Renewable and Non-renewable Energy: Definition, Differences and Types

What is renewable and non-renewable energy? what are the two type of Energy? How can you differentiate by examples, between renewable and non-renewable energy? The two categories of energy named based on the renewability of the sources they are generated from when used up. In this article we will show all the basic things that you need to know about renewable and non-renewable energy: definition, differences and types.

Since the last three decades renewable energy has shown an average annual growth of 3.2%. The most recently discovered renewable energies contributing to the statistics of the common solar energy. The world total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2017 was 13,972, Mtoe, Millions of tonnes of oil equivalent. In the same year it is the second largest contributor to global electricity production. Renewable energies accounted for 24.5% of world generation in 2017, after coal and ahead of gas, nuclear and oil. Renewable energy comes from natural sources through processes that pose little or no threat to the environment and our life as a whole.

But despite the fact that renewable energy sources are technically going to last for eternity, non-renewable remains the most common energy used today, despite the increasing awareness about how renewable energy can help protect our environment. Around 80 percent of the total amount of energy used globally each year comes from nonrenewable sources.  Most machinery and infrastructure are still built for energy derived from non-renewable sources.

In just a year, in 2018, the world’s oil production averaged more than 80 million barrels per day. A large part of the production comes from the top five oil-producing nations: the United States of America, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Canada, and China, with nearly half of world’s production.

  1. Definition of Renewable and Non-renewable energy
  2. Definition of Renewable and Non-renewable energy

Renewable energy is generated from natural sources which includes the sun, rain, moon e.t.c that are inexhaustible and undergoes natural processes that can be controlled to renew the energy constantly when it is used up.

Definition of Non-renewable Energy

Non-renewable energy is generated from sources with limited abundance that take a long time to be renewed, and are not guaranteed for continuous supply. Examples of non-renewable sources include petroleum, coal, natural gas, etc.

Differences between Renewable and Non-renewable

Following the definition of renewable and non-renewable energy, you would think that it is a no brainier that renewable energy is the best energy of the two; but this is wrong . Renewable energy has its advantages over non-renewable just as the non-renewable has its own advantages over the other.

Comparisons Between Renewable Energy and Non-renewable Energy

1. Abundance of the source of Energy

The renewable form of energy like solar energy is generated from natural sources that are ever available,  like the sun.  They don’t run out and we have absolutely no fear of the depletion of its abundant supplies, the non-renewable sources like fossil energy on the other hand, doesn’t offer such assurances and the abundance is certain to end longer than we can naturally replenish. Regarding the abundance of energy sources, renewable energy is the best.

2. Time to replenish Energy

Renewable energy can be replenished in a few hours. Although energy like solar from the sun can be affected by time of the day and weather conditions, it is nothing compared to non-renewable energy forms, which may take up to 100 years if we apply technology to simulate and influence the millions of years it would naturally take the supposed period to recover the source of energy.  Regarding the time to renew the supply of energy, renewable energy is the best.

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3. Power Output

This is one of the major advantages of  non-renewable energy. It is energy rich and the output can be easily improved for applications that require a higher energy. Renewable energy is usually unlike this. Based on the control of power output the non-renewable energy is the best.

4. Environmental Protection

Environmental activists have made their opinion clear on how non renewable energy contributes to global warming, and how it is a major contributor to other current environmental crises,as well as a direct threat to human health.  Environmental activists would call renewable energy the clean energy, and this is understandable.  They roll out a series of campaigns on how to reduce pollution by diverting attention to renewable energy: they point out that a major cause of the pollution threatening the ecosystem is the source of energy  we use: non-renewable energy. For example, oil drilling activities can cause serious water pollution, air pollution and even earthquakes in places with intense activities like the fracking in Canada Boreal forest. Another example is Ogoni land water pollution in south southern Nigeria.

5. Cost Effectiveness

The initial cost to set up a system that generates renewable energy is high but it is cheap to manage. A proper analysis into the cost of running the two sources of energy would show clearly that nonrenewable sources have a cumulative price that is higher, and its price can depend on a lot of other factors like the rise in price of crude oil. In terms of the cost effectiveness renewable energy is the best source of energy.

6. Accessibility and Effectiveness

Based on the current usage of both renewable and non-renewable sources of energy, the non renewable sources are more reliable and efficient as it accessible and can be transported to places where it is not available.The renewable energy unlike the other cannot be moved in this way, and it is affected by a lot of other factors like geographical location, season of the year, level of wind in the area, sunlight and weather e.t.c.

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy is the energy that is derived from natural resources that are not exhaustible, sunlight, wind, ocean waves, biomass e.t.c. Renewable energy is an alternative to the traditional energy that relies on the carbon-rich fossil fuel.

1) Solar Energy

This is the most common form of renewable energy. Sunlight is the planet’s most abundant, available, and important energy resource as it is responsible for the energy in most renewable processes. Sunlight is responsible for the majority of the energy in one way or the other. It is responsible for even non renewable sources of energy hundreds of million years ago. Humans and animals store energy from the sun and increase their energy with the consumption of vegetables, which also takes energy from the sun. This energy is retained in the fossil and are released with the burning of fossils as fuel.

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2) Wind Energy

A source of clean energy that is gaining popularity. It involves using wind turbines to harness energy from strong wind. It is not easily managed like solar, and Wind energy provides an effective way to get energy and prevent pollution. Wind energy doesn’t produce carbon dioxide, or release any harmful products that can harm the  environment or human health like smog, soot, acid rain e.t.c

3) Hydro Energy

This is the most reliable renewable energy source. Energy is generated by controlling the flow of a large body of water by using dams to drive turbines and then generate electricity. Hydroelectric energy is usually criticized because it can affect the animals that live in water bodies as it changes water levels, currents, and disrupts the path of  movement of  fishes and freshwater ecosystems.

4) Tidal Energy

Also known as wave energy  is a form of hydro energy generated by applying the knowledge of tidal flow to drive turbine generators. can cause disruptions to the ocean floor and life that exists in the habitat. Tidal energy generation can get disrupted by the situation of weather. A stormy weather affects the tides and consequently produce lower energy output than its usual production.

5) Geothermal Energy

Our Earth formed over a billion years ago.  From that moment it cools slowly, and the cooling process continues today. The process by which Earth makes heat involves the disintegration of natural radioactive elements, uranium and others to form particles  which collide with surrounding material inside the Earth, and it is called radioactive decay. Energy generated by harnessing the power of the generated heat from the earth’s core is called geothermal energy. It is not a common energy source in most countries, and it is a major concern for earthquake prone areas.

6) Biomass Energy

A renewable source of energy from biomass. Biomass is organic substance from plants and animals. Organic substances obtained from processing energy from plants that stored energy as a result of photosynthesis, and from animals that consume energy from plants and add to their own stored energy. The energy stored in biomass enables it to be used as fuels directly or turned to liquid as biofuel or biogas. This source generates power at a much lower economical and environmental cost by the conversion of agricultural waste, including  industrial and domestic waste into fuel. Biomass can be intentionally cultivated energy plants, or forest residues, waste from farm produce, animal farming, or human waste.

Types of Non-renewable Energy Sources

Nonrenewable energy sources are formed from the remains of dead plants and animals by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust over millions of years. A greenhouse gas absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the phenomenon called  greenhouse effect on earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide , methane e.t.c

There are  four major types of non renewable energy sources and together they are referred to as fossil fuels. They are listed as follows:

  1.  Crude Oil or Petroleum
  2.  Natural gas
  3.  Coal
  4.  Nuclear Energy

 Crude Oil or Petroleum:

Petroleum, also called rock oil is a nonrenewable energy source. It is a mixture of hydrocarbons in liquid, solid and gaseous states. It occurs naturally beneath the earth’s surface and can be separated by fractional distillation to constituents that includes natural gas, gasoline e.t.c Petroleum is a hydrocarbon, mainly made of carbon and hydrogen, it is formed when heat and pressure compresses the remains of plants, and animals under the bed of the sea or lakes over a million years ago. Petroleum is found in the Earth’s underlying rock, which is drilled and the oil is pumped out.

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Natural Gas:

Natural gas  is found near oil deposits below Earth’s underlying rocks. Natural gas  consists mostly of methane and it is also a hydrocarbon like petroleum, and used as a source of energy for cooking and electricity.

Coal:

Coal is a hard sedimentary rock which is formed when dead plant matter decays into peat and is converted into coal by the heat and pressure over millions of years. Coal is dug up from the ground, and not extracted because of its hard state and used as a  fuel for heating homes and generating power plants.. Its major components include hydrogen, sulphur, oxygen and nitrogen.

Nuclear Energy:

Nuclear energy is the cleanest energy source and the most environmentally friendly we get from nonrenewable sources because it doesn’t involve the emission of gases that threatens the ecosystem . It comes from radioactive elements, mainly uranium, through the process of nuclear fusion, It is extracted from mined ore and then refined into fuel which generates heat to produce steam used by turbines to generate electricity.

Our dependence on nonrenewable energy sources puts us in a  terrible environmental situation because burning them releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, a major cause of global warming, into the atmosphere. The many advantages of nonrenewable energy is increasingly getting overshadowed by the adverse effect of the emissions that comes with it. Nuclear energy could have easily bridged the gap but it is also a nonrenewable energy and won’t last for long. Renewable energy on the other hand is getting accepted as advancement in technology helps to reduce its costs and offers hope of a cleaner, better managed energy system. This means that renewable energy is gradually replacing non-renewables in the energy industry for the good of the ecosystem and humans.

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