Renewable energy offers a range of benefits including offering a freely available source of energy generation. As the sector grows there has also been a surge in job creation to develop and install the renewable energy solutions of tomorrow. Renewable sources also offer greater energy access in developing nations and can reduce energy bills too.
Of course, one of the largest benefits of renewable energy is that much of it also counts as green and clean energy. This has created a growth in renewable energy, with wind and solar being particularly prevalent.
However, these green benefits are not the sole preserve of renewable energy sources. Nuclear power is also a zero-carbon energy source, since it generates or emits very low levels of CO2. Some favour nuclear energy over resources such as solar and wind, since nuclear power is a stable source that is not reliant on weather conditions. Which brings us onto some of the disadvantages of renewable energy…
As mentioned above, many renewable energy sources cannot be relied upon all the time. When the sun goes down or hides behind a cloud, we cannot generate solar power and when the wind doesn’t blow, we cannot create enough wind energy. For this reason, fossil fuels are still in use to top-up renewable sources in many countries.
This variable production capacity means that large energy storage solutions are required to ensure there is enough power when renewable energy generation dips. An alternative solution is to deploy several renewable technologies, creating a more flexible system of supply that can counteract dips in production for a given source.
Some renewable resources, such as hydropower and biomass, do not suffer with these problems of supply, but these both have their own challenges related to environmental impact, as noted above.
In addition to this, some renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind farms, create complaints from local people who do not want to live near them.
However, this is not always the case, as shown by the example of Ardossan Wind Farm in Scotland, where most local residents believe the farm enhanced the area. Furthermore, a study by the UK Government found that, “projects are generally more likely to succeed if they have broad public support and the consent of local communities. This means giving communities both a say and a stake.” This theory has been proven in Germany and Denmark, where community-owned renewable projects have proven popular.
What is Non-Renewable Energy?
Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will either run out or not be replenished for thousands (or millions) of years. These include fossil fuels, such as coal, and natural gases that are burned to generate electricity.
Why is it Important?
Renewable energy is important as it has the potential to provide a ready supply of power without using natural resources. There is also a lower risk of environmental problems like fuel spills and minimal issues with emissions, while also reducing the need for imported fuels. With reliable supplies and fuel diversification, renewable energy could meet our power needs for years to come.
How Effective is it?
The effectiveness of renewable energy depends upon the resource being used. Some renewable sources are more readily available and effective than others, while some, such as geothermal are of great use in some locations and not in others due to accessibility. However, despite these challenges, renewable energy has the potential to reduce electricity sector emissions by around 80%.
What is the Best Type of Renewable Energy?
There is no ‘best type’ of renewable energy, as use widely depends on location. Iceland, for example, has ample geothermal resources, while places like the highlands of Scotland are well-suited to wind power. In other areas, solar energy is best suited while the United States has invested in hydroelectric power. Each type of renewable energy has benefits and drawbacks, often related to supply, meaning that the best solution is often to use a variety of types of resource in together.
Where is Renewable Energy Used the Most?
A study of nations around the world found that Germany uses the highest amount of renewable energy with 12.74%. This was followed by the UK (11.95%), Sweden (10.96%), Spain (10.17%), Italy (8.8%), Brazil (7.35%), Japan (5.3%), Turkey (5.25%), Australia (4.75%) and the USA (4.32%) all making up the top ten.
Clearly, much work needs to be done to increase these usage rates in order to reach a completely renewable future, but this need is driving industry forward and creating opportunities in this sector.
Will Renewable Energy Run Out?
Renewable energy sources will not run out – at least not for many millions of years (in the case of the sun, for example). They provide a viable alternative to non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels while many are also environmentally friendly and produce little of no CO2.
Can Renewable Energy Replace Fossil Fuels?
The hope is that renewable energy will one day replace fossil fuels. There is a finite amount of coal and oil on the planet, so these will eventually run out. This means that the future needs to be renewable. In addition the environmental benefits of a clean, green and renewable energy future are becoming increasingly obvious as global warming continues.
To fully replace fossil fuels, there will be a need to continue innovating renewable energy solutions. In addition, there is every likelihood that renewable sources will need to be used in conjunction with one-another to provide a steady supply. There is a requirement for cleaner methods of production and improved power management and storage.
While a totally renewable future is possible, there is still much work to be done before the world is ready to dispense with fossil fuels completely.
Summary / Conclusion
Renewable energy looks set to be a large part of the future energy mix, along with other clean sources such as nuclear power. The drive towards a greener future for power production is promoting a rise in job creation in renewable power industries such as solar and wind. This trend looks set to continue as governments strive to reach net-zero.