Renewable energy comes from sources that can be replenished on a human timescale, like biomass, hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar power. Renewable energy technologies generally have fewer environmental and health impacts than non-renewables. Like all energy sources, each renewable energy technology has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Why does renewable energy matter?
Renewable energy sources account for around 10% of U.S. energy consumption and are a fast-growing source of low-carbon electricity.[1,2] While cost can be a barrier to the adoption of renewable energy sources, policy incentives have contributed to their considerable growth in the United States in recent years.[2,3] The spread of wind and solar technologies has also contributed to increasing demand for certain minerals such as rare earth elements.
How does geoscience help inform decisions about renewable energy development?
Geoscientists study the distribution of solar, wind, hydro, tidal, and geothermal energy resources, and help to identify suitable sites for their development. They assess the impacts of renewable energy development on climate, local ecosystems, and water resources. They also locate and extract the minerals used in many renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels.
1 Renewable Energy Explained, EIA, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=renewable_home
2 Electricity in the United States, EIA, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_in_the_united_states
3 State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/renewable-portfolio-standards.aspx