Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is power derived from naturally available resources. Properly harnessed, sunlight, wind, rivers and biodegradable materials are all rich, available and sustainable sources of energy. When renewable energy sources are used, the demand for fossil fuels is reduced, and one more step towards sustainability is taken.

Renewable energy isn’t new. More than 150 years ago, wood—one form of biomass—supplied up to 90% of our energy needs. As the use of coal, petroleum, and natural gas expanded, the United States became less reliant on wood, but today, we are looking again at renewable sources to help meet our energy needs.

In 2011, only 13% of U.S. electricity was generated from renewable sources. Not satisfied with these numbers, NRCO is working hard to make renewable energy an accessible power source across the United States.

Modern wind turbines use blades to collect the wind’s kinetic energy. Wind flows over the blades, creating lift—like an airplane wing—which causes them to turn. The blades connect to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator, producing electricity.

In 2011, wind generated about 3% of all U.S. electricity. That may seem like small fraction of total electricity production, but it was enough to power 10 million households across the country. And today, new technologies are making wind power even more efficient.

Swiftly flowing water, as found in a big river or waterfall, carries a great deal of energy. Rapidly collected water flows through a pipe system, building up the pressure needed to spin a turbine generator, producing electricity.

America’s first industrial use of hydropower to generate electricity was in 1880. Since then, hydropower has become the renewable energy source that produces the most electricity in the U.S., accounting for 6% of total U.S. electricity generation and 63% of generation from renewables in 2011.

Power from the sun’s rays can be changed into other forms of energy, such as heat and electricity. Solar energy can be converted into electricity in two different ways: through solar cells that change sunlight directly into electricity, and solar thermal/electric power plants that generate electricity by concentrating solar energy to produce steam which powers large generators .

While solar power only accounts for 0.04% of total U.S. electricity generation and 0.4% of renewables in 2011, it is becoming more prevalent as technological advancements make the cost of solar power more achievable.

Biomass is organic material made from plants and animals containing stored energy from the sun. Material such as wood waste or compostable garbage can be burned to produce steam, generating electricity, or heat. It can also be converted to other forms of energy, such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Trees, crops, and waste are the most common sources of biomass energy. In the U.S., wood and wood waste (bark, sawdust, etc.) provide only 2% of the energy used. About 80% of the wood and wood waste fuel used in the U.S. is consumed by industry, electric power producers, and commercial businesses.