Consider how much of life as we currently know it is made possible by electricity. Starting at home, there’s everything we plug in, from computers and televisions to toasters and fans. At work, consider the lights and air conditioning, the server rooms and the power tools. In our communities, electricity makes possible all of the above, as well as everything from mass transportation to professional sports games.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg! With electricity powering so many aspects of our lives, it’s reasonable to wonder how much of the electricity we use is renewable.
Energy is considered “renewable” when its use does not pollute water, air, or earth and its sources are renewed quickly. The sun, wind, water, and certain biomasses are all considered sources of renewable energy.
Nonrenewable and renewable sources of energy have both been used for thousands of years. Historians believe coal has been used for energy for at least 4000 years, beginning around 2000 B.C. when a wood shortage led people in China to use coal for heating and cooking. Quite a few years later, around 200 B.C., people in Europe were using waterwheels to grind their wheat and power other community activities. Since then, the world’s usage of renewable energy sources has ebbed and flowed due to influences as diverse as politics, war, and natural disasters.
Since at least the 1970s, when solar cell and wind technology became more cost effective for broader use while oil usage was under new and intense constraints, energy nerds have been making concerted efforts to develop and use more renewable sources of energy. It’s taken awhile, but their work is paying off. Forty years ago, renewable energy sources made up a tiny fraction of the energy we used in the United States. Today? Renewable energy sources are gaining on nonrenewable sources in higher and higher percentages.
According to the United States Department of Energy, 2017 has seen record power generation from wind, solar, and hydro sources. More and more new power providers are providing energy from renewable sources. Their work has led wind generation to increase by 16% and solar by a whopping 65% in just the past year. These numbers are expected to be higher by the end of 2017.
There is still work to be done. The grid was developed under an assumption that coal was god, and many old-school energy companies are heavily invested in nonrenewable energy. This said, Niagara Falls was one of the original sources of power for a state as large and diverse as New York – renewable energy has been a part of the plan and possibility since the start. Here at Drift, we are working to enable renewable energy providers and to connect power consumers with energy providers and sources that make sense for the long term.