Renewable energy (sources) or RES capture their energy from existing flows of energy, from on-going natural processes, such as sunshine, wind, flowing water, biological processes, and geothermal heat flows.
The most common definition is that renewable energy is from an energy resource that is replaced rapidly by a natural process such as power generated from the sun or from the wind.
Most renewable forms of energy, other than geothermal and tidal power, ultimately come from the Sun.
Some forms are stored solar energy such as rainfall and wind power which are considered short-term solar-energy storage, whereas the energy in biomass is accumulated over a period of months, as in straw, or through many years as in wood.
Capturing renewable energy by plants, animals and humans does not permanently deplete the resource.
Fossil fuels, while theoretically renewable on a very long time-scale, are exploited at rates that may deplete these resources in the near future.
Renewable energy resources may be used directly, or used to create other more convenient forms of energy.
Examples of direct use are solar ovens, geothermal heating, and water- and windmills.
Examples of indirect use which require energy harvesting are electricity generation through wind turbines or photovoltaic cells, or production of fuels such as ethanol from biomass.
See the following related content on ScienceDaily: