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Renewable Energy: The Breakdown

30 June 2021

What does renewable energy mean?

Renewable energies are inexhaustible and reusable energies. They come from natural elements: the sun, the wind, the water, the tides and the natural heat of the Earth. These sources, or natural processes, are constantly renewed.

Renewable energies are often seen as new technologies, but in fact harnessing the power of nature has long been used for heating, transportation, lighting, etc. The wind has long allowed ships to navigate the seas and windmills to grind grain. Rivers provide their driving force for various uses - flour milling, metallurgy, paper mill, etc. for centuries. But over the past 500 years or so, humans have increasingly turned to cheaper but more polluting fossil energy sources like coal, then oil and finally gas. These fuels are in fact the product of the storage of solar energy for millions of years by myriads of plants,

Now that we have increasingly innovative and cheaper ways to capture and conserve wind and solar energy, renewables are becoming a more important source of energy and a critical part of environmental and social change.

What are the types of renewable energy source?

Solar energy 

Humans have harnessed solar energy for thousands of years to grow crops, heat themselves and dry food. Today, we use the sun's rays in many ways: to heat homes and businesses, to heat water, or to power appliances. 

Solar cells, or photovoltaics (PV), are made from silicon or other semiconductor materials that directly convert sunlight into electricity. In France, solar energy represents just over 2% of electricity production, and has become the cheapest source of energy.

Wind power

Today, wind turbines as tall as skyscrapers - with turbines almost as wide in diameter - can be seen around the world. Wind energy turns the blades of a turbine, coupled to an electric generator that produces electricity.  National Grid ESO said last year wind energy had made up 59.9% of the country's electricity.

Hydroelectric power

Hydroelectricity is the third largest source of electricity production in France. Hydropower uses water, usually water that moves rapidly in a river or stream or water that descends from a high point and converts the potential energy of that water into electricity by rotating the blades. of a turbine coupled to a generator.  

Biomass energy

Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals. It includes crops, wood waste and trees. When biomass is burned, chemical energy is released in the form of heat and can generate electricity with a steam turbine. This biomass can also be composted and produce biogas that can be used under the same conditions as natural gas.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is heat stored below the earth’s surface. Since no fuel needs to be burned or consumed, it has much in common with other renewable resources and low-carbon options such as solar, wind, tidal and biomass. Geothermal energy is highly dependent on location to be a viable option. This is one of the reasons why it’s not as widespread in the UK compared to other parts of the world.


Tidal Energy

Tidal energy is a type of hydropower produced by the surge of ocean waters during the rise and fall of tides. There are currently three different ways to generate tidal energy: tidal streams, barrages, and tidal lagoons. Eight sites are to be found in Britain, potentially making the UK a key player in the World Green Energy market and the UK government estimates that wave and tidal stream energy combined has the potential to deliver around 20% of the UK’s current electricity needs.