Renewable Energy: The Pros, the Cons, and What Needs to be Done
Renewable energy is considered a viable solution to the environmental impact of non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels. Many governments across the world have promoted and invested in the development of renewable energy, be it wind, solar, hydroelectric, or geothermal sources. The alternatives to fossil and other non-renewable sources have exponential benefits due to the economic advantages and the potential to meet energy demands. As a result, they have great potential as part of the future of global energy. However, the article, “Renewable Energy Still Impacts the Environment,” by Elizabeth Chen, presents a negative side of renewable energy that brings doubt regarding the potential to address environmental concerns. The author suggests that the producers and users of renewable energy are oblivious to the effect of alternative energy sources on the environment. Although renewable energy sources have the potential to address the problems surrounding the use of non-renewables, their disadvantages should be tackled through other, safer options such as improving the sustainability of fossil fuel through carbon-capturing technology.
The Advantages of Renewable Energy
Energy security is critical in the world, creating the necessity for a stable supply of safe sources. Traditionally, countries have used non-renewable energy sources. However, due to limited supply, the cost of doing so has increased over the years. Besides, fossil fuels are responsible for high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change. On the other hand, renewable resources have attracted attention among the global energy-based economies (Ellabban et al. 748). Renewable energy sources have definite potential; they can satisfy the energy needs of the planet while decreasing carbon emissions and climate change. Implementing and using energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) technologies could have major economic and environmental benefits because of the reduction in emissions and the production of adequate energy to support the economy (Buonocore et al. 100). It is worth noting that many researchers have revealed the positive side of renewable energy but appear unaware of the dangers of such alternatives to the environment.
The Disadvantages of Renewable Energy
Emerging evidence suggests that renewable sources of energy could be beneficial to the economy and the environment, but they have adverse effects that many producers and consumers do not seem to recognize. Elizabeth Chen discusses the hidden cost of renewable sources of energy. The author argues that while the production of renewable energy produces lower levels of carbon emissions, there are many detrimental effects of the process that are ignored. The article cites the claims made by the Union of Concerned Scientists that these energies have unfavorable effects on the environment. The organization’s report considers the impact of each alternative source, such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, and hydroelectric energy. Chen suggests that the environmental impact depends on the type of renewable energy source and its production process.
The rapid production of renewable energy to meet the growing demand creates considerable challenges for the environment, owing to the production process used by the related equipment. For example, wide bandgap (WBG) conductors used in the production of electric energy switches at a very high speed create substantial electromagnetic interference (EMI) to renewable energy systems, especially if the power converters become faulty. As a result, the system degrades the production of energy and poses various challenges to the environment (He et al. 1). Energy production devices have considerable negative effects that interfere with the beneficial intentions of producing alternatives to non-renewable energy sources.
The production process for each type of renewable energy source poses unique challenges to the environment and its inhabitants. For example, the construction of large solar power plants affects animal and plant habitats and adjacent ecosystems such as those of aquatic life. The U.S. Energy Information Administration further reports the continued killing of birds and insects flying into new solar power plant towers. The organization also notes that wind turbines have led to the deaths of thousands of bats and birds. The same technologies have also caused the fire or oil leakage. Although the U.S. government and the American Wind Energy Association have made considerable efforts to reduce the deaths, the impact remains considerably high.
Geothermal energy is implicated with harmful effects on water and air quality and global warming (although the outcome is less damaging than from coal and other non-renewable sources of energy). Hydroelectric power production creates reservoirs that affect water temperatures, hinder and harm fish migration, and impede the natural flow of rivers. Besides, hydroelectric plants also cause a significantly high amount of greenhouse emissions (Chen). Therefore, regardless of the advantages of renewable energy sources, they have various adverse effects depending on the type of technology.
The Proposed Solution
Although renewable energy sources have significant economic and environmental benefits, such as meeting the demand for energy and a reduction in carbon emissions and global warming, they have detrimental effects that the government and other policy-makers in the environmental sector should not ignore. To mitigate these damages, the government and conservation organizations should consider using technologies that allow the safe use of fossil fuels, such as turning atmospheric carbon dioxide into coal or trapping and using it. The use of carbon capture technology will minimize the negative impact of non-renewable energy. Besides, the scientific community agrees that it could allow for the safe use of coal and fossil fuel. Amine-based technologies are among the intensively studied techniques intended to achieve this objective (Dutcher et al. 2137). These work through reversible reactions by separating carbon dioxide from numerous gases, such as flue gas. This innovation will be beneficial in allowing the continued use of fossil fuels while protecting the world from the effects of climate change and reducing the dependency on renewable energy.
As is evident from the above discussion, renewable energy sources are more beneficial compared with non-renewable sources. They decrease carbon emissions, and hence reduce climate change, improve public health, and create jobs that benefit the economy. These energies are more efficient and environmentally friendly than fossil and other non-renewable fuels. However, they still affect the environment negatively, especially through the destruction of ecosystems and natural habitats. Therefore, as governments and other policy-makers in the energy sector embrace the implementation of renewable energy sources, they should understand the adverse effects and mitigate them or pursue alternative, less harmful solutions, such as those that enable the safe use of fossil fuel. As leaders increasingly adopts renewable sources, they should conduct cost-benefit analyses to determine whether the advantages of these alternative methods are worth the detriments to the environment.
Buonocore, Jonathan J., et al. “Health and Climate Benefits of Different Energy-Efficiency and Renewable Energy Choices.” Nature Climate Change, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016, pp. 100-104.
Chen, Elizabeth. “Renewable Energy Still Impacts the Environment” Choose Energy. www.chooseenergy.com/news/article/renewable-energy-still-impacts-environment/. Accessed 22 July 2019.
Dutcher, Bryce, Maohong Fan, and Armistead G. Russell. “Amine-Based CO2 Capture Technology Development from the Beginning of 2013: A Review.” ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 2015, pp. 2137-2148.
Ellabban, Omar, Haitham Abu-Rub, and Frede Blaabjerg. “Renewable Energy Resources: Current Status, Future Prospects, and their Enabling Technology.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 39, 2014, pp. 748-764.
He, Jiangbiao, et al. “Application of Wide Bandgap Devices in Renewable Energy Systems-Benefits and Challenges.” 2014 International Conference on Renewable Energy Research and Application (ICRERA). IEEE, 2014.