Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply Table of Contents
Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply is a series consisting of 5 parts.
- Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply: Part 1, Petroleum
- Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply: Part 2, Coal
- Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply: Part 3, Natural Gas
- Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply: Part 4, Nuclear
- Where Does our Energy Come From? A Breakdown of Supply: Part 5, Renewables
The United States is a tremendous force in the world, not just in military and diplomatic terms, but also in regards to energy production and consumption. Energy industries in the United States power tremendously large businesses that put out goods faster than our population can buy it up. But where does the energy come from to fuel all this? Given our knowledge about energy security, how much of this energy is ‘secure’ and how much is ‘insecure’?
In the final part of our series, we’ll look at renewable energy. Although it accounted for only 8 percent of energy use in 2009, renewable energy is considered to be one of the fastest growing industries. Evidence of this is in the fact that it bounced up over three percent in use for 2010 – starting the first six months of the year at 11.14 percent.
When discussing renewable energies, we refer to such things as solar power, geothermal, biomass waste, wind, biofuels, and hydropower. Let’s take a look at each one and get a better idea of how it plays a part in the US energy model.
Solar Power, Geothermal, and Biomass
Representing 12 percent of the renewable energies, solar power, geothermal, and biomass technologies make up only a small section, but nonetheless offer promising prospects. Some preliminary hurdles for these technologies have been cost effective implementation strategies, as well as practical uses for consumers.
Solar power, often symbolic of green industry, has been around for thousands of years, and began with the simple use of sunlight to warm dwellings, dry clothes, and cure food. Today, it works more like harnessing nuclear energy. Easier to install than other forms of renewables, responsible for less environmental damage, and supportive of energy independence, solar power looks to be a robust industry as time goes on. Google has even begun to take interest in the venture (perhaps they’re the new power company of the 21st century?).
Geothermal is also a unique renewable energy source. Harnessing the energy from inside the earth, geothermal energy looks to convert heat into power. Already, geothermal operations have begun to be set up, mostly in the western states. As we move forward, the United States is helping lead the way with geothermal power.
Biomass, which derives its power from plants and plant material, provides two valuable services, says the National Atlas: “it is the second most important source of renewable energy in the United States and it is an important part of our waste management infrastructure.” From direct heating to generating electricity, biomass is sure to hold strong in use.
Wind, Biofuels, and Hydropower
Representing a much larger chunk, wind, biofuels, and hydropower provide 9, 20, and 35 percent of the renewable energy sector, respectively (wood provides the remaining percentage, roughly 24 percent). Wind, among other things, promotes energy security, more efficient energy production, cleaner use, and better long term benefits.
Biofuels, in all their variety, offer one great thing: alternative fuel. Currently, the United States nearly $200 billion on oil, not counting defense costs. Algae, as one example, is a quickly growing alternative that may have more than one purpose, making it a very lucrative investment choice, especially for the planet.
Hydropower comes at a major expense, though: one must largely alter the natural ecological make up of an area. As a benefit, hydropower is helping fuel the renewable energy profile, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the total energy consumed.
Renewable Energy for the Future
As incorporating renewable energy into more applications becomes the norm, it’s clear that each technology has a promising future. As seen, this includes a number of benefits for the us as consumers and the nation at large (not to mention the world!). The trick is getting companies and government to introduce these “alternatives” as “the norm.”