The energy collected from a renewable source that replenishes naturally on a human timescale is renewable energy. It includes zero-carbon sources like wind, tide, geothermal heat, sunlight, rain, and waves. This sustainable form of energy stands against fossil fuels, which have a lower replenishment rate when compared to the consumption rate. In 2020 more than 45% from 2019, there was capacity addition of renewable energy. Heating or cooling of air and water, electricity generation, transportation, and off-grid rural energy services are the four main areas where we use renewable energy.
The non-renewable forms of energy are fossil fuels, that once depleted, need a longer time to get replenished, thereby shooting up the energy cost. Switching to renewable — solar and wind energy for fulfilling the need is the option left with the world because it is renewable, abundant, eco-friendly, and sustainable. The advantages and disadvantages pair together, but considering the future requirement, I think the pros of the renewable source shall overtake the cons.
Advantages of renewable energy
1. Renewable and Reliable
Unlike unsustainable fossil fuels that carry a possibility of getting depleted soon, renewable sources of energy are sustainable with no chance of getting exhausted in the future. Wind power, solar energy, hydropower, and geothermal energy are examples of unlimited and continuous sources of renewable energy.
Reliance on fossil fuel affects the economy because of certain unpredictable issues like political matters, trading issues, increases in price, and unexpected wars. Indeed, total dependence on wind and solar energy may not give the desired result at a particular location, but if the plants are widespread over a large region, the problem can be reduced. The weather conditions vary from place to place, so if one area faces any shortage, others can cover it.
2. Eco-friendly and health benefits
With zero emission of toxic gases, solar and wind energy fall in the category of eco-friendly sources. That reduces fossil fuel consumption and also air pollution. The greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, the fossil fuel products, contribute to global warming and climate change. Besides this, sulfur released into the air causes acid rain, which is harmful to life and infrastructure. Respiratory and cardiac health problems also arise from these pollutants. Reduction in fossil fuel combustion has a great positive effect on the environment, making it safer and healthier.
3. Cost-effective with minimum maintenance
Renewable energy usage reduces maintenance and operation costs. Traditional fuel sources use generators and turbines for energy production, which require lots of maintenance. In solar panels and wind turbines, the moving parts are minimum, so the maintenance cost is lower. For operating the generators, there is a need for lots of fossil fuel, which adds to the cost of energy generation. But this cost is absent in the solar and wind energy generation plants. The technology used along with the other factors saves a lot of money. Another reason for cost-cutting is that we need not refuel sun, wind, or steam for energy production as we do for fossil fuel-based technologies.
4. Recycle waste and steady global price
Biomass energy has a unique feature. To generate the energy, it requires vegetable oil, soybean by-products, algae, and corn. While using these organic products, the amount of waste to landfills reduces, along with carbon that is emitted into the environment. In other words, we get a double benefit.
Switching to renewable energy sources assures steady global prices. It is only the installation charges that determine the cost. On the other hand, fossil fuel price depends on its accessibility and inflation rate, so it keeps on varying. That means it is the initial cost that the government has to work on.
Disadvantages of renewable energy
1. Huge capital outlay
As said earlier, the installation of a plant for energy generation is huge. Solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric plants are expensive. Besides controlling the maintenance expense, it requires cautious planning and implementation also. Laying power lines for the supply of electricity also adds to the cost. But, to strike against these costs, rebates, and tax credits help a lot.
2. Geographical variation
Renewable sources depend mainly on the topography and geography of a place. The availability of sun and wind at any place varies from the other. The open area may be windy but not sunny, and rural areas may have an abundance of both compared to compact urban areas. This problem may also lead to interruption of power. Natural calamities may also hinder the working of renewable sources technologies. Therefore, the availability of energy 24 /7 becomes questionable. The discontinuous supply of energy is another drawback that fails in industries while fossil fuels are away from this problem.
3. Lesser quantity with low efficiency
Technology has not succeeded in developing methods to generate power in large quantities. So sole reliance on renewable sources is not feasible today. We still need to harness better means to meet the growing demand for energy consumption. High installation and maintenance costs need to be worked upon to attract investors for investment in projects which guarantee better returns. The reason for the lack of efficiency is that the technologies are new to the market.
4. Spacious installment
Renewable source generation technologies required too much space for installation. The windmills need open areas, and solar panels required hectares of land. It occupies open farms, which we get in villages only. For cities, to get so much space is difficult. Therefore, again, supply lines add to the cost of the energy. Besides generation, energy storage is also costly because the power needs to be stored for future use as it is intermittent.
Considering both advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy, we find advantages overtaking disadvantages. There are two important reasons for it, firstly it saves money and secondly, it gives a clean and safe environment.