Being in the power industry, and especially since I am currently working at a coal power plant, I get a lot of people asking me about Renewable Energy. More specifically, why can’t we just go to all renewable energy, what’s the hold up? So I’d like to spend the next few blogs in my Our Electrical Grid series to discuss some of the ins and outs of renewable energy.
In 2014, in the US, renewable energy accounted for less than 15% of our total power generation. There are 5 main types of renewable energy sources right now:
- Hydroelectric – 6%
- Wind – 4.4%
- Biomass – 1.75
- Solar – 0.4%
- Geothermal – 0.4%
Both Biomass and Geothermal utilize the basic steam cycle. A Biomass plant is much like a coal plant, except it has special processes to handle and combust the biomass material. While geothermal extracts its heat from below the Earth’s surface, which is primarily from the decay of radioactive elements. Please review my Electrical Generation Basics post for this topic to review the steam cycle.
Hydroelectric and wind are both similar, as they directly convert their energy source into a rotational motion – The sole purpose of the steam cycle is to cause the turbine to rotate. After the energy is converted into a rotational force, hydroelectric, wind, biomass, and geothermal all use a similar type of generator to convert the rotational energy into electrical energy. You may also review my Electrical Generation Basics post for this topic to review the basics of the electrical generator.
Solar is very different from the other renewable energy sources. It essentially uses a photosynthesis process to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. I will cover this topic in a later post on my renewable energy series.
For my next blog post in this series, it is important to understand the sources of energy for renewables – Biomass, Geothermal, and Hydroelectric are the only renewable sources that provide a consistent source of electricity 24/7. Next week I will be discussing some of the negatives of renewables – Please sign up and follow me, or check back next week for more!
Does anyone know what type of electrical generation source caused the largest immediate death toll? Please leave an answer in my comments section, and I will provide you with some more insight next week!