Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources is one of the most effective measures we can take to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. Thankfully, we are finally starting to do more than pay lip service to this, and are actively taking measurable steps towards creating a world far less reliant on rapidly depleting resources.
In 2016, for the third consecutive year, world economic growth was decoupled from the growth in CO2 emissions. Every year, our planet now adds more renewable power capacity than it does capacity from fossil fuels. This is hugely encouraging for the future sustainability of not only our power supply but of the Earth as a whole.
South Africa has made significant efforts to embrace renewable energy, but we still have a long way to go. Coal still generates about 90% of our electricity, making us the largest carbon emitter on the African continent. According to statistics from the Department of Energy, South Africa’s energy sector accounts for almost half of our greenhouse gas emissions. As a country blessed with abundant renewable energy resources, specifically sun and wind, we are perfectly placed to significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
This is critically important because, as a developing country, our energy needs continue to rise. In fact, by 2025, experts predict energy demand will be twice current levels.
What Is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is energy that comes from a limitless source, such as the sun, wind and tides. This is in contrast to fossil fuels, which are non-renewable, drawing on finite resources that will eventually either run out or become too costly or too environmentally damaging to retrieve.
In South Africa, we receive large amounts of radiative energy from the sun, which is why making more use of solar power makes so much sense. We also have frequent, high-speed winds along our coastline – specifically in the Western Cape. To tap into this free and limitless resource, the city of Cape Town has started numerous wind farms which are already generating significant amounts of electricity for residential use.
Types Of Renewable Energy
Most renewable energy actually comes either directly or indirectly from the sun, but we can break it down further:
Solar energy: The sun’s power generates electricity. It’s also used for heat, cooling, light, heating hot water, and for generating electricity
Wind energy: heat from the sun drives the winds. Wind turbines capture wind energy from heights of 30 meters or higher. This is so they can take advantage of the faster, less turbulent wind.
Hydroelectric power: heat from the sun, coupled with wind, cause water to evaporate. When this water vapour turns into rain (or snow in colder countries) it flows downhill into rivers or streams. Hydroelectric power then captures its energy.
Non-Solar Renewable Energy
There are other types of renewable energy that don’t come from the sun. These include:
Geothermal energy: essentially, this is the heat from the Earth. It is found anywhere from shallow ground to hot water and hot rock found several kilometres beneath the Earth’s surface. Geothermal heat pumps can tap into this clean, sustainable resource to heat and cool buildings.
Biomass: this is currently the largest renewable energy source in South Africa, contributing up to 14% of the total mix. We derive biomass energy from organic matter. Ever since we started burning wood to keep us warm, we’ve used biomass energy! Wood is still our largest source of biomass, but we can also use plants, and residues from agriculture or forestry. Even landfill fumes and the organic components of municipal and industrial wastes are sources of biomass energy!
Ocean energy: Covering up to 70% of the Earth’s surface, the oceans are our planet’s largest collectors of solar energy. Heat from the sun warms the surface of the ocean more than the deeper water. This difference in temperature creates thermal energy. We use ocean thermal energy for many applications, including generating electricity.
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We stock a comprehensive range of products critical to the renewable energy sector, including PV Kiosks, string boxes, generator junction boxes, AC/DC distribution and control panels.
Contact us today to talk to us about how we can help you with your next project.