The Benefits and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy Resources

Dec 21, 10 The Benefits and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy Resources

While the environmental benefits of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power significantly outweigh the disadvantages, it’s helpful, nonetheless, to consider both in making an informed decision between ‘green’ and ‘non-green’ alternatives. Solar and wind power each have their own benefits and disadvantages, so they can be compared independently.

Solar Power: Benefits & Disadvantages

Solar power is possibly the most commonly used of all available renewable energy resources. Converting the power of the sun to usable residential power is easily accomplished in most parts of the world.

Benefits of solar power:

  • There is virtually no operating/maintenance costs once the equipment has been installed.
  • There is an inexhaustible supply of power from the sun.
  • Flexibility: You can install an entire rooftop solar array or just a few solar cells for backyard lighting.
  • Converting solar power doesn’t create any emissions; it doesn’t add any pollution to the environment.
  • Works well in remote areas where it is expensive to run cables.

  • Disadvantages of solar power:

  • The initial cost of installing the equipment can be quite high.
  • Large solar arrays can be difficult to install and may require professional installation
  • Substantial space may be required in order to deploy a solar array (not suitable for crowded residential districts)
  • It can only harness power during daylight (although solar cells can supply energy during night)
  • Solar power is subject to the effects of pollution. Pollution in the air can limit the amount of sun that reaches the solar panels

  • Wind Power: Benefits & Disadvantages

    Harnessing the power of the wind has become one of the most popular renewable energy solutions. In some of the windier areas of Europe, it accounts for more than 10% of energy production. Wind power is steadily growing to be one of the most viable renewable energy resources. Wind turbines are used on large-scale wind farms to generate electricity for entire communities. However they can also be deployed in smaller installations suitable for a single residence.

    Benefits of wind power:

  • Wind turbines require little maintenance once installed and can operate for decades.
  • They don’t create any carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Wind is a sustainable resource that will never be depleted (unlike fossil fuels).
  • There is more than enough to go around. It’s estimated that world-wide, the total kinetic energy available in wind is more than 80 times that currently being consumed!
  • Prices of wind turbine equipment and installation have decreased dramatically over recent years.

  • Disadvantages of wind power:

  • It is very unpredictable since wind force can range from calm to hurricane-force. This makes it very difficult to generate a steady supply of electricity.
  • Like solar power, the cost of initial deployment can be quite high. This is especially true for wind farms which may have dozens of individual wind turbines.
  • Although a small 100 watt rooftop wind turbine isn’t too noisy, a wind farm running 24 hours a day can sound like a beehive on steroids
  • The energy output of a wind turbine is quite low. An average 1.5 megawatt wind turbine produces the same amount of electrical energy as that consumed by about 330 homes. Therefore, dozens of turbines are needed to power the smallest of cities.
  • Vertical wind turbines can be hazardous to birds that inadvertently fly into the moving blades
  • An optimal amount of wind is required year-round to power all wind turbines.
  • A large patch of unobstructed space is required to operate large wind turbines.

  • The Influence of Trends on Renewable Energy Solutions

    While it may appear that both renewable energy solutions have quite a few disadvantages, it’s important to consider a few global trends. The cost of renewable energy resources is steadily decreasing as technology improves the performance per dollar ratio and greater demand lowers production costs. At the same time, the cost of fossil fuels will continue to rise as a growing population increases global energy demand. The exorbitant rise in CO2 emissions has lead to record-setting temperatures caused by global warming. The environmental benefits from using sustainable, clean power are overwhelming.

    Incentives for using Renewable Energy Resources

    While the initial setup costs for wind, solar, and other forms of green energy are still higher than their non-green alternatives, they are steadily decreasing. In the US, state governments issue a variety of rebates for citizens using renewable energy. In Arizona, for example, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) passed a requirement for utilities to obtain a significant portion of their electricity from renewable energy resources. In order to meet these requirements, many utility companies in Arizona (as well as those in other states), give their customers cash rebates for installing photovoltaic solar electric and other renewable energy systems. Similar legislation is being passed in other states requiring that utilities obtain higher and higher portions of their energy from sustainable resources. Elsewhere, many utility companies offer to “buy” excess power from customers using hybrid renewable/fossil fuel energy.