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Investing in Renewable Energy

While crude oil and natural gas are always in the spotlight, they aren't the only energy commodities you can consider when you want to invest in energy. In the face of global warming and rising oil costs, renewable energy sources are become more popular and more important for consumers, businesses, and investors alike.

Currently, renewable sources of energy make up about 8 percent of the total energy use in the world. This figure pales compared to the 87 percent share of fossil fuels, but it has the potential to grow as nonrenewable energy sources are depleted.

If you're interested in keeping up-to-date on the latest developments in the renewable energy space, check out the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) initiative

Solar energy

Solar power is the process by which energy from the sun is harnessed and channeled into a usable energy form, generally heat or electricity. Solar power can be transformed using two different processes:

  • Solar thermal energy transforms the sun's energy into heat, which can be used for a number of different purposes, such as interior space heating or water heating. Flat panel solar collectors mounted on homes or buildings are used for solar thermal energy purposes.
  • Solar photovoltaic energy is the method whereby energy from the sun is captured and transformed into electricity.

In 2007, solar power accounted for a little less than 0.10 percent of total energy consumed in the United States. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't make any money investing in this sector. Because of technological advancements, the future looks bright for solar energy.

Wind energy

Wind energy — generated by huge wind machines (similar to traditional windmills) that are placed side by side in wind farms — is getting increasing attention from investors, even though it is extremely difficult to invest in wind energy at this stage. Very few publicly traded companies currently deal specifically in wind power. However, with rising energy prices, wind energy may get more focus.

If you're interested in investing in wind power and want to keep on top of any emerging trend, check out the American Wind Energy Association, which keeps a database of private companies involved in wind energy that may go public one day.

Ethanol

Ethanol, an alcohol fuel, can be made from corn, sugar, wheat, and other agricultural products. In Brazil, the world's largest producer of ethanol fuel, ethanol is the primary automotive fuel. The United States has seen an increase in the use of ethanol as a transportation fuel, a trend that's likely to increase.

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