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Renewable Energy Careers

History

Renewable energy resources have been used for centuries. Windmills have long been used to grind grain or pump water. The sun has always been used as a source of heat. In 1839, Edmund Becquerel, an early pioneer in solar energy, discovered the photoelectric effect—the production of electricity from sunlight. The power of water that is stored and released from dams has been used for generating electricity. This type of electricity is known as hydropower electricity. Hot springs and underground reservoirs, products of geothermal energy, have long been used as sources of heat. People have burned trees or other organic matter, known as biomass, for warmth or cooking purposes.

The early technology of harnessing and producing renewable energy as a source of power or fuel was under-developed and expensive. Because of this, the majority of our power needs have been met using nonrenewable resources such as natural gas or fossil fuels. Our use of fossil fuels has caused our nation to rely heavily on foreign sources to meet demand. Our declining national supply of nonrenewable natural resources, coupled by public awareness of the soaring costs and environmental damage caused by the mining, processing, and use of conventional energy sources, have shed new light on renewable energy sources as a viable solution to our energy needs.

Today, "green" sources of power have earned respect as an important alternative to nonrenewable resources. New research and technology in the past 30 years have enabled self-renewing resources to be harnessed more efficiently and at a lower cost than in the past. Deregulation and a restructuring of the conventional power industries by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 have presented the public with more choices. And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments. Tax incentives at the state and federal level make buying green power more affordable to consumers and for the utility companies. Renewable energy sources are used to produce more than 13 percent of all electricity in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

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