Pros and Cons of Different Renewable Resources

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Hydropower representation through wall of dam reservoir

Before burning coal and oil were deemed a viable energy resource in the Industrial Revolution, renewable resources coming from the earth were used for thousands of years, with records of different usages dating back to ancient Greece, ancient China, and even prehistoric civilizations.  

 

There is a reason these resources have been used for so long, and it is not because they are still around and constantly replenished. These resources are practical and accessible, as technology exists to harness them for human benefit.  

 

When first discovered electricity was not a concern, so accessibility and usage looked different than it does today. Technology has been discovered and advanced alongside humanity, and we have found new ways to utilize power.  

 

We consider renewable energy resources to be the sun, water movement, wind, geothermal heat, and biomass.  

 

Each of these technologies has advantages and disadvantages. While some resources are better used for certain situations, the world is becoming cleaner and greener through understanding these resources. 

Hydropower representation through wall of dam reservoir

Hydropower

 

Water is the most used resource and hydropower is a great alternative to burning fossil fuels. Hydropower accounts for over half of all energy produced by renewable resources in the United States and is widely used around the world for clean energy production.1

Pros
  • Despite the larger cost of building dams, hydropower is the cheapest and cleanest renewable resource available. 
  • Hydroelectricity can also be used for irrigation. 
  • Some plants can meet peak energy needs, and because the plants are dispatchable, reserves can be used when water is not actively flowing, creating constant and reliable energy. 
  • Hydroelectricity is produced domestically, so there are no import fees.
Cons
  • Dams and the change of water flow can adversely affect the environment around it, though the impact is low.  
  • Hydropower can be reliable in some places, but less in others. The amount of water available relies on weather patterns, putting less confidence in smaller projects. 
  • Hydroelectricity plants (dams) are expensive up front. They do save quite a bit of money over time, but initial construction costs can be very high.
Wind turbine along the beach, representing a form of clean energy

Wind Power

 

Have you passed a wind farm during a road trip or seen massive windmills spinning or standing idle? Turbines can be over 60 meters long and the United States is working on a large offshore project for increased wind energy production.2

Pros
  • Jobs in the wind energy industry are growing faster than any other renewable resource industry. 
  • Wind energy has a very low operating cost. The turbines require very little maintenance, and the wind is free. 
  • Though wind farms are often large pieces of land, the actual windmills take up little space, so the land can be used for other purposes like farming.
Cons
  • Wind is not always guaranteed. While some regions are windier than others, there is almost never a 100% certainty there will be enough wind to get the turbines spinning. Offshore windmills are the most common exception. 
  • Turbines can be noisy, and because of their size, many people find them to be eyesores ruining beautiful landscapes. 
  • Because the windmills are on wind farms, the energy they produce must be transported to be used. Transmission lines are a requirement for wind farms and can be an added cost and an inconvenience.
Burning of coal and oil facility in a foggy environment with smoke pillowing out

Geothermal Energy

 

A lesser-known resource, geothermal production creates about 1.5% of energy produced by renewable resources throughout the nation. Heat is created 24 hours, 7 days a week by water flowing in wells dug 1-2 miles into the earth. Pressure is raised and dropped by a plant and steam pushes turbines to generate power.3

Pros
  • Geothermal energy is reliable because of the 24/7 movement. 
  • Production plants take up little land and do most of their work underground. In fact, residential and commercial properties can have their own geothermal heat pumps and create power in their own backyards. 
  • The infrastructure of geothermal energy production is built to last, so construction costs are a onetime cost. 
  • Geothermal energy is new in comparison to the other renewable energy resources, meaning with advancements in technology happening so quickly, this industry has potential to grow over the next few decades.
Cons
  • Geothermal plants are space-conscious, they can only be built in specific areas, deemed suitable. They are typically put near tectonic plate boundaries or hot spots, and most end up being placed in California. 
  • Initial construction costs are very steep. Drilling into the earth for reservoirs of water is not an inexpensive project. 
  • Because these plants require drilling so deep into the earth and because many are placed around fault lines, construction and water pumping can cause earthquakes.
Blue feather with black tip, resting against a large tree trunk covered in moss

Bioenergy

 

Eight percent of renewable energy is bioenergy coming from all around us! Have you made a campfire? That is bioenergy! Using the earth’s resources like wood, agricultural byproducts, algae, and other biological makeup to create energy of any kind is considered bioenergy. It can also be used to produce fuel, like using corn to make ethanol fuel for cars.4

Pros
  • Biomass can help the environment by diverting landfill waste to biomass energy plants. This reduces landfill size and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Like Hydropower, bioenergy is dispatchable. Regardless of the weather outside, plants can almost always produce energy, so this is a reliable resource.
Cons
  • There are several costs associated with bioenergy, and not just with initial construction costs of the plants. Biomass substances often have to be transported to plants, there are extraction costs, and storage costs. However, the most expensive bioenergy processes are usually cheaper than the burning of fossil fuels. 
  • To cut down on transportation and storage costs, many plants are built in specific places and take up large amounts of land.
A couple of solar panel installers, on roof, positioning panels in a grid format and securing

Solar Power

 

Lastly, solar energy is our favorite renewable energy resource.  

 

Solar energy is the fastest growing renewable energy resource in the world, and millions of homeowners are individually benefiting from the accessibility of solar energy production.5

Pros
  • Solar energy can be used for individual homes, saving individuals money instead of utility companies. 
  • Because solar panels are an investment for homeowners, they increase property values (though they often do not raise property taxes). 
  • The sun is a reliable energy source because it is constant, predictable, and accessible. And, with solar energy storage systems in addition to panels, homeowners can use stored energy to power their homes when the sun is not out.
Cons
  • Solar panels are not ideal for every type of roof. Roof angles less than 30 degrees are not ideal and structural integrity is also considered prior to solar installation.
  • Panels can be an expensive investment up front. Fortunately, costs have been lowering due to federal, state, and local incentives, and solar companies like Blue Raven Solar have financing options allowing homeowners to go solar for $0 down!
  • Right now, solar panels are not as efficiently used after their lifetime because recycling them is often not an option. However, solar industry experts are working hard to change this. 

Blue Raven Solar and You

 

Each of these resources has their advantages and disadvantages, and depending on the need, some are more valuable than others. The world is moving towards being cleaner and greener through the development and advancement of these technologies. Blue Raven Solar is proud to be part of the movement, bringing energy into the future.  

 

We believe homeowners can benefit from all types of renewable energy, but the biggest benefit can come from solar power. Not only can they be part of making the world a better place, but they can also save thousands of dollars on their utility bills.  

 

Want to see how you can benefit from solar power?

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