How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

How can you support renewable energy? Plus, why you should.

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
5-minute read
Episode #222

Other renewable energy sources linked to the sun include wind power, biomass energy, and even ocean energy. The Sun heats the surface of the Earth unevenly, due to the different absorption rates of land vs water, for example. This uneven heating in turn produces the motion in the air from which wind power can be derived. Plants also absorb energy from the Sun through photosynthesis, and this energy is released when the plant is burned in the form of biomass energy.  The ocean also serves as a source of energy – thermal energy from heating of the water by the Sun, but also mechanical energy in the form of waves and tides.

There are also other forms of renewable energy that are not directly linked to the Sun. Geothermal energy, for example, is derived from our planet’s internal heat. And hydropower taps into the energy produced by flowing water.

What Are the Benefits of Renewable Energy?

Perhaps the most obvious reason for looking toward renewable energy sources to fulfill our energy needs is that they are renewable. Unless our demand for fossil fuels sees a dramatic decrease, the laws of supply and demand dictate that their cost will increase as supplies begin to dwindle. Perhaps even worse, we may resort to riskier and potentially more environmentally damaging ways to extract these resources from our planet.

Not only are renewable energy sources not going to run out, but they are also equal opportunity energy providers. They are available everywhere, unlike fossil fuels, thus eliminating the need to rely on other countries for help with our energy supply and undercutting the catalyst for wars fought over claims to the resources.

Renewable energy resources also tend to have a smaller carbon footprint than nonrenewables. They are cleaner as far as greenhouse gas emissions, and wind and solar power specifically do not require large amounts of water. The public health benefits of cleaner energy sources are also widespread. Health issues like breathing problems, heart attacks, and even cancer have been linked to the air and water pollution produced by coal and natural gas plants. These health benefits have been linked to economic benefits as well. Fewer pollution-derived health issues leads to lower healthcare costs and fewer worker sick days.

Furthering the positive economic impact, shifting towards renewable energy sources has the potential to create jobs, especially in rural areas. In fact, there are already twice as many people working in solar power than there are coal miners in the U.S.

Finally, a really important benefit of moving toward an increased emphasis on renewable energy sources is that we already have the technology in place. We don’t have to wait for some new invention to show us the way. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 13% of the electricity generation in the U.S. in 2015 came from renewables, the majority of that being from hydropower and wind. Coal and natural gas each contributed 33%.

How Can You Support Renewable Energy?

If you are among the ~85% of the US population that is sold on renewable energy, there are a range of steps that you can take as an individual. Do you own a home? Opt for deriving your power from renewable energy by, for example, installing solar panels. You will save money on utility bills, help the environment, and get a solar tax credit.


About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.