Renewable Energy Sources

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Antonia V. Herzog Timothy E. Lipman Daniel M. Kammen Energy and Resources Group Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) University of California, Berkeley, USA Email:,, URL: Keywords: Renewable Energy, Bioenergy, Photovoltaics, Solar Energy, Geothermal Energy, Hydropower, Wind Energy, Climate Change, Clean Energy Technologies, Learning Curve, Market Transformation Program, Energy Forecasts This report is to be published in the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS) Forerunner Volume “Perspectives and Overview of Life Support Systems and Sustainable Development,” Part 4C. Energy Resource Science and Technology Issues in Sustainable Development – Renewable Energy Sources, and can be found at:


Contents Glossary Summary 1. Introduction 2. Biomass Energy 2.1. Introduction 2.2. The Future Role of Biomass 2.3. Biomass Energy Conversion Technologies and Applications 2.3.1. Combustion 2.3.2. Gasification 2.3.3. Anaerobic Digestion 2.3.4. Liquid Biofuels 2.4. Implementation of Biomass Energy Systems 2.4.1. Biomass Resources 2.4.2 Environmental Impacts and Benefits 2.4.3. Economic and Production Issues 2.5. Conclusions 3. Wind Energy 3.1. Introduction 3.2. Economics of Wind Energy 3.3. Potential for Wind Energy: Technical, Resource and Environmental Issues 3.4 Selected Country Profiles and Government Incentives to Promote Wind Energy 3.4.1. United States 3.4.2. Germany 3.4.3. Denmark 3.4.4. Spain 3.4.5. Great Britain 3.4.6. Developing Countries 3.5. Conclusions 4. Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Technologies 4.1. Solar Photovoltaics 4.2. Solar Thermal Systems 5. Hydropower 5.1. Introduction 5.2. Capacity and Potential 5.3. Small Hydro 5.4. Environmental and Social Impacts 5.5. Conclusions 6. Geothermal Energy 6.1. Introduction 6.2. Capacity and Potential 6.3. Environmental Impacts 6.4. Conclusions 7. Renewable Energy System Cost and Performance 7.1. Recent progress in Renewable Energy System Cost and Performance


7.2. Lessons Learned in Developing Countries 7.3. Leveling the Playing Field 7.3.1. Public and Private Sector Investment Issues 8. Conclusions Acknowledgments Bibliography Author Biographies


Glossary Amorphous silicon (a-Si): A glassy alloy of silicon and hydrogen (about 10 percent) used in thin-film photovoltaic solar cells to convert sunlight to electricity. Anaerobic Digestion: Combustible gas called biogas produced from biomass through low temperature biological processes. Anthropogenic: Man made. Bagasse: The fiber residue that remains after juice extraction from sugarcane. Baseload: That part of total energy demand that does not vary over a given period of time. Biodiversity: In the most general sense, all aspects of variety in the living world: the richness of living forms ranging from genes and molecules to entire ecosystems, forms and structures. Bioenergy: The conversion of biomass into useful forms of energy such as heat, electricity and liquid fuels. Benefit-cost ratio (BCR): A ratio of estimates of the long-term benefits and costs from an economic decision, typically discounted to net present values. Biogas: The common name for a gas produced by the biological process of anaerobic (without air) digestion of organic material. Biomass: Organic, non-fossil material of biological origin constituting an exploitable energy source. Capital costs: Costs associated with the capital or investment expenditures on land, plant, equipment and inventories. Unlike labor and operating costs these are independent of the level of output. Carbon Dioxide (CO2): The gas formed in the ordinary combustion of carbon, given out in the breathing of animals, burning of fossil fuels, etc. Human sources are very small in relation to the natural cycle. Carbon tax: A tax based on the carbon content of a fuel so as to...
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