Renewable energy describes a collection of energy technologies, i.e., solar, wind, geothermal derived from sources that are never-ending and 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. Renewable sources are renewable, sustainable, abundant and environmentally friendly. Unlike fossil fuels, they are not going to expire soon as they are constantly replenished.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable forms of energy, meaning they utilize limited resources that will ultimately deplete, hence, driving up overall energy costs. These countries have responded to the threat by stepping up campaigns to embrace renewable forms of energy like solar and wind.
This is why the question can only be begged: what are the real benefits of using renewable energy? While there are certainly advantages and disadvantages to switching to renewable energy, it is quite arguable that the benefits of using such sources outweigh the shortcomings of it, especially in the future.
Of course, the shortcomings are all things that can, with time and money, be fixed due to the rapid technological advancements our country makes on a nearly annual scale.
The benefits of renewable energy sources are breathtaking. While we may not entirely be in a position to fully switch over to renewable energy sources just quite yet (requiring a balance of renewable energy and other sources for now), it is imperative that we look ahead to the future.
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 rotation of the earth, mainly via the Coriolis Effect.
Solar: It taps heat from the sun to produce energy for the generation of electricity, heating, 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 referred to as biomass, which can be utilized to generate electricity, chemicals or fuels to power vehicles.
Ocean: Takes advantage of rising and falling of tides to generate electricity
Geothermal: Leverages heat from underneath the earth to generate electricity.
While the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy exist, the advantages of using renewable forms of energy far outweigh the disadvantages, more so moving to the future.
Advantages of Renewable Energy
1. Renewable Energy is Eco-friendly
Renewable energy is considered clean energy since it doesn’t cause grave environmental pollution, and it has low or zero carbon and greenhouse emission.
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. Fossil fuels also contribute to sulfur emission to the atmosphere leading to acid rains. Acid rains can cause damage to buildings.
Solar and wind power are considered eco-friendly because they emit zero toxic gases to the environment. The use of renewable energy dramatically reduces the dependence on fossil fuel as a source of energy, hence, cutting back on air pollution.
2. It’s a Renewable Resource
This implies that they do not deplete over a lifetime, and there is zero possibility that they will run out (sustainable source of energy).
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.
Renewable energy can help developing countries from over-reliance on fossil fuels. Powerful winds, heat emanating from beneath the earth, sunshine and moving water 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 fuel 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; they can significantly drain a county’s economy.
Although most argue that solar and wind energy is unreliable, a solid infrastructure puts 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 sources of energy. 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 sources of energy means the stability of energy prices across the globe. This is because the cost of renewable energy depends on the initial cost of installation of renewable energy technologies as opposed to fossil fuels, which increase and decrease depending on the current inflation and availability of the resource. Respective governments would only need to cater to the initial costs, and that’s it.
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. Above all, they don’t rely on flammable, combustible fuel sources to operate, which makes the operating costs lower too.
Moreover, once the infrastructure for the harnessing of the renewable resource is laid down, there is low to zero maintenance required. 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 upon themselves to build more renewable energy facilities, the population would enjoy the health benefits. According to a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend approximately $361.7 to $886.5 billion every year on the overall health of the population.
A big chunk of this budget goes to mitigate and cure diseases related to fossil fuel use like respiratory and cardiac health issues, cancer, and neurological disorders.
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.
Renewable energy technologies include wind power, solar power, hydroelectricity, biomass energy, and biofuels, which are chiefly used for transportation.
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 that more than any 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 reducing the amount of overall carbon that goes into the atmosphere.
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. 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
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 it can’t be solely relied upon to power the whole nation.
This means that 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 be able to harness any energy. In case atmospheric conditions are not good enough, renewable energy technologies would lack the ability 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, and 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. Lack of sufficient knowledge on how to effectively harness these forms of energy makes the installation and maintenance cost for such facilities quite high. 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 having a battery installed 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.