You’ve no doubt heard of solar power as a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional energy sources. Solar panels are on the rise in Australia, with more than 11 million people and businesses using them to power their homes and businesses. You’ve probably also heard the term ‘renewable energy’ being thrown around in the media and on TV. But what is it about solar panels that makes it such a popular, eco-conscious option? Is solar energy renewable? Here, we give you the lowdown.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy refers to energy that is inexhaustible or never-ending. This means they will never run out, no matter how much of it is used. It is generated from natural energy processes like sunlight, wind, water and geothermal heating and is constantly replenished. On the other hand, non-renewable sources like nuclear power and fossil fuels are finite. They are manmade, using resources that will eventually run out. Our known oil deposits are predicted to run out by 2052, gas by 2060 and coal by 2088. These fossil fuels can take over a million years to form, so once they run out, they cannot be easily replenished.
What are the benefits of renewable energy?
The obvious benefit of renewable energy sources is that we have an endless supply and therefore, they are more sustainable. We are using non-renewable energy sources like coal and oil faster than we can keep up with, meaning it will inevitably run out in the near future. By switching to renewable energy, we become more self-sufficient and ensure we will be able to sustain ourselves in the future.
Renewable energy sources are also far better for the environment. Non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels create greenhouses gases, which contribute to global warming. It also increases air pollution, which can lead to health issues like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and possibly even cancer. In switching to cleaner, greener energy sources, we improve the longevity of both planet earth and the human race.
Using renewable energy sources is also kinder to your wallet. The cost of renewable energy is falling rapidly in Australia, with solar panels becoming the cheapest energy source. Once your solar panels are installed, you no longer have to pay for electricity during the day— all the energy you generate is free.
An average household saves over $2,160 yearly after installation of a residential solar system which is equivalent to one-month repayment on your mortgage! You can also use a battery to store up unused power from during the day to use at night, or even sell the excess to local energy providers. If you go for solar panels as your renewable energy source, you can also gain financial government incentives through the Small-scale Technology Certificates program, or STC.
Is solar energy renewable?
Solar energy is a perfect example of a renewable energy source. It is powered by the heat and light of the sun, a resource that will never run out. It is free, sustainable and completely inexhaustible. This energy can be converted into electricity or used to heat, air or water. Australia has the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent in the world — probably because we see so much sunlight!
There are two main types of solar energy. The first is Solar photovoltaic, technology that converts sunlight directly into electricity through photovoltaic (PV) cells, via solar panels like the ones we have at Solar Naturally .According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, more than two million Australian households currently have this type of solar system on their rooftop. The other type is solar thermal, which converts sunlight into thermal energy (or heat). This is mainly used for large-scale power generation, but it can also be used to provide solar-based cooling, or to make steam that can be used to generate electricity using a steam turbine.
What are some other examples of renewable energy?
Some other common forms of renewable energy include:
-Wind energy: This is generated by converting the force of wind into a torque (rotational force) which creates electricity via a wind turbine.
-Geothermal power: This is energy powered by heat stored beneath the earth, due to the natural decay over millions of years of radiogenic elements including uranium, thorium and potassium.
-Hydropower: One of the oldest renewable energy sources, hydropower uses the force of energy of moving water to generate power in a process known as ‘hydroelectricity’.
-Ocean energy:This refers to the types of energy derived from the sea and includes mechanical energy from the tides and waves, and thermal energy from the sun’s heat.
-Bioenergy: This generates energy through biomass — natural organisms including wood, crops and other waste. While this is sometimes created through the burning of biomass, which can emit harmful methane gases into the environment, cleaner bioenergy techniques are on the rise in Australia.
-Hybrid technology: This is when one renewable energy source is combined with another, such as solar with gas or wind.
What is the best form of renewable energy?
While all forms of renewable energy have their benefits, solar energy is the most popular type in homes in Australia. This is because it is affordable, accessible and low maintenance. Making the switch to solar panels like the ones we sell at Solar Naturally may seem overwhelming at first, but the benefits are clear. You’ll lower your carbon footprint, reduce your electricity bills and energy costs and possibly even improve your health. Still not sure if solar energy is for you? Contact us today for a no-strings-attached consultation, so we can talk through your individual needs.