Everyone talks about saving the environment through renewable energy, but what exactly does that mean, and how will the shift be made? Changing over to renewable sources is, of course, something that is already happening throughout the world, and in some places the transformation has been an ongoing process that started many years ago out of economic and practical necessity.
Renewable energy refers to using sources of energy that will not deplete over time, and of which long-term use will cause little or no harm to the environment. Things like the sun, wind, and water do not run out, and therefore can be harnessed for large-scale, non-destructive projects that could go on indefinitely. The problem, of course, is that it takes a lot of money and effort to move away from the traditional use of fossil fuels, especially where such power sources are used to supply major metropolitan areas. In order for most places to start a significant replacement scheme, they would have to find a way for it to be economically competitive with current systems, which is something that is constantly being assessed.
Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is a hot topic in places like the United States and Europe, but what people may not realize is that a lot of developing nations have been using renewable energy for many years now, and in some cases are way ahead of developed countries in certain areas. Throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa, solar energy is used extensively in businesses and residences to power things like rooftop water heaters and other devices that would normally require traditional electricity sources. This is something that has yet to catch on widely in places like the United States, where buildings in even the most sunny climates are still fitted with electric fixtures where solar-powered ones would work just as well, and would save both money and energy. Solar panels on roofs are still an oddity in the US, whereas in many developing areas they are a standard component of homes and offices.
Remote areas of the world often use renewable energy simply because it makes sense for them to do so. Places like the Solomon Islands rely heavily on hydroelectric power, since there is no shortage of available water, and obtaining fossil fuel for steam-driven generators would be expensive and impractical. In geologically unstable areas like Iceland, geothermal heat (which is not strictly renewable but is classified as such by the International Energy Agency) is responsible for almost all domestic heating throughout the country, taking energy directly from the heat of the earth’s core, which is replenished by the decay of radioactivity in the earth’s crust.
In the United States we have quite a difficult road ahead in terms of making the shift away from fossil fuels, because of the size of the country and the varying types of natural resources throughout the land. In addition, economic interests make it tricky to change systems that are so ingrained in our way of life. But economy can refer to many things, and in terms of our global future, we need to think of the most economical choice as being the one that preserves our planet for subsequent generations. The change to renewable sources may be relatively expensive to implement initially, but the long-term benefits will be economical both in the typical sense of saving money as well as in the wider meaning of stopping our current damaging practices and making an attempt to clean up the environmental mess we’ve made.