21 Renewable Energy Advantages and Disadvantages

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy describes a collection of energy technologies, solar, wind, geothermal, derived from never-ending sources that can be replenished time after time. Renewable sources are sustainable, abundant, and environmentally friendly. Unlike fossil fuels, they will not expire soon as they are constantly replenished.

Sources of Renewable Energy

  • Wind: This takes advantage of wind motion to generate electricity. The heat brings about wind motion from the sun, and rotation of the earth, mainly via the Coriolis Effect. The most widespread sources of renewable energy include:
  • Solar: It taps heat from the sun to produce electricity, heating, lighting homes and commercial buildings.
  • Hydropower: Utilises moving water to produce electricity. Moving water creates high energy that can be harnessed and turned into power.
  • Ocean: Takes advantage of the rising and falling of tides to generate electricity
  • Geothermal: Leverages heat from underneath the earth to generate electricity.

14 Advantages of renewable energy

Using renewable energy over fossil fuels has several advantages. Here are some of the top benefits:

#1 Renewable energy will never run out

Renewables utilise resources straight from the environment. The sun, the wind, the tide, the earth’s core will never run out. They are sustainable and abundant natural resources. This cannot be said of fossil fuel resources with an environmental (and monetary) cost associated with fuel mining.

#2 Renewable Energy is Reliable

Of course, if it is cloudy and still day, wind and solar power plants’ energy is dramatically reduced. However, with a solid infrastructure in place, this can be overcome. Evidence shows that spreading wind, solar, tidal, thermal plants across a large geographical area minimises power generation interruption. Couple this with a clean energy baseload — such as nuclear energy — and you have a virtually perfect energy mix.

#3 The maintenance requirements of renewable energy are lower

There is less maintenance needed for renewables. This is true in the main. Solar panels and wind turbines have few or no moving parts. Also, they don’t rely on flammable fuel sources. Less maintenance provides time and money savings. As such, operating costs are generally low. This means large profits for operators and cheap electricity for consumers.

#4 Renewables save money and provide profitability

Renewable energy offers cost savings. This trend is forecast to continue as the technology becomes more efficient. As such, energy prices will continue to be driven down.

#5 Renewable energy has numerous health and environmental benefits

Renewable energy is associated with pictures of windmills in the beautiful green countryside. This portrayal is because renewable energy sources do not emit pollutants into the air. This is excellent news for the environment.

#6 Renewable energy builds stronger communities

Green energy is being put at the heart of communities, providing a fair share of the power generated by community-led projects. This means that consumers pay a fair price for electricity. Providers are similarly encouraged to invest in local communities.

#7 Renewables lower reliance on foreign energy sources

Renewable energy is local energy. You are not reliant on imported energy. A Country utilising renewable energy could be self-reliant. This may not seem like too big a deal. However, it is a significant weight of the economics of any country. Less reliance on imported energy provides for a more robust economy.

#8 Renewable Energy has stabilised Global Energy Prices

Most of the costs associated with renewable energy are in the initial build phase. As the technology enters operation, there is no reliance on any other resources. This means that the price of energy is stable across the globe. There are no fluctuations because of the availability of fuel, as is the case with fossil fuels.

#9 Renewable energy leads to job creation

Renewable energy is a labour-intensive industry. As such, it creates jobs. This makes economic sense as new, stable, long-term jobs are created. Renewable energy has created more jobs in Germany in recent years. Whatever your views of renewable energy, there is no arguing that it does thousands of stable employment.

#10 Renewable energy is a technology

Over time, renewable energy will become cheaper than any technology. Improved production and installation processes will drive down the price. Existing technologies cover solar power, hydroelectricity, thermal and wind power. There is huge government and corporate investment in these areas. The efficiencies will surely follow.

#11 Renewable energy is offered in many formats

Renewable energy is an integral part of a clean energy mix. The fact that it comes in so many forms makes its use unlimited. The currently well-known applications include wind farms, solar panels, and hydropower. However, the application of renewable energy is only limited by innovative ideas.

#12 Risk management and resilience

Renewable energy presents a fantastic opportunity. Increasingly businesses are turning to self-generation and using renewable energy to do so. Solar panels on a factory roof. Biogas from wastewater. Wind turbines on disused land. These are all ways companies are doing seeking to utilise renewable energy.

#13 Renewable energy for corporate social responsibility and positive public relations

Let’s not beat about the bush. Advocacy of renewable energy is good PR. Making commitments as part of a business’s CSR strategy to reduce your environmental footprint or source all energy renewably will only enhance a business’s public perceptions. Or individual, for that matter. ‘Sustainable living’ provides a good basis for strong PR. Putting renewable energy at the top of your list will only strengthen this.

#14 Improved employee engagement

Much research suggests that employees have a strong sense of purpose and are much more innovative. The feeling that the work you are doing provides you with satisfaction helps spur innovation. As such, a brand that focuses on sustainability by utilising renewable energy creates a more competitive brand.

8 Disadvantages of renewable energy

Renewable energy has many benefits. But it isn’t all positive. Here are some disadvantages to using renewables.

#1 High upfront capital outlay for renewable energy

Wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectricity plants. Manufacture, build, careful planning and installation. Renewable energy generation facilities need to require a huge financial outlay. Renewable energy is often placed in remote areas. This means additional cost of power lines to get the electricity generated to towns and cities. In the long-term, they will provide savings. But they are expensive.

#2 Intermittency issues of renewable energy

Renewable energy is totally dependent upon the weather. A calm day. Nighttime. A drought. A cloudy day. Any of these disrupt the production of renewable energy. The weather is anything but predictable. An electricity grid that is too heavily reliant on renewable energy is also vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.

#3 Storage capabilities needed to support renewable energy

Renewable energy is not reliable. There is a need to provide a backup. Storage technologies are available today, but they are costly. If you don’t store any of the energy generated within a battery, you will lose it. The batteries themselves are not great and wear out quickly when used regularly.

#4 Geographic limitations of renewable energy

Renewable energy takes up a lot of space. 10 acres of solar panels generate about 2 megawatts of energy. 1.5 acres would be needed to generate the same from a wind farm. In comparison, in the same amount of space, a nuclear power plant would produce 850 megawatts.

#5 Renewable energy has low-efficiency Levels

Renewable energy technologies have been around for several years. However, only in recent years have the large-scale use of the technology been deployed. As such, inefficiencies in the technology remain. This poses issues with costs and generating future investment. Many countries provide grants and subsidies to support the development of renewable technologies.

#6 Not Always a Commercially viable Option

Renewable energy requires a lot of upfront investment. There is the infrastructure needed to build the facilities. These often use non-renewable energy during their construction phase. It takes many years of renewable energy generation to offset these initial carbon emissions.

#7 It Still Generates Pollution

Renewable energy still generates a carbon footprint. The manufacturing process emits greenhouse gases and pollutants into the air. Many of the resources needed to build a renewable power facility use fossil fuels. Final decommissioning of the equipment emits pollution into the air, and the waste products need to be stored.

Usage of Renewable Energy

Like all energy technologies, renewable energy has advantages and disadvantages. There remains decisive issue-commercial viability for all the many advantages of renewables and the net benefits versus fossil fuel energy generation.

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Andrew Crabtree

Andrew Crabtree

Husband, Dad, Programme Manager in the Nuclear Industry | ex-pro rugby player, 4x Ironman finisher, ex-Bank Manager | getintonuclear.com