Wind turbines, solar panels and dams can be seen everywhere these days. That is because the world is now shifting towards renewable energy generation methods like solar, wind and hydro.
Using renewable energy in place of fossil fuels has its own benefits. It can help you save the environment, and keep the cost of energy low in the long run for good financial returns.
The definition of renewable energy us simple. It is the energy generated from renewable energy resources. The renewable sources keep replenishing with time, and then are present in am unlimited quantity. This includes wind, the sunlight, geothermal heat, waves, and tides.
We can not deplete the renewable energy sources even when used to our full potential. The world is slowly transitioning towards renewable energy, and the percentage of energy generated from renewable resources stands at around 20%.
Hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested in renewable energy. So, we can say that people have high hopes for renewable energy, and are investing their money for its success.
Different Renewable Energy Sources
There are lots of different types of renewable energy sources out there. They include hydroelectric, wind and solar. These are three of the most famous types of renewable energy resources.
But when observed closely, we find that most of the renewable energy production is either directly or indirectly linked to the sunlight.
In wind energy, more sunlight increases the wind speed. This fast wind then turns the wind turbines to generate electricity.
Sunlight also warms up the water, which then converts into water vapors and causes rain. The rain water then flows downhill into the dams to generate hydroelectric power.
Let’s take a closer look at the three mentioned types of renewable energy resources.
Solar energy is very popular these days because it is the most available type of renewable energy, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon.
According to careful estimates, solar energy has the potential to generate much more energy than the whole world consumes. Solar is already being used in important things like satellites as the only source of energy, so the trust is also there when it comes to the reliability of solar energy.
Solar energy is also being used to provide energy to remote areas where national grid has not reached yet. That importance is why humans have developed various ways of exploiting the freely available sunlight that is full of useful energy. Two main ways that are currently in use are solar thermal and photovoltaic.
Solar thermal method is used in areas where large amount of heat energy is required to run different domestic and industrial processes. On the other hand, photovoltaic systems include the installation of solar panels on a small and medium scale to generate electricity needed to power up the electrical appliances. This also includes the residential solar setups which produce small amount of electricity for domestic usage.
The ease of using solar energy is why you should get a photovoltaic solar setup installed in your house instead of relying on traditional fossil fuel methods.
Everything, no matter how beneficial it is, usually has its own side effects and disadvantages as well. Solar setup is not an exception in this case.
One of the biggest pitfalls is that you cannot use the energy generated by solar panels at night unless you invest in batteries to store the surplus energy during the day. Batteries can cost you a lot depending on the amount of backup power you will be needing, and needs proper maintenance as well.
The power generation potential of solar setups directly depends on the amount of sunlight they receive during the day. Cloudy days and bad weather in general can prove to be a bad sign for you, as the power generation will be affected considerably.
Solar energy is still being improved, and you will have to pay a big price especially if you want to generate and collect lots of solar energy.
Even after all these drawbacks, solar energy is still the most reliable type of renewable energy out there.
The use of wind for power generation purposes has been there for thousands of years. Wind energy is now also competing with other types of renewable energy, and it contributes around 5% to the total energy generation of the world. EU is the region with highest percentage of their energy generated from wind power, the percentage stands around 12% according to the most recent reports.
Wind energy is also becoming popular in other countries such as China, Germany, UK and the United States.
The amount of power generated with wind power depends heavily on the turbine and the size of blades with the windmill. These blades are rotated due to the power they face from the wind blowing at a fast pace. That is how the motor in the windmill is turned on and energy is generated. So, the areas with high wind movement are the best to generate wind energy continuously.
The United States of America seems to be the most serious country with wind power. They have huge plans to increase the share of wind power in their national grid.
Wind energy seems to be one of the cleanest types of renewable energy out there, but it also has its own drawbacks.
For starters, setting up a wind power plant is way more capital intensive as compared to just buying fossil fuel generators for energy generation. Site preparation and installation costs are also significant.
People also seem concerned by the noise generated by the rotating blades of the windmill. Birds and bats are also being killed by the blades.
You will have to but land to set up your wind power farm, and that can increase the costs a lot right in the very start of the project.
But all these technical and funding difficulties cannot dethrone wind power as one of the cleanest types of renewable energy out there.
Water moving downhill always has potential energy packed inside it. This energy is so powerful that it can be converted into electricity to power up big cities and even countries. Many countries around the globe have invested a lot of money in building dams on their big rivers and canals to harness the power that flowing water has. It also allows them to hoard water for domestic, industrial and agricultural usage.
This all starts with sunlight. It makes water in the sea evaporate and come back down in the form of rain. Rain pours a lot of water on the mountains, which then flows downhill and form big rivers. This fast flowing water can be used to rotate the blades of turbines for electricity generation. This is hydroelectric power generation process in a nutshell.
Dams also have water storage and control techniques in order to regulate the amount of water flowing out of the dam.
As long as we have rains and flowing water, we can generate hydroelectric power in a relatively cheap price. So, we surely have hydroelectric power for a long time.
There are concerns regarding hydroelectric power as well.
Dams cost a lot of money, time and labor to make, so, they have to be funded by the federal government if you have to generate a big amount of electricity. However, once a dam is up a running, it requires very little maintenance.
But there are some environmental issues that can rise because of hydroelectric power. The life in a river can get affected severely due to dams. That is why a huge amount of fish die each year because of dams.
But for humans, the benefits of hydroelectric power far outweigh its drawbacks.
Benefits of Renewable Energy
The benefits of renewable energy are countless despite its current drawbacks and technological difficulties.
Here some of the benefits renewable energy.
It’s Easily Available And Safe
Renewable energy is definitely unmatched in its benefits and cleanliness. No other type of energy can come even close to the benefits that renewable energy can provide us with.
The sun is not going anywhere anytime soon, and it will keep providing us with free energy for as long as there is life on earth.
We can light up the whole world and fully replace the conventional fossil fuel driven electricity generation methods by harvesting the power of solar energy in the true sense. On the other hand. Fossil fuels are finite, and they will be available forever.
The world’s population is growing at a rapid pace, and unemployment is at an all-time high. World leaders and agencies are looking for more methods to generate jobs and to keep their population employed.
Renewable energy sites require you to employ more personnel in order to maintain it in a good shape. This number is much bigger as compared to the fossil fuel power generation sites.
Currently, all the leading countries like China, UK and the US have lots of employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector. This is reflective of how useful this evolution can be for the unemployed masses as well.
So, investment in the renewable energy sector can surely become a welcome relief for the countries struggling with employments.
With all the debate going on regarding the environmental friendliness of the renewable energy. This benefit is obvious. The fossil fuel using power plants cause major public health safety issues, which costs governments around the world billions of dollars per year.
Renewable energy and the energy made from waste can help countries a lot in improving the overall health conditions of their citizens. So, renewable energy can easily pay for itself by saving countries billions in terms of health expenses.
Makes People Energy Independent
Climate change induced by unsafe energy generation practices is already having its toll on our planet. The weather around the world is getting extreme and unbearable, and the problem is only worsening.
Extreme weather conditions can also cause blackouts in your area. That is why investing in a suitable solar power setup and installing batteries to store surplus energy is worth the extra money and effort. It can make you energy independent.
It Is Cheap
While it is true that the upfront costs of installing a renewable energy setup is high, it is way cheaper when compared to non-renewable methods in the long run. Energy bills are only increasing every month due to the constantly increasing prices of fossil fuel products.
You can always invest in a nice solar setup to get rid of those annoying energy bills either partially or fully. You can also earn tax credit for investing in the renewable energy sector. The maintenance is close to zero, and these systems can last up to 25 years if proper maintenance is provided.
Once a renewable energy setup is installed, you would not have to invest in any type of fuel to run it. You can save the bill and fuel costs and go on a nice trip.
Drawbacks of Renewable Energy
With all the glorified advantages that it has to offer, renewable energy also has its drawbacks.
Here are a few of the significant drawbacks of renewable energy.
High Upfront Costs
The long term costs of renewable energy is equal to none, but renewable energy setups cost a lot of money to set up. So, the high upfront cost is a definite disadvantage of renewable energy.
For a large scale renewable energy setup like dams, and large solar farms, a lot of human labor is needed for required maintenance. Solar panels spread on 100 acres can only produce 20 megawatts of energy, so, low efficiency is also a big drawback. Non-renewable energy methods on the other hand require less space to provide substantially more electricity.
Highly Weather Dependent
While renewable energy has many benefits, it can still be unreliable at times. Rain, sunlight and wind are the natural factors which determine the power generation in different renewable energy setups like solar, wind and hydroelectric.
That is why studying the climate available in your locality is a must before you invest in any type of renewable energy setup.
Electricity generation is still a big problem in renewable energy sector. Fossil fuel are still mostly in use in most parts of the world, because they provide a cost effective and easy to maintain setup for high electricity generation. Renewable energy is not yet good enough to be fully relied upon.
This coupled with the high initial cost of installation is the main reason why countries are still reluctant to fully switch to renewable energy.
Still Generates Pollution
Everyone seems to believe that renewable energy is cleaner as compared to fossil fuels. But that does not mean renewable energy does not create any type or quantity of pollution.
Solar panels are made with a process that is known to generate lots of pollution. The same goes for their recycling process as well. Other types of renewable energy like biomass also generate some sort of pollution.
So, while renewable energy resources are “cleaner” as compared to fossil fuels, they are not fully free of pollution.