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Renewable Energy Pros And Cons Essay Examples

With the growing threat of climate change due to the excessive release of carbon emissions, many nations are looking to clean energy alternatives to replace traditional fossil fuels. Of all the clean energy alternatives, solar has arguably been the most expensive. However, after considering the pros and cons along with the 80% drop in solar panel prices over the last five years, the future of solar energy is looking rather bright.

The Pros

Sustainable

The advantage of solar energy is that it is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. While fossil fuels have an expiration date that may be fast approaching, the sun is likely to be around for at least a few billion years. Additionally, 73,000 terawatts of solar energy shine down on the Earth’s surface every day, which is 10,000 times the daily global energy use. That’s an enormous supply just waiting for the technology that can harness it.

Low Environmental Impact

Solar energy has a substantially reduced impact on the environment compared to fossil fuels. Its greenhouse gas emissions are inconsequential as the technology does not require any fuel combustion. Also, although concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP) are comparatively inefficient in their water usage depending on the type of technology being used, the right technology significantly increases efficiency while photovoltaic (PV) solar cells do not require any water when generating electricity.

The one environmental downside to solar technology is that it contains many of the same hazardous materials as electronics. As solar becomes a more popular energy, the problem of disposing the hazardous waste becomes an additional challenge. However, assuming the challenge of proper disposal is met, the reduced greenhouse gas emissions that solar energy offers makes it an attractive alternative to fossil fuels.

Energy Independence

Since the sun shines across the globe, it makes every country a potential energy producer, thus allowing for greater energy independence and security. Solar energy doesn’t only promise to bring security and independence at the national level; solar panels can be installed on individual homes, providing power that does not depend on being connected to a larger electrical grid.

The Cons

Intermittency

One of the biggest problems that solar energy technology poses is that energy is only generated while the sun is shining. That means nighttime and overcast days can interrupt the supply. The shortage created by this interruption would not be a problem if there were low-cost ways of storing energy as extremely sunny periods can actually generate excess capacity. In fact, Germany – a leader in solar energy technology – is now focusing on developing adequate energy storage to deal with this issue.

Land Use

Another concern is that solar energy may take up a significant amount of land and cause land degradation or habitat loss for wildlife. While solar PV systems can be fixed to already existing structures, larger utility-scale PV systems may require up to 3.5 to 10 acres per megawatt and CSP facilities require anywhere from 4 to 16.5 acres per megawatt. However, the impact can be reduced by placing facilities in low-quality areas or along existing transportation and transmission corridors.

Scarcity of Materials

Certain solar technologies require rare materials in their production. This, however, is primarily a problem for PV technology rather than CSP technology. Also, it is not so much a lack of known reserves as much as it is the inability of current production to meet future demand: many of the rare materials are byproducts of other processes rather than the focus of targeted mining efforts. Recycling PV material and advances in nanotechnology that increase solar cell efficiency could both help boost supply, but perhaps finding material substitutes that exist in greater abundance could play a role.

The Bottom Line

While solar energy technology has some disadvantages that make it somewhat expensive in certain markets, it is becoming an increasingly cost-competitive alternative to fossil fuels. The cons that add to the cost of solar energy could be rendered negligible by further technological advances that increase efficiency and storage capacity. Considering the enormous potential gains of harnessing the sun’s light and heat, it may be worth increasing the incentives for furthering the development of solar energy.

Renewable Energy Pros and Cons

Renewable energy is a hot topic these days. With the ever growing increase in population, demand of energy is also increasing everyday. Non-renewable sources are limited, not environment friendly and increase or decrease in production of these sources can have direct result on the inflation. Renewable sources, on the other hand, are renewable, sustainable, abundant and environment friendly. Unlike fossil fuels, they are not going to expire soon as they are constantly replenished.

Like fossil fuels, renewable sources have their own shortcomings. They are highly dependent on weather. Any significant change in weather can reduce the production of energy from these sources. Though we not be in a position to completely switch over to renewable energy anytime soon, but getting a significant portion of our daily energy needs from these sources can certainly have an positive impact on our economy and environment. The energy debate continues with people arguing the pros and cons of renewable energy. It can be hard to really determine what they are in the heat of the moment. So here are few pros and cons of renewable energy for you to consider.

Pros of Renewable Energy

There are a lot of points in favor of renewable energy. The fact that they use resources that are considered to be infinite is only the most obvious one. Here are 7 other pros of renewable energy.

1. Stable Energy Prices: Increase or decrease in supply of fossil fuels has a direct result on inflation. Cost of producing energy from renewable energy sources is dependent on the amount of money that has been spent on the infrastructure and not on the inflated cost of natural resource, which clearly means we can expect much more stable prices when bulk of energy is coming from renewable sources.

2. Continual Source of Energy: Many of the plans for renewable energy stations are focused on their capacity to provide an immediate and continual source of energy to an area. There is very little conversion that needs to be done to take electricity from a solar or wind generator and use it. Sun is going to shine for another billion years. That means solar energy is renewable and sustainable. Moving water and strong winds will continue to supply constant  source of energy.

3. Reliability: If the sun always rises and the wind always blows, the reliability of renewable energy types can far exceed that of fossil fuels. When a fossil fuel source runs dry the whole process has to be moved. Once in place, many of the renewable energy stations have a constant – and permanent – source of fuel. Unlike fossil fuels, where supply can be affected by wars, strikes, trade disputes and political instabilities, renewable energy sources don’t come with such cons. Sun shines and wind blows everywhere and each country can tap that energy to produce clean energy on  large scale.

4. Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Almost all of the renewable energy plans emphasize that they have a much lower carbon footprint that any of the fossil fuel options available. Renewable energy sources make the environment healthier as they do not pollute it with Co2 and other toxic gases that are produced by fossil fuels. Apart from that, they are not going to reduce our natural resources which can be conserved for a long time.

5. Large Scale Job Creation: It is estimated that adoption of renewable energy technologies is going to create large number of jobs worldwide. Renewable energy technologies are cheaper as they require less maintenance in the long run. Renewable energy sources hold the future of this world as fossil fuels are not going to last too long and are going to expire one day for sure. Switching to renewable energy sources can help various countries to reduce their dependance on coal, oil and gas. Millions of jobs have already been created in US and other European countries that have switched to renewable sources to lower their carbon footprint.

6. Low Cost Operation: Once in place, most of the renewable energy types have a much lower overall cost of operations than the fossil fuel methods require. This could balance out their higher cost of development and implementation.

7. Micro-station options possible – From solar panels on homes to small wind farms, there are many different types of renewable energy that can be used in remote areas – or even urban ones – with low cost micro station options. This radically reduces the waste incurred in transporting energy from major stations too.

Cons of Renewable Energy

Paying attention to the criticisms of renewable energy plans is important. Even if you are arguing the pros of their use – knowing their faults can help refine their implementation.

1. High development cost: It costs a lot to develop renewable energy stations in both research and manufacturing the components needed for them to be successful. The known ways of using fossil fuel are less costly because all of the manufacturing and construction processes are already in place.

2. Vulnerable: Almost all of the suggested renewable energy sources are very vulnerable to weather and other climate occurrences. Renewable energy sources depend heavily on sun and wind to produce energy. Abundant rain or slow wind can reduce the production of energy. As it is not possible to produce energy in such conditions, we might have to reduce our energy consumption. In fact, even if many of them are adopted, in some areas the predicted ongoing climate change could make them inoperable within 50 years.

3. Unable to Produce in Large Quantities: Unlike coal powered electric plants that produce abundant supply of power, renewable sources can’t produce that much of energy in short span of time. The technology that is used in producing energy is new and major other factors like weather play spoilsport that hamper the production of energy on large scale. This simply means that either we have to reduce our energy consumption or set up new facilities that could produce energy at a faster rate.

4. Not Available in all Areas: One of the major cons of many of the renewable energy plans is that the raw material – solar intensity, wind or water, is not available in all locations. That mean you will still have to create an infrastructure for transporting the energy that may not be better than what is already in place.

5. Large Areas Required: Another cons of renewable energy is that to produce large amount of energy, large amount of solar panels and wind farms have to be set up. For this, large areas of land is needed to produce such massive amount of energy on large scale.

As important as understanding the pros and cons of renewable energy to help determine policy and funding going forward, many people are struck by the apparent lack of concern about our energy resources that most people have. The issue isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that being able to creatively imagine a future you won’t be a part of as having an immediate importance in your life is hard. One of the best ways to continue this debate is to educate people as to the role and responsibility they have in creating the future for their children and grandchildren.

Image credit:
IFC Infrastructure, David Clarke

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.

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