Renewable energy has been a hot topic in the last decade. The cost of wind and solar has decreased significantly, which is great news for utility companies committed to green energy, consumers, and the environment. In 2019, Avista set a goal to be carbon neutral by the end of 2027 and provide 100% clean electricity to customers by 2045.
Clean energy that derives from continuously replenished natural sources is a simple renewable energy definition. These resources are either available without a time limit or get replenished at a faster rate than consumed. Humans have relied on natural sources for their basic daily needs since ancient times. For example, the sun provided warmth during the day and helped kindle fires at dusk before the advent of electricity.
It is only during the last 500 years or so that humans have relied on less expensive, carbon-emitting energy sources (e.g., coal and natural gas). Nonrenewable sources of energy are available in limited amounts and take a long time to replenish. Of the 276 million vehicles registered in the U.S. in 2019, nearly 98% still relied on gasoline. The fuel most Americans use at the pump is a limited natural resource refined from crude oil that dates back to prehistoric times!
Currently, the two most discussed renewable energy examples are wind and solar. Hydropower and biomass are two other forms of renewable energy.
Wind: Turbines as tall as skyscrapers utilize the wind to turn massive blades, thereby feeding an electric generator to produce electricity. This method is versatile because turbines can be placed anywhere with high wind speeds, including hilltops, open plains, and even offshore in open water. Currently, wind energy comprises 7% of the nation’s electricity and powers 32 million homes. In six states, wind accounts for more than 20% of overall electricity produced, although, in Iowa, it is the largest power source. Costs have decreased by 70% in the last decade and the low price is guaranteed for the lifespan of a project.
Solar: As the name implies, this energy harnesses the sun and converts it into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the cleanest and most prevalent renewable energy source, and the U.S. is home to some of the richest solar resources worldwide. This type of energy can generate electricity, provide light or a comfortable interior environment, and heat water for domestic, commercial, or industrial use. Currently, the U.S. utilizes 85 GW of solar energy across the country, which is enough to power more than 16 million homes. Costs have decreased by 90% percent since 2009.
Hydropower: Energy from moving water was one of the first sources of energy used for electricity generation. In 2019, hydropower accounted for 38% of total utility-scale renewable electricity generation in the U.S. and about 50% of total installed renewable capacity worldwide. Avista dams account for nearly half of the electricity supplied to our customers.
Biomass: The energy from living or once-living organisms can be transformed into usable energy. Biomass is burned to create heat (direct), converted into electricity (direct), or processed into biofuel (indirect). Biomass energy sources include:
In 2019, biomass accounted for 5% of total primary energy use in the U.S. Of that, 46% was from wood.
At Avista, we’re committed to offering a mix of renewable energy solutions to our customers. We encourage you to lower your carbon footprint by enrolling in the My Clean Energy program.