When talking about the pros and cons of renewable energy, it is evident that the pros are greater than its cons. But despite this, the cons still need to be recognized to ensure issues can be addressed. This article asked professionals what they think are the biggest concerns with renewable energy.
From Craig Miller, Co-Founder of Academia Labs LLC:
One of the biggest concerns with renewable energy is the ultra-high cost of buildings, equipment, personnel training, and others needed to put up one. For instance, a geothermal powerplant will need expensive thermal regulators, boilers, and regulators to start its operations. If a community or a country doesn’t have enough funds, it is hard to put up renewable plants to produce renewable energy.
From Andrew Swapp, Director of Wind Energy Technology at Mesalands Community College:
At this current time and status of technology, renewable energy can not keep up with demand on its own. The intermittency is still an area that needs to be looked at and mitigated in some manner. Some companies develop in a hybrid fashion with wind, solar, and battery storage. This has stepped up the reliability and smoothed out the intermittency, but it still has a ways to go to be considered baseload.
The footprint of a wind farm compared to a nuclear power plant is expansive and could be a concern. The energy density of coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power is something we have depended on for years. The dependability of accepted baseload energy is outstanding, but as technology catches up, we see great acceptance of renewable energy. We often worry that an infinitely variable resource will be impossible to deal with.
Still, when you consider the infinitely variable load, I think it is only a shift in thinking that needs to happen to make this concern disappear. A major concern I hear often is that commercial-scale renewable energy is still a very disruptive technology to our earth.
Mining still takes place to produce the components of a wind turbine and solar panels. Processing raw materials, transportation to manufacturing, and then to erection sites adds up to something less than desirable or equivalent to the disturbance of other energy resources. I would say that once a renewable energy capture device is built and installed, the disturbance to the earth is halted or greatly reduced, and its long life begins by capturing a free resource daily. The embodied energy in renewable energy capture devices is paid back rapidly, or the investment value is not there.
These concerns of renewable energy and others not mentioned make us look back at what we are doing and ask if it makes sense economically, environmentally, and equitably. A major disruption of established economies is a major disruption of our most valuable resource, the human resource. Any change must take place in a patient and reasonable manner.
From Charles Meitus, CEO and Founder of ESS RENEWABLES:
There is lots of competition as several distributors and resellers are in the market. Over the next couple of years, Charles believes that there will be a significant decrease in “legit” distributors as the supply chain gets tighter. “Most distributors at the moment are buying and selling inventory that is already in the U.S., but they don’t have relationships with the actual manufacturers,” he points out. Therefore, a relationship with the manufacturer is crucial.
“We have obtained license agreements with several Tier 1 Brands to provide the highest quality products at an affordable price,” he adds. Charles will also have his facility, which will produce 1.2GW/Annually in the U.S.
While discussing this industry’s future, Charles feels that it will come down to the Supplier relationship because China is ruling the sector as 85% of the world’s solar production comes from China. “If you do not have a relationship with the manufacturer and you’re buying ready stock, i.e., what’s in the U.S., then you’re doomed to be gone,” he says.
Charles hopes to become the largest solar products distributor in the U.S. for every client. “We want to be the Amazon of SOLAR energy,” he concludes.
Rhea Henry, Content Strategist from EnergyRates:
One big concern I often see raised of renewable energy is harvesting large quantities of it has on local ecology. We see this already with salmon preservation projects that must follow any new dam; or the flocks of birds that get massacred by fields of wind turbines.
This is a consequence of disturbing and exploiting natural resources that animals have adapted to living in for centuries in a relatively short timeframe. Suppose we will criticize our use of fossil fuels for their destructive nature on the environment. In that case, we must also reckon and manage renewable resources’ negative effects on animals. This would also bring a reckoning of how much energy we produce, consume, and to what end.
From Harriet Chan, Co-Founder and Marketing Director of CocoFinder:
High Initial Cost
The initial installation cost poses a significant challenge to the development and sustainability of renewable energy. It may be relatively cheap to operate wind and solar energy because of the free sun and wind, but the initial costs are incredibly high. It may also be costly to purchase storage systems for renewable energy.
It is good to understand that renewable energy supply is usually inconsistent compared to other means of energy generation. Sunlight and wind usually fluctuate, so you can not ensure a consistent renewable energy supply. One would therefore need batteries to store the energy. As much as there have been advancements in battery technologies, concerns are being raised on the environmental cost of mining the precious metals and other minerals used to manufacture batteries.
From Torben Lønne, Co-Founder of DiveIn:
The strides that renewable energy has made to be recognized as a viable source are amazing. It’s a technology that we will rely on for the future. However, there is also another problem – installing and running these renewable energy systems can be very expensive.
The carbon emissions of installing solar panels, windmills, and other renewable technologies may not offset the green energy these projects produce in their lifetime. The uncertain yield can be very nerve-wracking, and the project team has to hope their projections will hold out through the project’s useful life.
The climate itself plays a big factor in the effectiveness of renewable systems – solar panels can overheat, and the like. If we do not clearly understand how the climate will behave shortly, our technologies must keep adapting.
From Vanessa Peng, Marketing Coordinator, U.S. Energy Recovery:
Renewable energy is a better option than fossil fuels no matter what you attempt to power, but there are some disadvantages to using clean energy.
Renewable energy, like wind or solar energy, can be unreliable. On a cloudy day, solar panels cannot generate as much power as they would on a sunny day. Wind turbines don’t produce much energy on days that don’t have any wind. However, this can be solved by using an energy storage system, which stores renewable energy surpluses for when the power is needed.
Renewable power also tends to have a higher upfront cost than traditional energy sources. In the long run, renewable energy sources save users money despite the initial costs. The upfront costs can also be offset – sometimes up to 100% – by incentives and rebates.
The advantages of renewable energy outweigh the negatives. Unlike fossil fuels, there is no concern that renewable energy supplies will be depleted someday. Renewables save money, their sources require less maintenance, renewable energy prices are much more stable, and renewables are safer for the environment and public health.
From Christopher Angelo, CEO of Glass Dyenamic:
The biggest concerns with renewable energy are based on fundamental socio-economic hurdles that impede mass adoption.
From a social perspective, renewable energy like solar power increases social inequality. For example, since the beginning of public power utilities, the cost of power production and delivery to consumers has been shared by an entire population. However, this is not the case with renewable energy, particularly rooftop solar systems.
Households who can afford rooftop solar installations can reduce their monthly electrical bills, but those that cannot afford it experience an increase in their monthly electrical costs. This is because the distribution of cost is reduced, and an increase in standby power for households with a solar installation is present. Thus, lower-income households’ monthly energy costs increase, which decreases their monthly cash flow and furthers income inequality.
From an economic perspective, fundamental economic forces also slow mass adoption. Solar installations typically payback in 20 years; however, the average homeowner only lives in a home for 8 – 10 years. An average rooftop solar installation can average at a $30k upfront cost, which is a substantial cost that only well-off individuals can truly afford. Additionally, the complexity of payback math and the lack of standardized calculations prevent potential adopters from fully understanding a project’s potential.
Ultimately, this results in slow adoption and a dependency on government incentives to drive adoption at all. Rooftop solar adoption is less than 1% outside of C.A. and H.I. The current system is privatized renewable energy gains, but the marginal costs are publicized.
From Maciej Glowacki, Marketing Executive of Concrete Canvas:
When looking at renewable energy, we should consider the long-term effects of its use and how it can help us become more sustainable. However, with the technology available to us right now, we struggle to utilize renewable energy to its full advantage. Solar panels are overpriced and undervalued by society when we think of them. Wind turbines are big and difficult to install and maintain; hydropower still produces a carbon footprint. Until we innovate new ideas and technologies, it may be difficult for some economies to adapt to creating energy. Hopefully, this will be sooner rather than later.