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Portal:Renewable energy

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Introduction

Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, at the entrance to the River Mersey in North West England.

Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services.

Based on REN21's 2014 report, renewables contributed 19 percent to our energy consumption and 22 percent to our electricity generation in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Modern renewables (such as hydro, wind, solar and biofuels) and traditional biomass contributed in about equal parts to the global energy supply. Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$ 214 billion in 2013, with countries like China and the United States heavily investing in wind, hydro, solar and biofuels.

Renewable energy resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency is resulting in significant energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic benefits. In international public opinion surveys there is strong support for promoting renewable sources such as solar power and wind power. At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20 percent of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond.

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas and developing countries, where energy is often crucial in human development. United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that renewable energy has the ability to lift the poorest nations to new levels of prosperity.

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Growth of wind and solar power

The incentive to use 100% renewable energy has been created by global warming and other ecological as well as economic concerns. Renewable energy use has grown much faster than anyone anticipated. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that there are few fundamental technological limits to integrating a portfolio of renewable energy technologies to meet most of total global energy demand. Mark Z. Jacobson says producing all new energy with wind power, solar power, and hydropower by 2030 is feasible and existing energy supply arrangements could be replaced by 2050. Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be "primarily social and political, not technological or economic". Jacobson says that energy costs with a wind, solar, water system should be similar to today's energy costs. Critics of the "100% renewable energy" approach include Vaclav Smil and James E. Hansen.

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Solar-Panel-Cooker-in-front-of-hut.jpg
Solar cookers use sunlight as energy source for outdoor cooking.
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DischBalkon.jpg

Rolf Disch is a German architect, solar energy pioneer and environmental activist who has contributed greatly to the advancement and efficiency of solar architecture internationally. Born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, Disch has dedicated particular focus to regional renewable and sustainable energy.

As head of his own architecture firm, Rolf Disch Solar Architecture, Disch built the Heliotrope in Freiburg which was the world’s first home to create more energy than it uses; it physically rotates with the sun to maximize its solar intake. Disch then developed his PlusEnergy concept, by making it a permanent goal for his buildings to produce more energy than they consume in order to sell the surplus solar energy back into the grid for profit.

Rolf Disch’s biggest venture was completed in 2004 with the 59 PlusEnergy home Solar Settlement and the 60,000 sq. ft. PlusEnergy Sun Ship building. In June 2009, Disch launched the 100% GmbH organization, with the aim to make Freiburg and its surrounding district the first 100% sustainable renewable energy region in the world.

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Did you know?

... that The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity, the 2007 book by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder, argues that commercializing clean technologies is a profitable enterprise that is moving steadily into mainstream business ? As the world economy faces challenges from energy price spikes, resource shortages, global environmental problems, and security threats, clean technologies are seen to be the next engine of economic growth.

Pernick and Wilder highlight eight major clean technology sectors: solar power, wind power, biofuels, green buildings, personal transportation, the smart grid, mobile applications (such as portable fuel cells), and water filtration. Very large corporations such as GE, Toyota and Sharp, and investment firms such as Goldman Sachs are making multi-billion dollar investments in clean technology.

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  • "Perhaps because of its technical, economic, and thermodynamic advantages, a renewable power sector would have six benefits over one reliant on conventional power plants, including (1) lower negative externalities per kWh, (2) more stable and predictable fuel prices, (3) fewer greenhouse gas emissions, (4) less water use, (5) improved efficiency, and (6) greater local employment and revenue." – Benjamin K. Sovacool and Charmaine Watts. The Electricity Journal, May 2009, Vol. 22, Issue 4, p. 99.
  • "... renewable electricity technologies present policy makers with a superior alternative for minimising the risk of fuel interruptions and shortages, helping improve the fragile transmission network and reducing environmental harm. These smaller and more environmentally friendly generators cost less to construct, produce power in smaller increments and need not rely on continuous government subsidies. They generate little to no waste, have less greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity produced and do not contribute significantly to the risk of accidents." – Benjamin K. Sovacool, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 40(3), 2010, p. 371.
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