Renewable energy resources
. This variability (also known as “intermittency”) may impact how to best plan and operate an electric grid with large shares of solar and wind, because electricity must be available constantly and reliably (see sections 4.2 and 4.3). Yet even though the amount of energy available at a specific time may vary, solar and wind are still renewable because they are replenished through natural processes that are constant, with no depletion.
Not all renewable resources are renewed immediately, and the amount and rate of restoration depends on the specific resource. Biomass resources are materials derived from plants and animals used to generate electricity, create motor vehicle fuels or to satisfy needs such as heating and cooking. Some of them take time to regrow. By contrast, solar energy is renewed immediately. Beyond the rate and amount of renewability, there are considerable differences among renewable resources. One is the extent to which the resource is deployed commercially in electricity generation, transportation and other applications. Solar and windpower are rapidly expanding as cost-effective sources of electricity generation in the United States, Europe and Asia, as a result of rapid technological innovation, lower costs and governmental incentives. But resources such as ocean power are largely only in the developmental phase in the United States and elsewhere.
Another difference among resources is the scale at which they can be or already have been deployed. Wind and solar can generate electricity at utility scale, that is, with generation capacity (maximum potential output of...
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