Welcome back to Stay Sustainable! So far, I have shared with you all the meaning of sustainability, how to live a more sustainable life, and even how to eat more sustainably! For today’s blog post, I am going to be discussing the pros and cons of several renewable energy technologies including wind power, solar power, and hydroelectric power.
- There is no way we will run out of it – Wind power is truly renewable! The sun creates wind and since we will always have the sun, we will always have wind.
- Wind turbines create virtually zero pollution – Unlike coal or oil, wind power does not release toxins or heat-trapping gases that contribute to global warming.
- It’s cheap and getting cheaper – As more and more turbines are being used around the country, their prices are continuing to drop. In fact, prices have fallen by 80% since the 1980’s!
- The energy produced is extremely energy efficient – Some of the larger wind turbines can create enough power for 600 homes. Wind power has the potential to power 20x more than what the entire human populations needs.
- Wind turbines can be installed on agricultural lands – Most of the wind turbines in the United States are found in the Midwest, the portion of our country dedicated to agriculture. However, wind turbines can be installed on these lands without interfering with farming. Also, farmers can earn money by allowing companies to install turbines on their land!
- Turbines may pose a threat to avian wildlife – Thousands of birds and bats fly into moving turbines each year.
- Wind is an intermittent source of energy – Wind doesn’t blow reliably, meaning some days there may be no energy produced. Also, severe weather may cause damage to the turbines.
- They can be loud – Turbines can produce sound between 50 and 60 decibels, which may be extremely unpleasant if one is installed near your home.
- Manufacturing and installation costs are high – While wind power does save you money in the long run, the upfront costs can be expensive.
- Turbines are not aesthetically pleasing – Many individuals find wind turbines to be very unattractive.
- Just like wind power, we will never run out – The sun is forever!
- Solar power releases very little pollution – While the manufacturing and installation of solar panels may release small amounts of green house gases, using them releases virtually zero!
- Solar energy can be used all around the world – The sun shines everywhere!
- Panels are low maintenance – Panels only need cleaning 3-4 times per year and that’s it!
- The technology is improving – Residential solar panels are about 15% efficient, but new solar technologies are constantly being created and improved. Some solar panels created in the last decade are around 40-50% efficient!
- Some pollution is produced – As mentioned before, the harvesting of sunlight releases virtually no pollution but the manufacturing and installation of panels does contribute small amounts of green house gases.
- Solar power is intermittent – The sun goes down at the end of the day and objects such as trees or your neighbor’s house may cast a shadow on your panels, reducing the amount of energy harvested. Also, day-to-day weather changes can greatly impact the amount of energy collected.
- Energy storage is expensive – Because solar power is intermittent, some individuals like to store energy in batteries. However, these technologies can be very costly.
- They may not be optimal in certain climates – Solar panels work best in climates that are warm and have sunshine all year round. In places such as the Arctic where parts of the year experience little to no daylight, this is not efficient.
- High installation costs – Similar to wind power, solar energy saves money in the long run but installation costs can be more than $1,000.
- Hydroelectric power plants do not release pollution!
- It is very reliable – Compared to wind and solar power, there is very little fluctuation in the amount of energy collected over time.
- Hydroelectric power is flexible – Water flow can be adjusted very easily. For instance, if electricity use is much lower during a given month, then the water flow can be reduced, saving water for times when electricity use increases.
- This form of energy production is fairly safe – Unlike nuclear energy or fossil fuels, hydroelectric power does not require fuel to run–water is the fuel. Not to mention, water is free!
- It is extremely efficient – Hydroelectric power has a higher energy conversion efficiency than both solar and wind combined with about 90% efficiency!
- Destruction of natural habitats – Creating a large dam can have huge ecological impacts on the body of water and the surrounding land. Dams can change the flow of rivers or completely block the migration of aquatic animals, leading to the potential for species decline.
- There are high installation costs – While the cost of operating a dam may be low, the construction and installation can be extremely expensive. Not to mention, it requires a lot of human labor.
- The construction of the dam releases green house gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
- It can cause flooding of the surrounding towns or cities – Not only does this pose a threat to humans, but wildlife as well.
- Limited reservoirs where they can be implemented – Very few suitable reservoirs remain where dams and hydroelectric power plants can be installed, making them one of the least common forms of renewable energy sources in the world.
Most of this information I learned in several environmental science classes for my minor. However, if any of this information has changed or contradicts any new research you have found, please feel free to comment!