We often hear a lot about renewable energy, but do most people actually know what they are? A perfect example of the lack of renewable energy knowledge is evident when people use renewable energy and alternative energy interchangeably. In order to clear the air, here are a few big ideas about renewables, what they are, and which ones are truly renewable.

Renewable vs Alternative

Let’s get this one out of the way first. Renewable and Alternative energies are not the same thing. At the core, renewable energy is, by definition, a source of energy that is not depleted from use. Harnessing the sun’s energy, for example, does not cause the sun to shrink. Alternative energy, on the other hand, uses energy sources that are not renewable, but produce far less emissions than fossil fuels. Natural gas and waste energy are examples of alternative energy. They offer a cleaner, alternative energy source, but still deplete the resources used to create the energy.

Common Sources of Renewable Energy

  • Solar

Solar power is energy harnessed from the sun. As stated earlier, harnessing the sun’s rays and then converting them to electricity, does not take away from the sun. We simply use the sunlight and convert it to electricity using photovoltaic cells. Solar power is a renewable energy because we can use it over and over without ever taking anything away from the sun.

  • Wind

Wind power is another fairly common renewable source. The wind, albeit unpredictable, will never run out. The kinetic energy from the wind is able to make energy through the assistance of a turbine. The wind simply spins a giant propellor, which turns a generator that produces the electricity. No matter how much wind power we harness, the wind will still blow strong.

  • Hydro

Hydropower is yet another source of renewable energy. Energy can be harnessed a few different ways. The first way is similar to wind power. Naturally running water spins a generator, creating electricity. Wave power is another form of hydropower that uses the kinetic energy from ocean waves to power the generator in charge of spitting out energy.