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What Is Renewable Energy?

All the energy we use comes from the earth. The electricity we use every day doesn't come directly from the earth, but we make electricity using the earth's resources, like coal or natural gas.

Solar panels on roof of house, wind turbines in backgroundBoth coal and natural gas are called "fossil fuels" because they were formed deep under the earth during dinosaur times.

The problem is that fossil fuels can't be replaced - once we use them up, they're gone forever. Another problem is that fossil fuels can cause pollution.

Renewable energy is made from resources that Mother Nature will replace, like wind, water and sunshine.

Renewable energy is also called "clean energy" or "green power" because it doesn't pollute the air or the water.

Why don't we use renewable energy all the time?

Unlike natural gas and coal, we can't store up wind and sunshine to use whenever we need to make more electricity. If the wind doesn't blow or the sun hides behind clouds, there wouldn't be enough power for everyone.

Another reason we use fossil fuels like coal and natural gas is because they're cheaper. It costs more money to make electricity from wind, and most people aren't willing to pay more on their monthly utility bills.

How can we use renewable energy?

You might be using renewable energy today without knowing it! Iowa is home to more than 600 wind turbines, creating enough electricity to power 140,000 homes. Wisconsin and Minnesota also have lots of wind farms - and the number is growing every day.

Learn more about wind power

Power companies like Alliant Energy are also working with customers to find new ways to make electricity, from crops like switchgrass and even from cow manure!

Learn more about biomass energy

The more we use renewable energy, the better off our environment will be!


Links for teachers and parents:

Energy conservation lesson plans

Energy conservation activities

More online conservation resources