Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). In 2006, about 18% of global final energy consumption came from renewables, with 13% coming from traditional biomass, such as wood-burning and 3% from hydroelectricity.
Wind power is growing at the rate of 30% annually, with a worldwide installed capacity of 121,000 megawatts (MW) in 2008, and is widely used in European countries and the United States. The annual manufacturing output of the photovoltaics industry reached 6,900 MW in 2008, and photovoltaic (PV) power stations are popular in Germany and Spain. Solar thermal power stations operate in the USA and Spain, and the largest of these is the 354 MW SEGS power plant in the Mojave Desert. The world's largest geothermal power installation is The Geysers in California, with a rated capacity of 750 MW. Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugar cane, and ethanol now provides 18% of the country's automotive fuel. Ethanol fuel is also widely available in the USA.
While most renewable energy projects and production are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to small off-grid applications, sometimes in rural and remote areas, where energy is often crucial in human development. Kenya has the world's highest household solar ownership rate with roughly 30,000 small (20–100 watt) solar power systems sold per year.
Climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil, and increasing government support, are driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization. New government spending, regulation and policies helped the industry weather the 2009 economic crisis better than many other sectors.
Main Forms of Renewable Energy
The majority of renewable energy technologies are powered by the sun. The Earth-Atmosphere system is in equilibrium such that heat radiation into space is equal to incoming solar radiation, the resulting level of energy within the Earth-Atmosphere system can roughly be described as the Earth’s “climate”. The hydrosphere (water) absorbs a major fraction of the incoming radiation.
Renewable energy flows involve natural phenomena such as sunlight, wind, tides, and geothermal heat, and the International Energy Agency Explains:
Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth. Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.
Each of these sources has unique characteristics which influence how and where they are used.
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In spring 2002, the Manitoba government established an agency responsible for the development of alternative energy options. This agency is responsible for both renewable energy like hydro, and new renewables such as wind, solar, ethanol, geothermal, etc.
The Manitoba Government has taken some initial steps to promote the development of alternative and new renewable sources of energy. In this section we are providing information on government programs and initiatives related to this commitment to energy alternatives as well as energy projects that have been proposed or are in the process of being licensed.