This article is available also in spanish here

Renewable energy generation: description, types and objectives

My list

Author | M. Martínez Euklidiadas

Renewable energies play a vital role in sustainable development. Without them, it would be absolutely impossible to decarbonize human activities. Solar and wind energy systems stopped being 'alternatives' a long time ago, and they are now much more feasible than burning fuels.

What are renewable energies?

Renewable energies are those obtained from virtually endless sources that regenerate naturally without the need for human intervention. They should not be confused with 'green', low impact renewables; 'sustainable energies', that are not necessarily renewables but which are feasible in the long term; or 'alternative' energies, a title used to describe high-cost emerging energies.

Types of renewable energies

According to the EU renewable energy directive, renewable energies are:

Solar energy

There are various types of solar energy. The most direct use is to heat households or water circuits thanks to a solar collector [4,2]. Although the most popular systems are solar panels [1,7 - 20], which transform sunlight into energy. Lastly, are the large solar thermal power plants (below), which use heliostats or mirrors to capture energy [1,6 - 1,9].

The energy returned on energy invested (ERoEI) appears in hard brackets. Therefore, for each joule used to build and maintain a solar panel, between 1.7 and 20 joules of useful energy are obtained.

renewables - 125

Wind energy

Wind energy uses aerogenerators [5 - 80], located both on land and out at sea (offshore), which function as an inverted engine. As they turn with the wind, they transform the wind's energy into electricity.


Hydropower [11,2 - 250] uses a turbine to harness the force of moving water. The ERoEI may be extremely high, but the impact on the surrounding area and local communities in which the hydropower dams are located, make it a particularly controversial option.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy [1,9 - 13] uses the heat within the Earth. It can be used to heat a water circuit or to generate steam to make electricity.

Wave energy

Wave energy (being analyzed) uses the wave frequencies of the sea to generate energy with an electric generator. It is linked with the lesser-known and investigated blue energy, which is based on the osmotic pressure in areas in which freshwater meets seawater.

renewables - 126

Biomass and biofuel energy

The use of this renewable energy is highly controversial. Its cost is extremely high (but not its price), it releases carbon into the atmosphere and it increases basic food prices in an unsustainable manner. Furthermore, the ERoEI rarely exceeds one unit.

How to invest in renewable energies?

The most direct way of investing in renewable energies is by installing solar panels or directly investing in wind farms. If this is not possible, 100% renewableenergy can always be purchased from reseller companies.

Unlike fossil fuels, the price of which continues to increase given the shortage and its ERoEI continues to drop because it is increasingly hard to extract these limited and polluting resources (in 1940 the ERoEI of petrol was 100, today it is 8), sources of renewable energy decrease with use.

In other words, the more families, cities and governments that install solar and wind energy near to cities, the more resilient these will be and the more affordable their energy will be.

It should be noted that in 2000, wind power reached grid parity in the US (2010 in Europe, 2019 in China), which means that from those dates, it has been more affordable to generate energy with aerogenerators than by burning fuel. The solar power grid parity was reached in 2014. They stopped being 'alternatives' a long time ago.

Images | iStock/MikeMareen, iStock/Lakeland-Photos, Koza1983

Related content

Recommended profiles for you

Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
Scholastica Tanzil
Third grade student in the university
Ozgur Demirdoven
Ozgur Demirdoven
DD Energy Services
Ushnish Sengupta
Algoma University
Luis Fernando Hernandez Luis F
David Alan Scott
Newcastle University
Laura Moreno Segura
Consulting Director at IdenCity
Miguel Leitão
CCO Green World
Juan Carlos  Sánchez-Tappan
Juan Carlos Sánchez-Tappan
Joseph Torino
Restu ananda
Telkom University
Pablo Francisco Fabre Bojalil
Mirela Chavez
Alfredo  Zazueta
Alfredo Zazueta
Interglobal Latam
Nuno Couceiro
Iván Rodríguez
Iván Rodríguez
Televés, S.A.U.
Director of New Business Lines
Casandra Hernández Mondragón
Ademolu  Oyenuga
Ademolu Oyenuga
Denis Mariño Valero
Christian Hansen
Christian Hansen
schaefer | hansen
Partner / CEO
Jacques Guertin
Jacques Guertin
Business Development Coordinator

Thank you for registering to Tomorrow.City. You can now start exploring all the content for free!
Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$