Renewable energy describes a collection of energy technologies, i.e., solar, wind, and geothermal derived from never-ending sources that can be replenished time after time.
Most countries across the world heavily depend on fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) as sources of energy to power their economies. However, these fuels aren’t renewable, meaning the more we use them, the closer we get to having them exhausted.
That’s unlike renewable sources, that as the name suggests, are renewable, sustainable, abundant, and environmentally friendly. Plus, these energy sources are constantly replenished, meaning that, unlike their non-renewable sources, they aren’t going to expire soon.
To embrace all these benefits, most countries have stepped up campaigns to adopt renewable forms of energy like solar and wind. But for some, very little has been done to facilitate the switch to a cleaner energy source.
In this article, I take an exhilarating journey into discovering the intricacies of renewable energy sources.
We’ll unbiasedly explore the advantages of embracing these energy sources, clearly showcasing why it’s an initiative we all need to buy into. Of course, we’ll also examine some potential disadvantages of the switch so you get acquainted with all the information you need.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s first explore the basics.
Sources of Renewable Energy
The most widespread sources of energy include:
- Wind: This takes advantage of wind motion to generate electricity. Wind motion is brought about by the heat from the sun, and the rotation of the earth, mainly via the Coriolis Effect.
- Solar: It taps heat from the sun to produce energy for electricity generation, heating, and lighting homes and commercial buildings.
- Hydropower: Utilizes moving water to produce electricity. Moving water creates high energy that can be harnessed and turned into power.
- Biomass: Together with snow and rain, sunlight is essential for plant growth. Organic matter that constitutes plants is called biomass, which can be utilized to generate electricity, chemicals, or fuels to power vehicles.
- Ocean: Takes advantage of the rising and falling tides to generate electricity
- Geothermal: Leverages heat from underneath the earth to generate electricity.
Advantages of Renewable Energy
The advantages of using renewable energy far outweigh the disadvantages, more so moving to the future.
These advantages include:
1. Renewable Energy is Eco-friendly
Renewable energy is considered clean energy since it doesn’t cause significant environmental pollution. Plus, it has low or zero carbon and greenhouse emission, which is good news considering the growing concern over global warming.
You see, fossil fuels emit high levels of greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide, which are greatly responsible for global warming, climate change, and degradation of air quality. Even more, these fuels also contribute to sulfur emission into the atmosphere leading to acid rains, one of the leading cause of building damage.
However, neither of these concerns is true for the renewable source. Solar and wind power, for instance, are considered eco-friendly because they emit zero toxic gases to the environment.
As such, by using renewable energy, you can dramatically reduce dependence on fossil fuel as a source of energy, hence, cutting back on air pollution.
2. It’s a Renewable Resource
When we say that an energy source is “renewable”, we basically mean that; it can’t deplete over a lifetime; there is zero possibility that it will run out or; it’s sustainable.
Sources of energy like fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) are considered limited resources, and there is a strong possibility that they will run out in the future.
But that’s not the case with renewable energy. Whether coming from powerful winds, heat emanating from beneath the earth, sunshine, or moving water, renewable energy can guarantee a huge and steady energy supply to a nation for many years.
3. Renewable Energy is a Reliable Source of Energy
In the previous few decades, the use of fossil fuels has sharply increased. This over-reliance on fossil fuels has led to our security being threatened.
Fossil fuels are prone to trade disputes, political instabilities, a spike in energy prices, and unnecessary wars. These variables affect a lot more than a nation’s energy policies, significantly draining a county’s economy.
Renewable energy promotes independence, meaning that what happens in one country doesn’t have to affect the economy of any other.
But of course, the decision to switch to renewable energy has been challenged by claims that some sources of this energy, for instance, solar and wind, aren’t reliable.
However, that’s not the case, as with a solid infrastructure, you can put this argument to rest.
If solar and wind plants are distributed over a large geographical location, there can be minimal electricity generation interruption because weather disruptions in one location cannot be the same in other locations.
4. Leads to Job Creation
Renewable energy makes real economic sense because it is a cheaper alternative to most traditional energy sources. Since the inception of renewable energy, new and stable jobs have been added to most world economies.
For instance, in Germany and UK, many jobs have already been created. Thanks to their relentless efforts to develop and encourage the use of renewable forms of energy.
Experts project that with the ongoing rigorous campaigns to embrace renewable energy, thousands of stable jobs will be created.
5. Renewable Energy has Stabilized Global Energy Prices
Change up to renewable energy sources means the stability of energy prices across the globe.
Unlike fossil fuels, where prices fluctuate based on inflation and resource availability, renewable energy costs depend primarily on the initial installation of renewable technologies.
Governments only need to address these initial costs, resulting in more predictable and consistent energy prices worldwide.
6. Less Maintenance of Facilities
Renewable energy technologies require less overall maintenance than traditional generators that use traditional fuel sources. This renewable energy generating technology, like solar panels and wind turbines, either have few or no moving parts, minimizing the maintenance costs.
Plus, renewable energy generating technology doesn’t rely on flammable, combustible fuel sources to operate, which makes the operating costs lower too.
In fact, the significant proportion of the amount associated with renewable energy sources goes into the initial installation. When that’s done, and the energy facilities begin operation, the maintenance costs are relatively low or negligible.
This means that the owners of the facilities will reap big profits while providing cheap electricity to the population.
7. Boosts Public Health
This is a no-brainer. The sources for renewable energy generation emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air. This means a smaller carbon footprint and an overall healthier atmosphere.
If governments took it upon themselves to build more renewable energy facilities, the population would enjoy the health benefits.
According to a study, the economic value of health impacts arising from fossil fuel electricity in the United States is estimated to range from $361.7 billion to $886.5 billion annually. This represents approximately 2.5% to 6.0% of the national GDP, which is a lot considering that they’re being attributed to fossil fuel.
Greenhouse, carbon and sulfur compounds emitted by the combustion of fossils fuels are risky to our health if inhaled over time. This is reason enough to consider renewable energy moving forward.
8. Empowering of People in the Countryside
Renewable energy generation mainly takes place in remote settings. This means that local towns would get a fair share of power generated, ultimately, catalyzing the regeneration of those depressed areas both socially and economically.
Electrification of those areas will open up untapped opportunities for development through the advancement of greenhouses using geothermal power, district heating of towns and communities through hot water generated by the energy exploitation of forestry and agricultural biomass.
9. It Is a Technology
Renewable energy technology is a term used to refer to hybrid technology or other forms of technology that store up energy created or produced by renewable sources. It can anticipate renewable energy supply and helps to deliver energy produced by renewable energy technologies to the final consumer.
Over time, technology becomes cheaper when production and installation methods are refined; therefore, renewables are on a path that will constantly become cheaper.
10. Renewables Save Money and Profitable
Renewable energy helps in saving money in the long term. You will save not only on maintenance costs but on operating costs as well. As you’re using a technology that generates power from the sun, wind, steam, or natural processes, you don’t have to pay to refuel.
The amount of money one saves using renewable energy can vary depending on a number of factors, including the technology itself. Generally, transitioning to renewable energy means roughly hundreds to thousands of dollars in savings.
11. It Can be Used to Recycle Our Waste Products
Biomass energy tends to have this specific benefit over other form of renewables. Biomass consumes used organic products such as used vegetable oil, corn and soybean byproducts, or even algae to generate energy.
At the same time, it reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills, also minimizing carbon dioxide pollution.
12. Lower Reliance on Foreign Energy Sources
Renewable energy technologies allow people to produce energy locally. The more you’re using renewable energy for your power needs, the less you’ll be dependent on imported energy, and the more you’ll contribute to the country’s energy independence as a whole.
13. It is Offered in Multiple Formats
We use many different forms of renewable energy today, even without realizing it. And thankfully, energy diversity is possible through renewable energy. One of the most common forms of renewable energy is hydropower. Dams are built on rivers, and the moving water runs turbines that are able to generate electricity.
New technologies in solar panels, such as road-based, could even allow for energy collection within current infrastructure layouts. There is also wind power, biomass, geothermal and ocean. That means a greater potential for power generation now and into the future.
Disadvantages of Renewable Energy
Even with all the advantages, renewable energy also has a few downsides to it. Some of the common ones include:
1. The Electricity Generation Capacity is Still Not Large Enough
There are still challenges to the generation of large quantities of power in renewable energy technology compared to traditional forms of energy generation like fossil fuel.
Fossil fuel still produces large quantities of electricity today, by far. This, essentially, means that renewable energy sources can’t be solely relied upon to power the whole nation.
For a complete switch from non-renewable sources of energy we either we need to set up more such facilities to match up with the growing demand or lookout for ways to reduce our energy consumption. This phenomenon indicates that a balance of different energy sources will still prevail for some years to come.
2. Renewable Energy Can be Unreliable
Renewable energy technologies totally depend on the weather (e.g., sun and wind) to generate energy. In case atmospheric conditions are not good enough, renewable energy technologies would fail to generate any electricity.
- Hydro generators require enough rain to fill dams for their supply of flowing water.
- Wind turbines require wind blowing, at least with minimum wind speed, to move their blades.
- Solar panels need clear skies and sunshine to get the heat required to generate electricity; at night, it isn’t collected.
This might instigate campaigns by the authorities to reduce energy usage in order to serve the population for a longer period.
3. Low-efficiency Levels
Renewable energy technologies are still significantly new to the market, meaning, they still lack the much-needed efficiency. The lack of sufficient knowledge on how to effectively harness these forms of energy makes the installation and maintenance cost for such facilities quite high, at least than they should be. This poses forecast problems, and investors may shy away from investing their money for fear of not getting returns pretty quickly.
4. Requires a Huge Upfront Capital Outlay
Setting up renewable energy generation facilities requires a huge financial outlay. The installation of wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectricity plants is relatively expensive. These plants require upfront investments to build, have high maintenance expenses and require careful planning and implementation.
Also, the electricity generated needs to be delivered to towns and cities, which means additional cost of installing power lines.
5. Takes a Lot of Space to Install
It takes over 40 hectares of panels to generate about 20 megawatts of energy using current solar energy generation technologies. A nuclear power plant of average size generates about 1,000 megawatts of energy on 259 hectares, whereas a solar energy facility would produce less than 200 megawatts given the same amount of space.
In land-based wind energy technology, a 2-megawatt turbine requires 1.5 acres of space, and in the same amount of space, a nuclear facility would generate a maximum of about 850 megawatts.
6. Expensive Storage Costs
We often overlook the storage cost of renewable energy. In case of renewable energy, you must store the energy collected in a battery or else you will lose it.
The overall storage cost for the energy is about 9 cents per kilowatt-hour; however, the cost of the battery is upfront. That means $10,000 to $25,000 upon installation just for the battery.
Some types of batteries also wear out very quickly, especially if they are being used with their full capacity on a regular basis.
7. Not Always a Commercially-viable Option
To be effective, renewable energy must have a distribution network created to transfer the energy to where it is required.
Those networks require non-renewable energies to be generated, which offsets the benefits that renewable energy generates for many years, if not decades, after its installation.
It can also be manipulated by politics. If renewables are not given a political priority, then the industry tends to falter, and innovation is reduced in favor of non-renewable options.
8. It Still Generates Pollution
Renewable energy may be a better option for emission than fossil fuels, but they are not completely free from pollution.
Many renewable energy forms or their manufacturing processes emit greenhouse gases like particulates into the air, carbon dioxide, or worse – methane. It is partly because the resources needed for renewables are built using fossil fuels.
Still not every renewable resource is clean such as biomass that burns organic matter directly into the atmosphere.