For the past 50 years, energy consumption has increased at a rapid rate. It demands the discovery of new methods and techniques for energy extraction. The conventional methods for energy production not only require a large amount of fuel but also have a negative impact on the planet. Renewable energy resources address these problems very effectively.
Renewable energy techniques not only save fuel but have a diminutive effect on the environment. Major renewable energy resources include solar energy, wind energy, hydro, geothermal, and biomass. This article will discuss in detail the types of renewable energy resources, their production mechanism, and the factors upon which they depend. Furthermore, it will discuss on-grid and off-grid systems and their cost analysis.
Biomass is the most important and oldest form of renewable energy. Before the advancement of industry, it was considered the main source of energy and is used to make up a large percentage of the total energy produced. It is still considered to be the main source of energy in countries that do not have sufficient resources for energy production.
Organic materials like plants, wood, animal, and municipal waste are referred to as biomass. Biomass can be burnt to produce heat energy or can be used as fuel after going through the process of fermentation. This type of fuel is called biofuel. Digesters are used to produce biogas by processing municipal waste. The biogas can also be used as fuel. The main sources of biomass include forest, crops, garbage (paper and food waste), and human sewage. Although a cheap source of energy, there are a few problems attached to biomass technology, such as deforestation and degradation of agricultural land. Another concern is that burning biomass releases a large amount of carbon dioxide, which has a serious impact on human health and the environment. Due to these consequences, other forms of renewable energy are used more often.
• SOLAR ENERGY:-
Solar energy is one of the cleanest and never-ending renewable energy sources. Fusion reactions are taking place in the core of the sun. These reactions result in heat and radiation emission from the sun, which can be converted into thermal and electrical energy. Solar energy can be converted into thermal energy by capturing the heat from the sun by using devices called collectors. This energy has many applications like power generation, heating water, and houses. Solar panels are used to produce electrical energy from the sun. Solar panels have photovoltaic cells.
A cell can produce only about 2 W of electrical power, but when connected together, they can produce kilowatts and megawatts of power. It is also used as a power source for tube wells and pumps in remote areas. Solar energy has no serious health and environmental issues attached to it, but it is still considered to be one of the most expensive energy sources. The price of solar panels, solar inverters, and other equipment required for solar energy extraction is still on the higher side.
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• WIND ENERGY:-
Another never-ending source of renewable energy is wind energy. Sun provides heat to the earth’s surface, so the air near the surface gets warm. This warm air goes up in the atmosphere and cool air comes down to replace it. This cycle continues and causes the air to blow. This blowing air has an energy stored that can be converted into electrical and mechanical energy by using turbines and windmills.
The turbine’s shaft is driven by wind energy. The blades of the turbine start to rotate when the wind blows, which causes a rotating magnetic field. This rotary motion causes a change in the magnetic field, upon which current is induced. The current thus produced can be used as a power source for different purposes. Like solar energy, wind is also a clean source of energy, but it is not cost-effective due to incredibly high initial costs. The wind turbines and other equipment required for power generation are very expensive. Also, the power distribution from the remote areas where these turbines are installed to the main cities or residential areas is a strenuous process.
• GEOTHERMAL ENERGY:-
As the name geothermal suggests, this technology uses Earth’s heat energy. This heat energy comes from different sources like heat energy from the sun, magma present inside the earth, and others. This energy can be extracted from Earth and used for different purposes like power generation, heating buildings, and many more. For energy extraction, deep wells are drilled in the ground. Pumps are used, which help water to flow through the well. When this water reaches the surface, its pressure drops, upon which it vaporizes. This steam is used to rotate the turbine, whose shaft is attached to a generator to produce electricity. Replacing fuel with water is a good idea, as water is present in abundant amounts on Earth. This energy is not commonly used due to massive initial costs. Furthermore, it requires a particular location, which makes it the most expensive of all, but this technology has a great potential to grow in the future.
• HYDROPOWER ENERGY:-
Water is the largest available resource on Earth. The energy acquired from water is called hydro energy. Large amounts of electricity are produced all over the world using hydro energy. The main sources of this energy are rivers, streams, and dams. To produce electricity, flowing water is passed through pipes. The kinetic energy of water causes the turbine to rotate. The turbine is connected to the generator through the shaft. The magnetic field changes due to rotary motion, which induces electric voltage. The electricity is then distributed to stations and substations for use.
Hydro power produces clean energy with no pollutants and no side effects for human life. On the other hand, it has serious consequences on aquatic life. Fish are killed during the power generation process. It’s an expensive method if you are not using naturally flowing water, as building a dam requires a lot of financial resources and a long time period.
• ON- GRID SYSTEM:-
In an on-grid solar system, the grid is attached to the solar inverter. Solar panels will produce current only if the grid is providing electricity. In an on-grid system, if the power produced by solar panels is more than the load, the extra energy will go back to the grid and will be compensated in the utility bills. The only problem with an on-grid system is that in case of load shedding or power failure, the whole system will go down and solar panels will stop generating power.
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• OFF-GRID SYSTEM:-
An off-grid solar system is the one that produces electricity even if the grid is off. This type of system includes batteries to store electrical energy for use in case of power failure from the grid station. In an off-grid system, extra electricity produced by solar panels will be used to charge the batteries. One thing that makes an off-grid system inefficient is that it cannot provide sufficient power for all loads, as it will require a big battery backup and more panels to charge them, which is an expensive option.