Why are renewable energy sources difficult to produce?

This article discusses renewable energy as well as what are the limitations associated with each of them.

Why are renewable energy sources difficult to produce?

Everything boils down to money and infrastructure. The most significant impediment to the growth of renewable energy is its high cost and logistical challenges. We will witness a surge in popularity and use of renewable energy sources as the infrastructure for them expands.

Renewable energy – an overview

Renewable energy is derived from renewable resources that are renewed naturally on a human timeline. Sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat are all examples.

In contrast to fossil fuels, which are depleted significantly faster than they are regenerated, renewable energy is rapidly renewed. 

Some renewable energy sources are not sustainable, despite the fact that the majority are. Some biomass sources, for example, are deemed unsustainable at current utilisation rates.

Electricity production, air and water heating/cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services are all common uses of renewable energy.

Renewable energy accounts for around 20% of worldwide energy consumption, including about 30% of electricity. Traditional biomass accounts for around 8% of total energy usage, although this is decreasing.

Heat energy from contemporary renewables, such as solar water heating, accounts for over 4% of total energy consumption, while electricity accounts for over 6%.

Renewable energy businesses employ around 10 million people worldwide, with solar photovoltaics being the largest renewable employment.

Renewable energy systems are fast improving in efficiency and cost, and their percentage of overall energy consumption is growing, with renewable energy accounting for the vast majority of newly added power capacity globally.

The cheapest new-build power in most nations is photovoltaic solar or onshore wind. Renewable energy already accounts for more than 20% of global energy supply, with certain countries generating more than half of their electricity from renewables.

In the 2020s and beyond, national renewable energy markets are expected to develop rapidly. Only a few countries use renewable energy to generate 100% of their electricity.

In contrast to fossil fuels, which are concentrated in a small number of nations, renewable energy supplies are widely distributed.

Energy security, climate change mitigation, and economic gains are all being realised as a consequence of the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology. 

Renewables, on the other hand, are hampered by hundreds of billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies. In international public opinion polls, supporting renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power receives considerable support.

Important characteristics of renewable energy

Broadly speaking, there are three main characteristics of renewable energy sources. These are:

  • Form of Energy Supply (Store vs Flow)
  • Form of Energy as Delivered
  • Power Density

We shall discuss these in more detail below.

Form of Energy Supply (Store vs Flow)

Fossil fuels are highly concentrated chemical energy reservoirs (stored in carbon bonds). Coal, oil, and natural gas may be stored and transported over great distances without losing their quality. 

Furthermore, they have a lot of energy per unit of mass or volume (something that our transportation system has benefited from).

Renewable energy systems are often derived directly from the sun’s energy received by the earth system. Solar and wind energy are flow systems, which means they must be used in the order in which they are generated.

An external energy storage device for various energy sources is required to preserve energy when they are not in use. 

Because wind and solar energy are most abundant at specific times of the day, they must be stored for use when they are not available. 

Biomass (for example, biofuels) are chemical energy reserves with a significantly shorter shelf life than fossil fuels. They decay in a short amount of time. 

Hydroelectric power is created from solar energy transformed into electricity, which drives the water cycle and has storage capabilities since water may be stored behind a dam rather than discharged.

Form of Energy as Delivered

Many of our renewable energy choices (including tidal and geothermal, which aren’t featured in the chart) provide power to end users. 

Given that electricity today accounts for less than 40% of our total energy consumption (the rest being mostly fossil fuels), a sustainable future would necessitate not just considerable changes in energy generation and storage, but also in energy supply infrastructure.

Our transportation industry, which consumes more than a quarter of all energy in the United States, is currently reliant on petroleum-based liquid fuels (94 percent).

Consider our reliance on internal combustion engines….Moving away from fossil fuels would need a mix of greater electricity use (fuel cells, hybrids, and electric cars) and biofuels in the transportation sector. 

Infrastructure modifications would be considerable as a result of such a transition.

Power Density

The rate of energy flow per unit land area is referred to as power density. Why should you be concerned with what appears to be a mundane technical concept?

You should be concerned since this is a feature of energy supply that defines our infrastructure and settlement patterns. In many respects, we may argue that modern cities are in part the result of fossil fuels’ HIGH power density.

The energy flow (watts) that may be caught or generated per unit land area through a certain energy supply is referred to as the power density of the energy supply. 

This is another way to think about energy consumption: the quantity of energy consumed per unit of land area. 

Feasibility of renewable energy

It is reasonable to predict that the costs of renewable energy will decrease over time. Even as demand grows, the cost of fossil fuels can only climb as non-renewable sources decline and become more limited. 

Here are four viable renewable energy sources that might be developed to assist in meeting global energy demands:

  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Geothermal
  • Hydroelectric

We shall discuss these in brief.

Solar

This is, without a doubt, the most well-known renewable energy source. The sun’s energy is caught using special cells composed of particular materials (silicon is now quite common) and then turned into electricity.

Cost is the most important aspect in solar cell manufacture. Solar, on the other hand, is becoming more cost-effective as technology advances, and high-efficiency solar cells are being manufactured.

This is significant since high-efficiency cells are scarce. Solar cells are becoming easier to carry and install thanks to new materials. 

Solar panels made of flexible solar cells may be utilised in homes, and solar arrays are becoming increasingly common. 

Limitations of solar energy

The fact that solar panels only generate power during daylight hours, and can be inhibited by overcast circumstances or pollution, is one of the most important considerations in efficiency. 

To fully utilise solar electricity, some form of storage is required. Building arrays, on the other hand, have environmental consequences since they take up a lot of space (which is why deserts are being considered — but still ecological impacts are a reality).

Power providers in certain locations are considering renting roofs and installing solar panels. 

This allows businesses to create renewable energy that is theirs, consumers to save money, and homeowners to avoid having to pay for installation. Warehouses would be focused in greater locations.

These kinds of initiatives could be able to help overcome the cost-efficiency barrier while also lowering the environmental effect of huge solar arrays.

Wind


Wind power is fast expanding and is quickly becoming a well-known renewable energy source. Wind power may be used to turn turbines that create electricity, providing a low-cost source of energy.

Thousands of employment might be created in the construction and maintenance of equipment, as well as cost-effective and clean power.

Limitations of wind energy

Wind farms, on the other hand, are not very popular. They have the potential to harm the local ecosystem and animals, as well as cause noise pollution. Many individuals also believe that the equipment in use obstructs picturesque sights.

Wind turbines may, however, be built in a variety of sizes. They may be manufactured for individual household usage as well as large-scale construction. 

Wind power might be employed in regions where there is a lot of open space and there is a lot of wind. 

Although technology is making this form of renewable energy more efficient and less obtrusive, many people believe that wind power still has a long way to go.

Geothermal

Geothermal energy is extracted from the natural processes of the earth. A great deal of heat is created below Earth’s surface, and efforts are being made to extract and use this power. 

While the ancient Romans knew about and used geothermal heating, now Earth’s processes are being used to generate electricity — going beyond space heating. 

Geothermal power does not put off greenhouse gases (although some harmful gases from deep in the earth would be released — and need to be contained), and it is reliable. 

Limitations of geothermal energy

Geothermal energy can only be used in areas where there is tectonic activity. Unfortunately, geothermal extraction necessitates drilling. 

Furthermore, exploration is rather costly. The expenses of launching a geothermal facility are rather costly at the outset, including the pipe that would need to be built and all the other requirements, but a geothermal operation takes up less surface space than a power station that burns coal or oil. 

A geothermal plant does not require any fuel. However, once a good geothermal plant is up and running, the long-term cost savings generally outweigh the original investment.

Hydroelectric


For a long time, we’ve been researching water-based renewable energy. Hydroelectricity has long been used as a source of energy. 

Hydroelectric power, on the other hand, is still one of the most cost-effective ways to generate renewable energy.

Other water sources are also being looked into. As an energy alternative, tidal power is currently being researched. Tidal generators function in a similar way to wind turbines, except that they are powered by currents.

Limitations of hydroelectric energy

However, even if the energy generation process does not throw off pollutants, there are additional environmental problems related with the damming of rivers and ecological repercussions coming from this practice. 

Tidal power, while ecologically favourable, will be difficult and expensive to produce because it entails installing generators at the ocean’s bottom.

Conclusion

Renewable energy is derived from renewable resources that are renewed naturally on a human timeline. Sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat are all examples.

Broadly speaking, there are three main characteristics of renewable energy sources. These are: Form of Energy Supply (Store vs Flow), Form of Energy as Delivered, and Power Density.

Solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric energy are currently some of the most feasible renewable energy sources, despite their given drawbacks.

FAQs

Is nuclear energy a renewable source of energy?

Nuclear energy is perhaps the most divisive kind of renewable energy. Nuclear processes release energy, which is converted into electricity. However, the fuel required to generate nuclear energy is a non-renewable fuel.

While fission (splitting) is the most common energy source today, cold fusion is still being researched. Power facilities that generate electricity by nuclear fission, on the other hand, are now among the safest.

They also create electricity without polluting the environment. France profits substantially from nuclear energy since it generates the cheapest power in Europe.

What are the drawbacks associated with nuclear energy?

The most significant disadvantage that many people find with nuclear energy is the waste. Radioactive waste is a problem since it is a health hazard and may leak into land and groundwater if poorly kept. 

However, with the appropriate sort of techniques, the waste from the reactions may be recovered and used to generate more electricity. 

With technical developments, up to 95 percent of the waste from first reactions may hypothetically be reclaimed. However, France now leads the world in nuclear waste recycling with just 28%.

Another concern is the threat of sabotage, which might result in widespread contamination. Nuclear energy, on the other hand, is likely the quickest route for achieving energy independence from fossil fuels.

References

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Comment