potential to increase employment opportunities and help economies grow. It’s expected that the number of people working in renewable energy worldwide could reach 24 million by 2030. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says that doubling renewable energy’s share of global energy by 2030 would create 24 million jobs and benefit the global economy by A$1.9 trillion. This growth would include Australia’s economy, which could rise by 1.7% above business as usual, which takes into account an expected decrease in coal exports.
Aside from the personal benefits of installing solar panels or energy storage on your home or business, there are huge benefits for the wider community in using renewable energy.
Recently it was announced that SIMEC ZEN Energy will be building the world’s biggest battery near Port Augusta to support the new 200MW solar farm being built at the Whyalla Steelworks and to also improve grid stability. A stable, sustainable energy future calls for sustainable, renewable energy sources, such as solar power and energy storage.
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