What Are Renewable Energy Sources?

Everything you need to know to start reducing your carbon footprint.

Everything you need to know to start reducing your carbon footprint.

Let’s talk renewable energy sources.

Simply put, a renewable energy source is something that can generate electricity without being depleted. We’re talking natural resources like wind, sun, water, biological matter and geothermal heat. When compared to so-called “traditional” energy sources like fossil fuels (petroleum, coal and natural gas) and crude oil-based petroleum products, renewables provide a sustainable source of energy with vastly reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

What’s all that mean? In short, renewable energy sources are the basis of clean, pollution-free electricity that can help reduce or mitigate the effects of climate change.

Approximately 11% of the total U.S. energy consumption comes from renewable energy sources.1

In 2019 alone, Green Mountain Energy customers helped the U.S. avoid more than 9.3 billion pounds of carbon emissions, simply by powering their homes with 100% clean electricity. That’s like taking 11.8 million cars off the road for a month!2 Yet despite the benefits of clean energy, it still represents only a small portion of the total energy consumed in the United States today. But as more and more people start to see the (sun)light, that number can grow. With your help, we can change the way that electricity is made and get everyone on the road to a greener lifestyle.

Make a commitment to using clean, renewable energy in your own life with a plan from Green Mountain Energy.

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Solar Energy

You know that big, bright, beautiful ball that’s lighting up the sky? Did you know it could supply the entire world’s energy needs all by itself?

Solar energy takes all the awesome light that the sun gives off for free and converts it into clean electricity for homes and businesses. Did you know that if you were able to collect all the sunlight that hits the Earth in one hour, you could generate enough electricity to supply the entire world for a year?

If that sounds wild, wait until you hear what we’ve been able to achieve with solar energy already:

  • Every megawatt hour (MWh) of U.S. solar energy avoids roughly 1,500 pounds of carbon emissions per year.3
  • Green Mountain Energy customers help drive demand for solar energy, leading to increased solar electricity production right here in the U.S.
  • Through Green Mountain Energy Sun Club®, we have funded solar energy projects that have empowered communities to live more sustainably.

Solar energy has been one of the fastest-growing sources of new energy in the world for many years now. As of 2018, the United States has a total installed solar capacity of 55 gigawatts (GW). That’s enough to power nearly 11 million homes! And thanks to improved technology, more affordable materials and increased customer demand, solar continues to become more affordable. For many homeowners, that means rooftop solar now makes economic sense and can provide long-term savings.

Learn more about solar energy, how it’s made and its benefits to the planet. >

Wind Energy

Human beings have been harnessing the wind for hundreds of years for everything from travel to producing food, but nowadays we capture wind for another reason: to sustainably power our homes and businesses.

If you’ve ever driven through agricultural areas, you’ve probably seen wind turbines spinning on the horizon. These giant three-bladed towers are a far cry from the old-school windmills that Don Quixote used to tilt at, but they also do much more. As of 2018, each MWh of wind energy generated across the United States avoids more than 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year.3 When you realize that the U.S. alone has the capacity to generate more than 105,500 megawatts (MW) of wind power,5 the benefits of wind energy speak for themselves.

  • Green Mountain Energy supports more than 100 wind farms right here in the U.S.
  • Our customers help grow the demand for 100% wind energy.
  • Wind energy is the fastest-growing job market in the U.S.4

Just a single wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power several homes, but you don’t have to invest in one for your backyard to reap the benefits of 100% wind energy. Giant wind farms, dotted all across the country, are capable of supplying electricity to millions of homes. By connecting to the grid and selling their electricity to companies like Green Mountain Energy, wind farms give people like you the power to choose clean electricity using 100% renewable wind energy. How’s that for a breath of fresh air?

Learn how wind energy helps reduce your carbon footprint. >

Bright sunshine or easy, breezy wind? Shop our pollution-free plans today to start powering up a green lifestyle with 100% clean electricity.

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Geothermal Energy

If you’ve never heard about geothermal energy before, get ready to be astounded. That’s right, you can source clean energy by harnessing heat from the center of the Earth.

The Earth’s core is hot. Really hot. We’re talking hotter than the surface of the sun. If you drill a hole deep enough, you can capture some of that heat in the form of steam. Funnel that steam through a turbine that rotates a generator, and the next thing you know you’re sending 100% pollution-free electricity out to homes and businesses.

  • Geothermal energy helps the U.S. avoid more than 1,500 pounds of CO2 emissions for every MWh generated each year.3
  • More than 20 countries generate geothermal energy today, with California and Nevada leading the way in U.S. geothermal power generation.
  • By 2023, global geothermal power capacity is expected to exceed 17 GW.6 That’s enough electricity to power more than 1,500 homes for a year!1

Sounds steamy, doesn’t it?

Learn how the power of the Earth’s core gets harnessed to make clean energy. >

Hydroelectricity

While solar and wind energy have received some much-needed hype in recent years for all they’re doing to help the planet, there’s one renewable energy source that’s been churning out clean electricity for a long, long time: good old trusty H2O. Hydroelectricity – aka hydroelectric power, or hydropower if you’re a cool kid – is generated using the power of moving water in rivers and oceans. It’s such a popular source of clean energy that every state in the U.S. uses it to some degree. In fact, hydroelectricity is responsible for 70% of all the electricity used in Washington state.

  • Evidence of hydropower has been found as early as 350 BC, making it one of the oldest power sources in human history.
  • Many forms of water can be harnessed to make electricity, including river currents, river dams, ocean waves and ocean tides.
  • Hydroelectricity avoids more than 1,500 pounds of carbon emissions per MWh in the U.S. every year.3

To create hydroelectric power, you build a dam that directs flowing water through a pipe to a turbine before spitting it back out on the other side. The force of the water going through the pipe spins the turbines, which rotate a generator that produces electricity.

Hydropower generation is one of the least expensive renewable energy sources in the country, operating at about 90% efficiency. In contrast, fossil fuel plants generally operate at around 60% efficiency and pollute the planet while they do it. Plus, hydropower plants can dispatch electricity to the grid very quickly, providing essential backup power generation during major electricity emergencies.

See how hydroelectricity helps reduce carbon emissions. >

Biomass

Ever roasted marshmallows at a campfire? Then congratulations, you’ve enjoyed the benefits of biomass energy. Biomass is a fancy term for any organic matter that releases energy when it’s burned or decomposed. The most common biomass used in renewable energy are plants, food waste and animal waste.

It works like this. Plant-based biomass like wood scraps, sawdust and excess crops is burned to create steam. Animal-based biomass like waste from farm animals is collected in a large tank with bacteria to produce methane, which is then burned to heat water and create steam. In both cases, the steam spins a turbine to power a generator, and electricity is sent out to the grid.

  • Green Mountain Energy customers support biomass electricity generation right here in the U.S.
  • Biomass energy used by Green Mountain Energy customers diverts excess crops, sewage sludge and organic trash away from the waste stream.

Biomass as a renewable power source is one of the ways to put waste products to good use in the clean energy business. It’s true what they say: one person’s trash is another person’s source of renewable clean energy.

Learn more about biomass energy and how it diverts waste. >

Make a commitment to using clean, renewable energy in your own life with a plan from Green Mountain Energy.

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1 U.S. Energy Information Administration
2 Impact statistics based on a Texas home using 2,000 kWh per month and an annual car mileage of 15,000.
3 Environmental Protection Agency
4 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
5 American Wind Energy Association
6 International Energy Agency