Which Renewable Energy Does Not Require Spinning A Turbine

Last Updated on July 11th, 2023

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If you’ve heard about the many different types of renewable energy, you might be curious about which ones don’t require a turbine to generate electricity.

The most obvious answer is solar power because the light captured by solar panels is converted directly into electricity instead of being used to spin a turbine. However, a few other renewable energy sources don’t require a turbine to be useful.

If you’re interested, read on to learn more about the renewable energy sources we have today that don’t require a spinning turbine to generate useful energy.

Some solar panels in front of a big wind turbine - Which Renewable Energy Does Not Require Spinning A Turbine?

Which Energy Sources don’t use a Turbine?

Even though there are many different energy sources out there to be harnessed, the way we end up using most of them involves spinning a turbine connected to a motor to generate electricity that can be fed into a grid.

Of the main renewable energy sources we have today, we can consider three that don’t use turbines to generate meaningful energy for us to use. These energy sources include solar power, some types of geothermal power, and tidal power.

Most of the other energy sources, including wind, biomass, nuclear, and hydroelectric all involve turning a turbine at some point to generate power.


Does Solar Energy Require Spinning Turbines?

No, solar energy does not require a spinning turbine to generate electricity. This is clear from the thin, flat design of solar panels that can be installed flush on rooftops or other surfaces – it would be impractical to have something spinning that close to the structure houses.

The only thing that might spin or make noise is the inverter. However, this isn’t where electricity is generated; it is only where it is converted from direct current (DC) power to the more useful alternating current (AC) that most devices and appliances run on.


What Does Solar Energy Use Instead?

Instead of using a turbine to generate electricity, solar energy involves solar panels to capture light from the sun and produce power. What happens is that photons of light strike layers of silicon semiconductors typically housed within a solar panel.

The photons’ energy is absorbed by electrons that are then displaced, creating power in the form of DC power. This power is then fed to an inverter that converts it into AC power which is useful for most electronics. The AC power can then go:

  • Directly to appliances
  • To a battery for storage until it needs to be used later
  • Back to a grid if the solar system is grid-tied for credit toward utility bills


Can You Spin Turbines Using Solar Energy?

Theoretically, you could spin turbines using solar energy if you wanted to, and there is a type of solar energy called Concentrated Solar Power (or CSP) where that is exactly what happens.

Instead of using solar panels to capture sunlight, mirrors in different formats are used to concentrate light on a receptacle containing water. The heat from this concentrated light evaporates the water, which is then used to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

It’s also possible to simply use CSP to heat water for use in things like showers or baths, but residential CSP technology isn’t widespread or particularly useful at the moment.


How does a Solar Turbine Work?

Solar turbines work through the principle of thermodynamics, like most other turbine-based power plants and CSP.

A large installation of mirrors or similar technology captures heat from the sun and goes on to heat a fluid that acts as an intermediary between the array and the turbine itself. This fluid then evaporates water, and the steam spins a turbine which generates electricity.

Because no fossil fuels are involved, the technology is clean and renewable, especially if we can capture and cause the steam to condensate back into the water, so the turbine more or less recycles the same water over and over for power.


Final Thoughts on Which Renewable Energy Does Not Require Spinning A Turbine

Creating revolutionary means of generating power that doesn’t rely on how we currently think about power generation or without releasing harmful pollutants is exceedingly difficult. 

That’s why so many renewable energies still depend on spinning a turbine to create electricity.

Some methods have been identified and are in use today that don’t require a turbine to generate power, but things like location or the weather sometimes limit them.

This means we need a combination of technologies that do and don’t use turbines to meet all our current and future power needs.

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