Renewable energy

renewable energy

Energy is a very important part of our lives. In practice, we can speak of heat energy produced in a heating plant and electricity generated in a useful form in power plants. The production of both forms of energy results in large greenhouse gas emissions, as as much as 85% of the energy produced worldwide comes from oil, gas and coal. The power industry in ‘coal’ Poland has a very large impact on emissions; according to the National Emissions Management Centre in 2010. The share of power generation in total emissions was approx. 82%. This shows how much potential there is to reduce emissions through the consistent introduction of renewable energy.

Renewable energy sources

Renewable energy sources include sources such as water, wind, air, biomass or solar radiation. Their main advantage is that they are a naturally regenerating resource and no greenhouse gases are emitted during energy production. 16% of the global energy market is renewable energy. The most important types of renewable energy are listed below.

1) Wind energy

Wind energy

In places where there are fairly strong (from about 4m/s) and constant winds, wind turbines can be built. They take the form of turbines that produce energy as they rotate. Turbines of 1.5 – 3MW are most commonly used, but output can be as high as 5MW. In Poland, the best conditions for these power plants are in the north of Poland. Its share of our country’s total electricity production is just 0.96%. We have a total of 484 wind installations with a total capacity of 1489MW. By comparison, in Germany, the largest producer of this type of energy in Europe, by 2010. more than 21,000 turbines have been installed with a total capacity of more than 27,000 MW, giving a 6% share of energy production. Denmark, on the other hand, where the majority of wind turbines are manufactured, boasts more than 3,700 MW of turbine capacity, the production of which meets more than 20% of the country’s electricity consumption. Spain is also one of the leaders, supplying almost 12% of its energy needs with wind power.

2) Hydropower

Solar energy

There are several ways to derive energy from water. The most common are run-of-river hydroelectric plants, but they cannot be called ecological. They are based on the production of energy from falling water, which moves turbines that produce electricity. Opierają się one na produkcji energii ze spadającej wody, która porusza turbiny wytwarzające energię elektryczną. On a smaller scale, energy is also obtained from tidal or wave power.

3) Solar energy

Solar energy

Solar energy is not only used to produce electricity in photovoltaic cells, but also to produce heat. Photo cells are used in many places, from individual homes to calculators, telephone booths, cars, aircraft and even spacecraft. Solar collectors can convert solar radiation into heat. Most often we are talking about heating water, which is the heat carrier.

4) Energy from biomass

Energy from biomass

Biomass is the total matter contained in organisms. Biomass can be burned and used to produce electricity, usually by turbines. Biomass includes, but is not limited to: animal faeces, sewage sludge, organic waste, plant and animal oils. There are also special plant species grown specifically to produce biomass: willow willow, maize, tuber sunflower, etc. Often, fermentation takes place during production, resulting in the production of biogas – a fuel used, among other things, to heat water or to power CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) engines. Biomass is more environmentally friendly than traditional fossil fuels because this carbon dioxide, which is produced during combustion, has recently been absorbed by plants, so the balance of emissions is zero.

5) Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy harnesses the energy of the Earth’s interior, more specifically water heated by magma intrusions in the Earth’s interior. The water ‘returns’ to the surface, but already at a very high temperature. This energy is used for heating or to generate electricity. So far, there are nine district heating plants in Poland based on this source. Iceland derives as much as 30 % of its electricity production from geothermal energy.

Did you know that.

… in March 2011 A group of researchers from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has announced the development of a model of photosynthesis that can be applied in practice. Conventional solar panels produce energy that is used to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell. The entire system is built from fairly readily available components. The scientists claim that a 1m2 solar panel would be able to cover the electricity needs of both day and night (energy is stored) in an average household in a developed country. For now, however, it is a technology in the testing phase.

Facts and myths

There are many misconceptions about climate change. One is that emitting CO¬2 is natural, because it is linked to breathing. Since everyone is breathing it, why should we limit the emission of this monoxide from other sources? The fact is that respiration is part of the Earth’s natural energy cycle, so it is not respiration that is the key to the problem of global climate change. Emissions from respiration, the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants, the CO2 content of the air – these factors were in balance before the industrial era. The problem is the additional human contribution to the global CO2 pool through the burning of fossil fuels. This activity is the main culprit, not breathing, and we should limit it.


Each of us has an impact on climate change and each of us can take action to reduce that impact. One way is to avoid air travel. Air travel contributes 3.5% of global emissions. One flight to a location 5,000 km away emits more than half a tonne of greenhouse gases. Not only are the emissions from air travel large compared to other modes of transport, but the pollutants are emitted at high altitudes, making them several times more dangerous to the atmosphere. Interestingly, the white plume visible behind the planes in the sky has nothing to do with CO2 emissions – it is a condensation plume, which is an artificial cloud. At the engine, the water condenses and forms a cloud for a short while until the temperature drops again and the water freezes.


This article has been produced within the framework of a project called LAKS: Local Accountability for Kyoto goalS, which is co-financed by the European Community’s LIFE+ financial instrument.


National Balancing and Emission Management Centre

Polish Wind Energy Association

Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century

“Artificial leaf makes fuel from sunlight”, Massachusetts Institute of Technology