About renewables

Pioneering renewable energy for business and communities & more

About renewable energy

An overview of renewable energy; what it is, what it does and the options available

Tidal stream turbine by Marine Current Turbines

Much of WolfeWare’s business is related to renewable energy, including many of its advisory activities and publications.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is fundamentally energy derived from sources which do not deplete the earth’s resources. In principle that means all the main sources of energy used today apart from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and nuclear power. See a table of technologies here.

Why is renewable energy a good thing?

Firstly because we can continue using them indefinitely, they cannot run out (for millions of years anyway), unlike the North Sea oil and gas, for example, are already doing. Secondly they don’t produce carbon dioxide [1], other emissions or long term waste, so they don’t contribute to climate change or air pollution. And thirdly, because of those two factors, renewable energy is far more predictable and stable economically. Though fossil and nuclear energy have looked cheap in the past, their prices have become much more volatile recently and will continue to rise as fuel becomes scarcer, security more pressing and emissions more expensive.

What can renewable energy be used for?

Any energy use you can think of. Renewables are uniquely flexible in meeting any energy need. Unlike nuclear power, for example, which only produces electricity, renewable energy can provide any of these outputs:

  • Production of fuels (which can then be used for the next two energy types below)
  • Heat from sunshine, heat sources or from burning fuels
  • Power from heat (using heat to run generators)
  • Combined heat & power (CHP) = the two options above in one station
  • Direct electricity from the conversion of movement or light into power

What are the sources of renewable energy?

There are many types of renewable energy. Most derive from the four ‘elements’: Earth, Air, Fire and Water and from products grown using these elements, often referred to as ‘biomass’ [2].

Click here for the renewable energy sources available for each energy need, with four columns for each usage type in dark green in the table above. Colour coding down the right shows the source elements described above: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Biomass.

Note [1] Bioenergy, the conversion of biomass to energy, does usually emit carbon dioxide, but only what the biomass fuels (see below) have absorbed when growing so there is no overall increase to the carbon in the atmosphere.

Note [2] Biomass includes a huge range of organic materials which can be used for energy production, including wood, crops and a wide range of by-products, wastes and residues, including waste-wood, sawdust, municipal solid waste, landfill and sewage gas etc. There are many ways these can be converted to energy and fuels, some listed at the bottom of the renewables page.