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Questions and Answers about Renewable Energy

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is made from resources that can be renewed by Mother Nature: wind, water, sunshine and biomass.

Renewable energy is also called "clean energy" or "green power" because it doesn't produce harmful pollution.

What is a fossil fuel?

Coal, oil and natural gas are called fossil fuels because they were formed deep under the earth millions of years ago from the decomposition of plant and animal matter.

Fossil fuels are used to generate electricity because they're widely available, inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to use, and the power plants can be located almost anywhere.


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 don't want to pay more on their monthly utility bills.

How do solar panels work?

The solar collectors you see on rooftops use a process called photovoltaics. Silicon, an element found in sand, is used to convert sunlight directly into energy.

If you have a solar-powered watch or calculator, you're using photovoltaics!

Click here to learn more about solar energy.

How do wind turbines work?

A wind turbine works the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to make wind, a turbine uses wind to make electricity.

The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. The electricity is sent through transmission and distribution lines to a substation, then on to homes, business and schools.

Source: American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

What is a wind farm?

It's a power plant made up entirely of wind turbines - sometimes one or two, or as many as 150. It's called a "farm" because they're usually found in rural areas.

Alliant Energy owns and operates three wind farms:

Click here to learn more about wind power.