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Renewable Energy Engineers


People have been using different forms of renewable energy resources for centuries. Windmills have long been used to grind grain or pump water. The sun has always been used as a source of heat. In 1839, Edmond Becquerel, an early pioneer in solar energy, discovered the photoelectric effect, or the production of electricity from sunlight. The power of water that is stored and released from dams has been used for generating electricity. This type of electricity is known as hydropower electricity. Hot springs and underground reservoirs, products of geothermal energy, have long been used as sources of heat. People have also burned trees or other organic matter, known as biomass, for warmth or cooking purposes.

The early technology used in harnessing and producing renewable energy as a source of power or fuel, however, was underdeveloped and expensive. Because of this, the majority of our power needs have been met using nonrenewable resources such as natural gas or fossil fuels. Our use of fossil fuels has caused our nation to rely heavily on foreign sources to meet demand. Our declining national supply of some major nonrenewable natural resources, coupled by public awareness of the soaring costs and environmental damage caused by the mining, extraction, processing, and use of conventional energy sources, have shed new light on renewable energy sources as a viable solution to our energy needs.

Today, "green" sources of power have earned respect as an important alternative to nonrenewable resources. New research and technology in the past 25 years have enabled self-renewing resources to be harnessed more efficiently and at a lower cost than in the past. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (which deregulated and restructured the conventional power industries) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (which promoted the development of renewable energy resources by offering tax incentives and loan guarantees to the private sector) have presented the public with more choices. Tax incentives at the state and federal level make buying green power more affordable to consumers and for utility companies. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has also prompted growth in the renewable energy industry.

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