Renewable energy sources are in sunlight, in the air, underground, and water bodies. They are naturally a part of the physical structure of the planet because of the continuous renewal by Mother Nature; hence they don’t run out. Sustainable energy is commonly known as ‘alternative energy.’ Alternative because they come in place of traditional fossil fuels such as oil and coal.
So what exactly is renewable energy, and how does it work? Renewable energy is an energy derived from natural resources like sunlight, wind, tides, and geothermal heat. This form of power cannot be depleted because replenishing occurs naturally. Here is a look at the types of energy sources that can be tapped and used to power our world without bringing a threat to humanity.
The sun is the most commonly used form of renewable energy. The power from the sunlight is captured by a variety of solar energy technologies that convert the sun’s energy and light into heat for use in different ways – illumination, hot water, electricity, and cooling systems for industries. A photovoltaic or PV system is the gadget used to convert sunlight into electricity. Commercial and industrial buildings can also take advantage of the sun’s energy for large scale needs like ventilation, heating, and cooling. Homeowners can also install solar panels for lighting or solar water heaters for heating water to use at home all year round.
When seeking energy efficiency, wind energy is another option that comes to mind. The flow of wind is captured by wind turbines and converted into electricity. Windmills are still used to date to pump water for irrigation, albeit in small scale farms; however, commercially based with powered systems are available to meet the energy needs of many organizations. Wind turbines can generate electricity to supplement an existing electrical supply. An example of wind energy is the turbines mounted on Ngong Hills used to supply electricity in the surrounding areas.
Geothermal energy, or simply ‘power from the earth,’ is heat that is derived from the earth. It can be sourced near the earth’s surface or from heated rock and reservoirs of hot water miles underground. A geothermal power plant collects heat from the ground to generate electricity for different purposes. A small geothermal heat pump is used to supply heat in a nearby building during a cold season or cool it during the hot seasons. An example of geothermal energy use in Kenya is the Geothermal Power Plant in Naivasha. Geothermal energy is a sustainable practice with long term benefits.
Hydroelectricity is not a new invention. The waterwheels that were used to provide power in ancient America were transformed into historic sites and museums. This clearly shows that the quest for clean energy did not begin yesterday. Hydropower is captured from the kinetic energy found in flowing rivers and converted into electricity. It is called hydroelectricity because it is energy derived from water. Dams can also be constructed to store water, which when released, flows through turbines to produce electricity. An example of a hydropower plant in Kenya is Kindaruma Power Plant.
Biomass is any organic matter coming from dead plants or animals; biomass energy, therefore, is derived from these organisms. The energy from these organisms is burned to create heat or converted to electricity. They can also be used to produce liquid fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel used in the transportation industry. There is a myriad of ways used to capture this form of energy, from directly burning biomass to capturing the energy using methane gas produced by the naturally decomposed organic material.
Alternative energy resources have a much lighter environmental footprint than fossil fuels. For this reason, regulation authorities like Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) advocate for alternative sources whenever possible. Renewable energy sources are significant to our life because it is a direct ticket to a less polluted world and what’s right for the environment is directly suitable for the economy. We are not advocating for clean energy only because of the threat of climate change and global warming, but because our essential health depends on the condition of the environment, a minimized pollution leads to good health.