Though it may seem a like new concept, renewable energy in one form or another has existed for more than 2,000 years. The industrial revolution pulled people away from the readily available energy resources but now on a global scale, people are returning to cleaner, renewable energy resources.
The renewable energy we are familiar with today – from solar to biomass — is an increasingly important component of energy generation in the U.S. Some experts believe by 2050, renewable energy sources will power 95% of all our energy needs. Renewable energy is a burgeoning, strengthening industry, and one that may be a good career option for your children.
As a result, there is a lot of educational information available on renewable energy that parents and teachers can use to educate their children. Do you want to teach your kids about renewable energy, but don’t know enough about it yourself? Read on for some suggestions on making that happen:
Renewable Energy 101
Renewable energy is a multi-faceted topic, full of facts that most adults today do not know. Solar power is the form that is most recognizable, but there are other power players in the mix, including hydroelectricity and wind power. Did you know these facts about renewable energy?
- Solar energy is really inexpensive. The cost of photovoltaic panels dropped 99% from 1972 to 2015 and solar panel prices fell 75% from 2009 to 2014. Solar installation costs are much lower than most people believe and those numbers are still dropping. (side fact: the sun provides enough energy in an hour to power the planet for an entire year)
- Wind power capacity has grown 20% each year in the past decade, driving down its cost for people across the globe.
- Hydropower — energy generated from moving water— powers about 20% of the world’s electricity and 10% in the U.S.
- Worldwide, governments are embracing renewable energy initiatives and passing on financial incentives to citizens and businesses that use it. To read more about the renewable energy incentives in the U.S., visit the Department of Energy’s incentive programs page.
How to Teach Kids about Renewable Energy
All the information in the world on renewable energy doesn’t matter if the next generation isn’t familiar with it. Here’s how you can impart a love for all things renewable energy:
Do Renewable Energy Projects at Home or In Class
Reading the science of renewable energy in a textbook can get a little dry so infuse some excitement into the lessons with hands-on projects. There are hundreds of projects that show renewable energy in action in the form of solar, wind, hydropower energy and more. Here are a few to get you started:
- Solar Car – Create a toy car powered by the sun and get your kids excited about the possibilities of solar energy at the same time. Tutorial via Science Experiment for Kids.
- Water Heater – Can solar energy heat water effectively? Show your students that the answer is “yes” with this experiment best for kids in grades 4 and up. Tutorial via Science Buddies.
- Light Box – Explain light refraction in a solar energy lesson that involves cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, and some creative decorating from kids as young as preschool age. Tutorial via True Aim Education.
- Solar Oven – Recycle that pizza delivery box by using it as a solar oven. No need to worry that your kids will burn themselves on this cooking project, either. Tutorial via New Mexico Solar Energy Association.
- Wind Turbine – Show kids how wind and water can work together to generate electricity in this piece that takes just a milk carton, string, a hammer and nail, and water. Tutorial via Alliant Energy Kids.
Visit Renewable Energy Plants
If possible, set up a time to visit the closest renewable energy location. Many have educational programs in place that include tours, videos, and information delivered by experts in the field. Many solar plants also offer virtual solar tours, like BrightSource’s solar thermal system at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert in California.
You can learn a lot from reliable sources online that cover renewable energy topics. Decide on the material you want to read, watch, or print out based on the age and grade-level of the students. Here are a few places to find trustworthy renewable energy information for kids:
- EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States has a lot at stake when it comes to renewable energy, wanting the country to grow even less dependent on fossil fuels and quickly. The EPA offers a solar energy learning page designed for children that talks about the renewable resource in general and in greater specifics, covering passive solar heating, photovoltaic cells, and more. The bonus of using information on this site is that it emphasizes environmental protections and conservation.
- National Geographic Education – This trusted publisher has a longstanding relationship with schools and educational pursuits and the expertise to back it up. Students in 4th through 12th grade will benefit most from National Geographic’s renewable energy materials. The content is developed in partnership with the Center for Science which is connected to top museums throughout the country.
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy – This site is full of alternative energy information, many of which is downloadable for teachers and parents. Activities and journal pages are among the items parents and educators can access for completely free. The materials cover a wide array of ages and all of the content is available in Spanish, too.
- Solar Energy International – The material on this site is best comprehended by learners who are 12 years old or up. There are 10-lesson packs that have videos, activities, discussion suggestions, and further reading suggestions. For families and classes in Colorado, the site offers state-specific materials.
Starting the conversation with your kids or students about renewable energy is simple and expert knowledge isn’t necessary. Tap into the resources that are already available to educate your kids about the importance of increased dependency on renewable resources, and decreased reliance on fossil fuels. You’ll probably learn a thing or two in the process as well!
About the author:
Sam Alkass is a firm believer in solar power and its valuable impact on the future of our planet. Sam helps others generate their own clean, green energy while minimizing environmental pollution. Sam Alkass is a regular blogger for SolarTechOnline.com.