If you want to understand the key advantages of renewable energy, you need to go back a few centuries, to the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Before the advent of the industrial revolution in the mid-18th century, our use of fossil fuels was limited. As new industries started sprouting over Europe and North America, the demand for them rose exponentially. Newer forms of fossil fuels were discovered and innovative methods of extracting energy from them were invented.
This golden age of “progress” lasted approximately 200 years. By the mid-20th century, our scientists started realizing the harm we are doing to the environment by burning fossil fuels. Air pollution, carbon emissions, depletion of the ozone layer, and the consequent global warming started wreaking havoc on our beautiful planet.
Moreover, we also realized that our known fossil fuel deposits are fast depleting. With this began the scrabble to find alternative energy sources. As we were already aware of the limitations of energy sources, this time round we started searching for renewable energy sources.
What are the advantages of renewable energy? Why should we switch to renewable energy?
This article will help you understand more about the renewable energy industry and the various renewable energy technologies available to us. Here you will also find the key advantages of renewable energy.
A brief intro on renewable energy
Renewable energy sources are those that the earth can naturally replenish. In other words, when we use up some of it, the earth replenishes it so that we can use it again. Sunlight and wind are two of the most known renewable energy sources. Hydropower, geothermal energy, tidal energy, and biomass energy are some of the other popular renewable energy sources.
However, not all renewable energy sources are the same. To be a viable energy source for the entire planet, it also needs to be clean, green, and sustainable energy. Clean energy means that it doesn’t cause air, water, or land pollution. An energy source is referred to as green when it doesn’t harm the environment.
The sustainability of an energy source is key to its success in large-scale adoption. Even when an energy source is renewable, if the rate of replenishment is lower than the rate of usage, it cannot be called a sustainable energy source. In fact, even fossil fuels can be called renewable though they require millions of years and certain specific conditions for their formation. This makes fossil fuels unsustainable.
When we refer to an energy source as renewable, we also imply its sustainability, though it is not part of its actual meaning. When we consider renewable energy sources, we take into consideration only those energy sources that are sustainable. This is the reason for the emphasis on solar and wind energies.
Key advantages of renewable energy
1. Abundant and inexhaustible
This comes from the concept of “renewable” itself. Renewable energy sources aren’t finite or limited. As we use them up, they get replenished. In other words, they are inexhaustible. For example, the sun is always there providing us with light and heat energy through sunlight. As the sun heats up land and water at varying rates, the wind will always blow.
As the earth supports the growth of vegetation, plant matter is always abundant. Water always flows from high mountains to lower plains, offering us hydropower. So much heat was trapped inside the earth’s core at the time of its formation and this is available for us as geothermal energy.
2. Reduces global warming
Global warming is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. The main contributor to greenhouse gases is fossil fuels. When we burn fossil fuels to extract the energy contained in them, this is an unwanted byproduct. These gases rise up in the atmosphere and form a blanket around the planet, trapping the sun’s heat inside.
Global warming gives rise to a host of undesirable situations. Climate change is one of the most harmful aftereffects of global warming. As the atmospheric temperature goes up, polar ice caps melt, resulting in a rise in sea level. This will drown the coastal regions across the world. The temperature rise also alters the climatic patterns, resulting in severe winters, summers, storms, rains, flooding, and droughts.
The expansion of renewable energy industry can help in reducing global warming.
3. Less air, water, and land pollution
This translates to better public health. When we replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, it will lead to less pollution of air, water, and land. Pollution is a major health threat, resulting in millions of deaths worldwide each year. Improved public health also means less strain and expenditure for countries for the healthcare of its citizens.
4. More reliable and resilient
Unlike fossil fuel-based power plants, utility-scale power plants working on renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind power are more spread out over a larger area. Large-scale failures are uncommon in solar and wind power plants. Even if one area is affected by adverse weather conditions, the rest of the power plants will continue to supply power to the grid.
As both solar and wind energy systems are modular, the failure of one individual unit will not affect the entire plant. Drought and water scarcity can adversely affect the functioning of fossil fuel-based plants as they use large quantities of water for cooling. However, this is not a constraint for renewable energy plants.
5. Stable utility bills
The ever-increasing utility rate is one of the biggest concerns for household budgets. Renewable energy plants last longer with minimal maintenance. When the share of renewable energy goes up, it can rein in the energy prices.
With more technological advances, renewable energy is getting cheaper day by day. This is a good sign for the future.
6. Multiple choices for power generation
All this while, we have been relying on a few select technologies for power generation. Thermal power plants use coal, oil, or natural gas to run steam turbines to produce electricity. However, with renewable energy technologies, we can choose the right one based on the local situation. In a place where sunshine is abundant, a solar plant would be ideal.
The same is the case with wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower, or tidal energies. With a location-specific power plant, the energy cost will be lower.
7. Energy independence
Most renewable energy systems can be installed in homes to meet energy needs partially or fully. Instead of depending entirely on grid power, this will give more energy independence to individuals. When more citizens adopt this, it will help the country avoid the import of fossil fuels, affording it energy independence.
8. Save money and even make some
Net metering is a facility available in most states in the US. This allows an individual with a grid connection to install a renewable energy system and upload the excess energy generated to the grid. They are compensated in cash or credit. This means an individual can save money by using less grid power as well as make money by selling excess energy generated.
9. Pays for itself
One of the main disadvantages of renewable energy technologies is the high investment cost. However, the savings are substantial and within a few years, the system will recover the cost. As the lifespan of renewable energy systems is considerably long, for the remaining period, you can enjoy energy at a minimal cost.
10. Creates more job opportunities
Power plants that run on fossil fuels are mostly mechanized and aren’t labor-intensive. However, renewable power facilities are more labor-intensive. This will help in the creation of more job opportunities at various levels. This is a positive outcome for the country’s economy as well.
Now that you are aware of the key advantages of renewable energy, you know why you should switch to renewable energy and reduce your grid energy consumption.
Whether it is a home installation or a utility-scale power plant, choosing the right renewable energy source and technology for your area and your situation can help you save big and attain energy independence.
Are you curious about the benefits of renewable energy sources? If you want to learn more about how these resources can reduce your carbon footprint and create a sustainable future, check out this informative post on renewable energy sources. From solar and wind power to hydroelectric and geothermal energy, you’ll discover the many ways that renewable energy can power our lives while protecting the planet.