Energy usually represents one of the most significant costs for a business. Very high consumption tends to correlate with activities that provide comfort, for example lighting at night and indoor air conditioning. Traditionally, energy came from unsustainable sources such as diesel- and coal-powered electricity producers. However, the finite nature of these resources means companies must investigate renewable sources to ensure sustainable energy consumption.
Use of renewable energy sources reduces local pollution and maintains the quality of tourist destinations. Renewable energy sources are those which can last for hundreds of years without being exhausted. In 2008 approximately 19% of global energy consumption came from renewable sources.
Examples of renewable energy include:
Solar power (light and heat from the sun) has been harnessed by humans for thousands of years, but still only a tiny proportion of all available solar energy is used today. Solar heat captured in photovoltaic panels is used for many human needs including household and industrial hot water and for heating buildings. In agriculture, solar energy is crucial to grow crops. Man-made greenhouses convert solar light to heat, enabling year-round growth for plants.
Photovoltaic panels are a feasible solution for power supply in areas that see a lot of sunlight. Electricity generated by these systems can either be used directly or stored in batteries to be consumed at night.
Wind power is in fact an indirect form of solar energy as around 2% of the energy coming from the sun is converted into wind. Wind power has been harnessed for hundreds of years, e.g. in windmills. In recent decades it has been used for power generation on a larger scale. Wind power is currently growing at a rate of 30% per year and more than 80 countries around the world now use wind power on a commercial basis.
Hydro (water) power is a clean, renewable energy source with low environmental impact. Once a hydroelectric complex is constructed the project usually produces no direct waste and has a much lower output of carbon dioxide than energy plants powered by fossil fuels. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy.
Geothermal power is heat energy created in the earth’s interior and brought to its surface. Used since Ancient Roman times, geothermal power is now used for electricity generation. This energy is cost-effective, reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Biomass is renewable organic matter from plants and animals. Energy can be obtained directly by burning it or by processing it to create other fuels.
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