• Renewable energy is energy that comes from sources that replenish themselves over short periods of time. For the most part, renewable energy sources also provide clean energy, or energy that emits few greenhouse gases or pollutants. For this reason, many policy experts and scientists advocate renewable energy sources over traditional fossil fuels. The difficulty is achieving the technology, infrastructure, and political support to make this transition.

    The five renewable energy sources highlighted in this map series are the five largest worldwide. Hydroelectric energy is by far the most prevalent, accounting for 83% of the world's electricity generation from renewable sources. This is most likely because the requisite technology to generate electricity by harnessing the flow of water has been around the longest, dating back to the early 20th century. Wind energy is the next largest, at just over 7% of the electricity generated from renewable sources, followed by biowaste and biomass energy (7%), geothermal energy (2%), and solar, tidal, and wave energy (less than 1%).

    This map series shows electricity generation from renewable energy sources in billion kilowatt-hours. The first map shows each country's total electricity generation from all renewable energy sources averaged over the years 2006-2010. The following maps show the same figure broken down by renewable energy type. The data come from the United States Energy Information Administration.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    advocate Verb

    to argue in favor of something.

    Antarctica Noun

    Earth's fifth-largest continental landmass.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Antarctica
    biofuel Noun

    energy source derived directly from organic matter, such as plants.

    biomass energy Noun

    renewable energy derived from living or recently living organisms, mostly plants.

    clean energy Noun

    electrical energy that does not pollute the atmosphere, water, or earth.

    fossil fuel Noun

    coal, oil, or natural gas. Fossil fuels formed from the remains of ancient plants and animals.

    geothermal energy Noun

    heat energy generated within the Earth.

    greenhouse gas Noun

    gas in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone, that absorbs solar heat reflected by the surface of the Earth, warming the atmosphere.

    hydroelectric energy Noun

    energy generated by moving water converted to electricity. Also known as hydroelectricity.

    Encyclopedic Entry: hydroelectric energy
    infrastructure Noun

    structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.

    kilowatt-hour Noun

    (kWh) unit of energy equal to 1,000 watt hours.

    pollutant Noun

    chemical or other substance that harms a natural resource.

    power plant Noun

    industrial facility for the generation of electric energy.

    renewable energy Noun

    energy obtained from sources that are virtually inexhaustible and replenish naturally over small time scales relative to the human life span.

    resource base Noun

    the available supply of goods, materials, or services in a specific place at a specific time.

    Ring of Fire Noun

    horseshoe-shaped string of volcanoes and earthquake sites around edges of the Pacific Ocean.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Ring of Fire
    solar power Noun

    rate of producing, transferring, or using solar energy.

    switchgrass Noun

    tall grass native to North America.

    tidal energy Noun

    energy produced as ocean waters surge in and out with tides.

    Encyclopedic Entry: tidal energy
    wave energy Noun

    energy produced by ocean waves.

    wind energy Noun

    energy produced by the movement of air, and converted into electricity.

    wind farm Noun

    area with a large group of wind turbines, used to generate electric power.

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