Renewable energy is often defined as energy derived from sources that are replenished naturally and regularly. Many of these sources, like solar energy and wind, are sufficiently abundant that there is little risk of humanity exhausting their supply. Solar and wind are also among the energy sources that, relative to fossil fuels, produce low levels of emissions when used to generate heat and electricity—an added benefit.

Renewable energy infrastructure exists all over the world, though it’s more built up in some regions and countries than in others. Some maps show the potential or existing renewable energy capacity by U.S. state or county. This layer shows the installed renewable energy capacity in more than 100 different countries, areas, and regions of the world.

This layer is based on data collected by the International Renewable Energy Agency from a questionnaire, government statistics, industry reports, and other information sources. The data point it uses—installed renewable energy capacity, measured in megawatts—reflects the electricity-generating capacity of operational power plants and other installations that use renewable sources. These sources include hydropower, marine energy, onshore and offshore wind energy, solar energy, bioenergy, and geothermal energy.

You can use this layer to compare and contrast countries’ renewable energy infrastructure. The bigger an area’s circle is, the greater its installed renewable energy capacity is; in 2019, China led the world with more than 700,000 megawatts, the United States trailed with more than 250,000, and Brazil, India, Germany, and Canada were the only other countries at more than 100,000 megawatts. Clicking on a circle will produce a pop-up table showing that area’s figure each year from 2015 to 2019. What trends do you notice?

 

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abundant
Adjective

in large amounts.

capacity
Noun

ability.

derive
Verb

to come from a specific source or origin.

electricity
Noun

set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and flow of electric charge.

emission
Noun

discharge or release.

Noun

capacity to do work.

exhausting
Adjective

tiring.

fossil fuel
Noun

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

generate
Verb

to create or begin.

Noun

heat energy generated within the Earth.

heat
Noun

energy that causes a rise in temperature.

humanity
Noun

condition of being human, including the study of art, literature, philosophy, and the sciences.

hydropower
Noun

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

infrastructure
Noun

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

megawatt
Noun

unit of electrical power equal to one million watts.

natural
Adjective

occuring in nature.

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.

replenish
Verb

to supply or refill.

Noun

radiation from the sun.

sufficient
Adjective

enough or adequate.

Noun

movement of air (from a high pressure zone to a low pressure zone) caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun.

Noun

kinetic energy produced by the movement of air, able to be converted to mechanical power.