Growing Pains: Current Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

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Courtesy of Greenshine New Energy LLC

As renewable energy projects continue to be a growing piece of global energy production, it is easy to assume that they will automatically have less of an impact on the environment and people than conventional fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an appealing way to avoid carbon emissions, use fewer resources and provide energy security and jobs. But it is not perfect, and despite the many positives renewables can offer, there are still disadvantages when it comes to their implementation.

Chief among these challenges is that overall is that the current total capacity for renewable energy is miniscule compared to fossil fuels. The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 Report, produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, estimates only about eight and a half percent of all the energy used in the world comes from renewable sources. Although the renewable energy sector is rapidly growing, fossil fuel production is still the dominant economic force within the global energy industry and provides stability in a way renewables currently cannot. Even as renewables proliferate due to concerns over carbon emissions, fossil fuels are still needed to provide baseline power to the grid. Energy-storage technology has not yet become efficient enough to be reliable during long intermittent periods without sun or wind; batteries are expensive and resource-intensive to manufacture. Another disadvantage is cost. Renewable energy systems, especially solar, have dropped greatly in price in the past few years. However, in places like the United States, where energy from shale and natural gas is cheap, and there are few policies pushing for renewable energy investments, fossil fuels are much more appealing because of their low cost and the existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

Along with cost, location is also an issue. Large solar arrays or wind farms have to be placed in areas that are consistently windy or sunny. This is can be far away from where the energy is needed, which requires additional infrastructure in the form of long-distance power lines. Perhaps more of a concern with environmentalists is that renewable energy power plants may have unforeseen impacts on the surrounding ecosystems. California’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS) was scrutinized after it was revealed over 100 tortoises were displaced during construction. Additionally, when it was operational, the intense heat generated by the plant’s mirrors killed migrating birds. Wind turbines can also pose a threat to bats and birds, in addition to offending people who don’t appreciate their views taken up by wind farms. Renewable energy projects are often thought of as environmentally friendly, but even when they are generating emissions-free energy, the project can still have a drastic effect on the land it sits on. 

With energy consumption on the rise and concern about carbon emissions growing, new renewable energy installations will continue to be a valuable resource. However, the industry’s small market share, technical limitations and implementation costs mean that it is not without disadvantages. 

About GreenShine

Greenshine New Energy, LLC. Specializes in developing and manufacturing customized solar powered lighting systems for a wide range of lighting applications. At Greenshine we specialize in solar street lights, garden lights, and lawn lights for outdoor applications. Our lights can be installed anywhere, especially areas where grid tied electricity is not available.

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