There are advantages and disadvantages to any type of energy source. In this article, I will discuss the disadvantages of renewable energy. Wind energy is one universally used type of renewable energy. It is also one of the fastest spreading resources for electricity. But . . .

Disadvantages to Using Renewables Over Traditional Fuel Sources
Disadvantages to Using Renewables Over Traditional Fuel Sources

Article from | Len Calderone

Energy efficiency is important to reducing our effect on climate change and forming a sustainable energy future. Every time we turn on a light, use our computer, take a hot shower, or turn on our AC/heater, we’re using energy. The average U.S. home uses about 11,000 kWh per year.

Renewable energy sources can produce electricity with less environmental impact than traditional fuel sources. It’s possible to make electricity from renewable energy sources without creating carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the leading cause of global climate change. Therefore, renewable energy is important. Yet, there are disadvantages to using renewable energy over traditional fuel sources.

There are advantages and disadvantages to any type of energy source. In this article, I will discuss the disadvantages of renewable energy. Wind energy is one universally used type of renewable energy. It is also one of the fastest spreading resources for electricity. But . . . while there are environmental benefits to utilizing wind energy, there are a number of downsides. 

Wind turbines are noisy and visually unattractive. They can negatively have an effect on the physical environment surrounding them. Analogous to solar power, wind power is intermittent, in that the turbines are dependent on weather and therefore aren’t able to generate electricity 24/7.

Public Domain Photo

Wind energy is clean and renewable, has low operating costs, and is space efficient, but a wind turbine’s ability to generate electricity depends on the weather. Therefore, it can be problematic to forecast precisely how much electricity a wind turbine will generate.

If wind breezes are too low on any given day, the turbine’s rotor won’t spin, causing a lack of generated energy at times of peak demand. To overcome this problem, there will need to be some kind of energy storage, which is not yet available. 

Wind turbines are noisy when operating, because of the mechanical operation and the wind vortex that’s produced when the blades are spinning. Windmills are usually placed in very rural areas. Because of their tremendous height, they often intrude on otherwise scenic landscapes, such as mountain ranges, valleys, lakes, and oceans. A wind turbine’s blades are enormously large and revolve at excessive speeds, harming and killing birds and bats. 

Like wind energy, solar is intermittent. Obviously, solar panels depend on the sun for energy. Predicting overcast days is difficult. Energy storage is expensive and storage systems, such as batteries can level demand, which makes solar power more stable than wind, but solar technology is expensive.

Solar power is less polluting than fossil fuels; but manufacturing processes emit greenhouse gases. Nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride have been tracked back to the manufacture of solar panels. Since these are potent greenhouse gases, they have thousands of times the impact on global warming as compared to carbon dioxide. 

The disadvantage of biomass energy is the amount of space that it needs. A good deal of land and water are required for some biomass crops to be produced.  After the plants are grown, the product requires a significant amount of storage space before being converted into energy. This need for land presents a significant issue because the human population is continually growing, and the need for food crops is also increasing. Allocating new farmland for fuel instead of food becomes ever more difficult to justify.

Wood chips for biomass
Photo: USDA

Another shortcoming of biomass energy is that biomass energy is not completely clean. Some greenhouse gases are still produced, but at lower levels than those generated by fossil fuels. Biomass energy is expensive, including the labor involved and transportation costs. 

Numerous studies have concluded that wave power could be a factor to the overall energy picture. Operating in the ocean is far more problematic than on land. Saltwater is a hostile environment for machines, and the waves present a challenge for energy garnering as the waves not only roll past a device but also bob up and down. This offers appealing opportunities for energy capture, but a challenge for the most advantageous design.

Siting wind turbines and solar farms requires negotiations, contracts, permits, and community relations, all of which can escalate costs and delay or kill projects. In order to take advantage of these renewable resources, a new transmission infrastructure is required, which increases the transmission costs. Both the financing and siting costs can be substantial obstacles for developers

The advantages of fossil fuels are that the technology that we use to harness the energy in fossil fuels is well developed, due to fossil fuels having been used to power the world for many decades. Fossil fuels are also a cheap and reliable source of energy over wind and solar. It’s easier to produce the same amount of energy as a renewable source. 

Natural gas burns clean with 70% less carbon dioxide compared to other fossil fuels, improving the quality of air and water since it isn’t a pollutant.  It has a high heating value of 24,000 btu per pound, and it is fairly inexpensive. Hydroelectric energy provides water for 30% of the world’s irrigated land while providing 19% of the electricity. It expands irrigation and provides drinking water. It’s cheap.

Hydroelectric energy
Photo: Pixabay

Nuclear power plants produce clean power with no atmospheric emissions. The fuel can be recycled, producing low cost power for today’s consumption.  There is an abundant supply of coal, which is concentrated in industrialized countries, such as the U.S., Russia, China, and India. It is relatively inexpensive and produces continuous power. It has a substantial existing infrastructure.

The well-established existing technologies present a daunting barrier for renewable energy. Solar, wind, and other renewable resources are competing with the more affluent industries that profit from the existing infrastructure, expertise, and policy.

Non-renewable energy sources, such as coal, gas and coal will eventually run out. Most sources of non-renewable energy are fossil fuels, such as coal, gas and oil. Therefore, we will need to better situate renewable energy to replace fossil fuel. Renewable energy sources will improve the environment, where burning fossil fuels will not. They generate less pollution, which will help look after the environment and make available cleaner air and water.

It’s time for scientists, inventors, corporations and governments to get together to overcome the negatives that keep renewable energy from being our prime source of energy.  

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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