As we know, fossil fuels have a damaging impact on the planet. They are responsible for rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, and destroying natural habitats. However, recent advances in capturing and storing renewable energy have increased production. As a result, renewable energy production facilities now range from small-scale to large-scale facilities. Here, we will look at some of the advantages of renewable energy sources. Ultimately, we will find out which is best for us and why.
Renewable Energy Sources
The U.S. has some of the lowest energy costs in the world, thanks to wind energy. In addition, wind power has become the most affordable energy source in many regions. Wind power plants can be located anywhere that the wind is strong enough to spin turbines. These can even be placed offshore in open water. Hydropower is the most widespread renewable energy source in the U.S., and it converts the force of moving water into electricity.
Utility-scale renewable energy plants are large enough to rival fossil-fueled power plants. These plants are capable of producing hundreds of megawatts of electricity. They are typically connected to the grid using lower-voltage distribution lines. Unlike the former, the latter is more expensive and harder to control. As a result, they aren’t as convenient for grid operators. They also have the potential to affect a region’s electrical grid and can cause outages.
The US government offers several incentives to promote renewable energy. For example, it is possible to claim an investment tax credit on eligible equipment. This credit will lower the costs associated with the installation of qualifying technologies. Moreover, it can shorten payback time. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 extended the ITC for three years and delayed the tax credit’s expiration by two years. As a result, the tax credit will gradually reduce to 10 percent in 2024. In addition to federal incentives, several states have additional incentive programs and rebates.
As the world’s population grows, so do energy demands. While the demand for fossil fuels will remain, the consequences are environmental and geopolitical. Using fossil fuels will not only create unsustainable conditions but will also create economic problems. Renewable energy sources are a viable solution to these growing challenges. In 2012, renewables supplied 22 percent of global energy generation. This is a start to solving global energy shortages.
Hydropower is one of the oldest forms of renewable energy. It uses the gravitational force of falling water to generate electricity. Small-scale hydro is becoming more popular, especially in remote areas. However, this type of energy can have negative effects on natural systems, including water logging, siltation, and the displacement of local people. In addition, hydroelectricity also creates socio-economic and rehabilitation problems. Therefore, if you are interested in generating renewable energy, you should investigate hydropower.
Costs of renewable energy vary significantly by region and include interest, capacity factors, and the intermittency of the power sources. One factor that is frequently overlooked is the lifespan of power plants. Some have been in operation for decades, while others have been used for only a few years. Wind turbines are a classic example, but many have been replaced because they don’t match the current technological standard and regulations. However, regardless of the type of wind turbine, costs are still relatively low compared to coal power and new natural gas plants.
It can be difficult to gauge renewable energy’s true costs, but recent reports suggest that switching from fossil fuels to clean sources could save $156 billion annually. However, this amount is not certain until renewable energy sources are used on a large scale. In addition, there are other costs of utilizing renewable energy sources, such as those relating to human, animal, and ecosystem health. Yale University estimates that switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources could cost as much as 4.5 trillion dollars.
Since 2010, costs for renewable energy technologies have decreased significantly, and this trend continues. Wind power and solar heat technologies have become cheaper thanks to small and medium-sized companies’ economies of scale and R&D. According to the World Economic Forum report, half of the newly installed utility-scale renewable power capacity is cheaper than the cheapest coal-fired power plant. In the United States, the cost of solar photovoltaic projects has dropped to less than 50 cents per watt.
Fossil fuel companies also benefit from subsidies. Taxpayers fund drilling and electricity production for fossil fuel companies. This likely increased domestic production but diverted capital from more productive activities. In addition, fossil fuel subsidies limited the growth of renewable energy, as solar and wind enjoy less political preferential treatment. If we use more renewable energy sources, we’ll also reduce our costs and improve our environment. There are also other geopolitical implications to consider. Soon, renewable energy is likely to be a key part of the global climate change effort.
The environmental impact of renewable energy varies by source. Solar and wind power have comparatively low environmental impacts, while hydroelectric power can have substantial effects. Large-scale solar farms, for example, tend to consume a lot of lands, and solar panels are often made of toxic materials. The landfills where solar panels are also used significantly impact aquatic life. But solar energy is a viable option for many people. Besides being green, it offers a more convenient way to power your home than fossil fuels.
Various indicators are used to measure the environmental impacts of energy production. These indicators range from human toxicity to global warming potential. The latter category also includes primary energy consumption, depletion, and anticipated shortage of resources. However, the current assessment of renewable energy is often inadequate and may not be enough. To overcome this gap, more comprehensive assessments of energy technologies are required. The European Environmental Bureau is currently developing an online tool to compare energy technologies. It can help guide policymakers in making better decisions regarding energy technologies.
Renewable energy sources also create minimal amounts of air pollution. Compared to fossil fuels, biomass creates less air pollution than other energy sources. But they do produce emissions. In addition to that, they create less waste than fossil fuels. Even the decommissioning of solar and wind power facilities can cause pollution. These pollutants are even worse when the equipment is used in manufacturing renewable energy systems. So, the best way to reduce environmental impact is to use renewable energy sources as much as possible.
The environmental impact of renewable energy is also significant when considering the entire supply chain. Even though solar photovoltaics and geothermal energy are the least space-hungry sources, they still require large areas for installation. This means careful planning and consideration. In addition, mining is due to the medium-scale impact of solar and wind power on land. The mining process is responsible for eight and ten percent of the world’s primary energy.
The availability of renewable energy sources can help ensure grid reliability. It can also reduce reliance on harmful emissions and improve air quality. But despite the benefits, renewable energy has limited availability in the evenings and late afternoons. The developed methodology can provide a solution with the desired allocation of energy resources and services and capacity-expansion plans at minimum cost and maximize system reliability and security. It can also help communities manage their energy costs. So, why is renewable energy so limited in late afternoons and evenings?
During the last decade, renewable energy sources have become one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the United States. Their share of U.S. electricity production grew by 42 percent compared to 2000. This percentage represents a dramatic increase, considering renewables now comprise nearly a quarter of the electricity generated globally. Wind and solar power generated over 11 percent of total electricity production in 2020. Renewable energy has also exploded in the transportation sector, which has experienced dramatic growth over the past decade.
Hydropower is another example of renewable energy. It uses a large reservoir to create a controlled flow of water that turns a turbine to produce electricity. Hydropower is more reliable than wind or solar power and has the advantage of being able to store energy for peak demand. Hydropower is also viable for both domestic and commercial generations. In addition, you can store excess renewable energy by using battery storage. This way, it will be available to provide power when you need it most.
As a result, renewables have become the cheapest power source in most parts of the world. And prices are dropping fast – the cost of solar power decreased by eighty-five percent between 2010 and 2020. In addition, offshore wind and solar power fell by 48 percent and 56 percent, respectively – making them a more affordable power option for most countries. This makes renewable energy a great investment and opens the door to low-carbon power generation.