Modern (1940’s-present)


Renewable Energy

Travis Reed


Renewable energy is a clean alternative to fossil fuels. Renewable energy has started to step more into the spotlight in recent years because of the environmental impacts it will have. However, it is important to understand the societal effects renewable energy will have as well.

According to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) “Renewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. For example, sunlight or wind keep shining and blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather” (Shinn, 2021). Renewable energy is becoming so important because people have started to become much more concerned with the environment and climate change. This chapter will discuss different types of renewable energy, as well as, the effects they have.

Solar energy

According to S. Ashok with Britannica, Solar energy is radiation, light, from the sun that is used to make heat, cause a chemical reaction, or generate electricity (Ashok, 2021). There are a few ways that we use the sun to make solar energy. One way is through concentrated solar power. Concentrated solar power uses collectors to concentrate sunlight onto a black receiver. This receiver intensifies the light to heats of 2,000 degrees celsius, then mirrors are used to heat water into steam to turn a turbine, generating electricity (Ashok, 2021). One of the most popular methods of capturing solar energy is through solar panels. Solar panels are so popular because they can be used privately, unlike most renewable energies.

Solar energy may have the most potential out of all of the renewable energies because the sun produces so much energy that is not being utilized. Ashok states, “The potential for solar energy is enormous, since about 200,000 times the world’s total daily electric-generating capacity is received by Earth every day in the form of solar energy” (Ashok, 2021). If solar energy were to be harnessed many of our energy needs and pollution problems could be solved.

The biggest problem facing solar energy is the cost of collection. Solar panels are very expensive, and with our current technology, not very efficient. According to Ashok, solar panels are only 15-20 percent efficient (Ashok, 2021). That is a high cost for a low efficiency.

Wind Power

Wind energy is created by wind, spinning a turbine that then converts the rotational energy of the turbine into electricity (Wind Energy Basics). According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “Wind energy is actually a byproduct of the sun. The sun’s uneven heating of the atmosphere, the earth’s irregular surfaces (mountains and valleys), and the planet’s revolution around the sun all combine to create wind” (Wind Energy Basics). Since our sun and earth’s irregular terrain will continue to exist, wind is in no short supply, making it a great source of renewable energy.

Wind power has many economical advantages, for example, wind power is cost effective. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, wind energy is one of the cheapest energy sources we have today. This is because its fuel source is free and unlimited which eliminates the price uncertainty that fossil fuels have (Advantages and challenges of wind energy). Another benefit of wind power is that it creates jobs. Currently over 100,000 people are employed in the wind industry. With the potential to create 600,000 more jobs by 2050 in the U.S. alone (Advantages and challenges of wind energy).

Like most things, wind power also has its drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks is the impact on wildlife. Since wind farms are pretty much just large spinning fans, they have been known to kill birds and bats (Advantages and challenges of wind energy). While killing animals is not good, the more dramatic impact is the alteration of local habitats due the the construction of wind farms. In some cases habitats are completely destroyed, but mostly they are just altered only affecting certain species.


National Geographic states that “A typical hydroelectric plant is a system with three parts: a power plant where the electricity is produced, a dam that can be opened or closed to control water flow, and a reservoir where water is stored. The water behind the dam flows through an intake and pushes against blades in a turbine, causing them to turn. The turbine spins a generator to produce electricity (Nunez, 2021). Hydropower is very popular in countries with large rivers, like China, Brazil and the U.S., because the more water that flows through the turbines, the more energy is produced.

A huge advantage of hydropower, is that once the dam is built not much needs to be done, other than standard maintenance. Like wind power, it has a free, renewable fuel source.

Of all the renewable energy sources, hydropower has some of the most drastic drawbacks, mostly ecological. Building dams disrupts many ecosystems and local populations around the river. The Three Gorges Dam in China displaced nearly 1.2 million people, flooding hundreds of villages and ecosystems (Nunez, 2021). A big question for many is if the pollution reduction and energy production that dams provide are worth the destruction of ecosystems and displacement of local residents.

effects of renewable energy on society

Most of the effects that renewable energy has on society deal with our economy and pollution. In 2003 only 2 percent of the United State’s energy production came from renewable energy sources (Hopkins, 2003). As of 2020 19.8 percent of the United State’s energy production comes from renewable sources (Frequently asked questions (faqs), 2021). In almost 20 years we have seen a 18 percent growth in renewable energy production, and that number is only going to increase. Hopkins stated that renewable energy has the potential to stimulate local economies through job creation, allow us to become independent from foreign oil, and even have stabilized energy prices (Hopkins, 2003). Renewable energy not only stimulates our economy but it also helps reduce our carbon footprint, which is a hot topic these days. Most renewable energies release little to no emissions, whereas coal, oil and natural gas release tons of emissions.


Advantages and challenges of wind energy. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2021, from

Ashok, S. (2021, October 22). solar energy. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Frequently asked questions (faqs) – U.S. energy information administration (EIA). Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (2021, November 2). Retrieved December 10, 2021, from

Hopkins, B. (2003, August). Renewable energy can benefit state economies. State Government News, 46(7), 19.

Nunez, C. (2021, May 3). Hydropower Facts and Information. Environment. Retrieved December 6, 2021, from

Shinn, L. (2021, August 25). Renewable energy: The clean facts. NRDC. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from

Wind energy basics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2021, from


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To the extent possible under law, Travis Reed has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Science, Technology, & Society: A Student-Led Exploration, except where otherwise noted.

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