Estimated reading time: 4 to 5 minutes
Clean, infinite, renewable energy is the only way to replace fossil fuels responsible for various forms of environmental pollution. The advantages of green energy are many, but there are negative factors that, if identified, can be resolved. Learn about the pros and cons of clean energy.
The usage of renewable energies is the best call due to its infiniteness, purity, and low cost.
The demand for energy to power homes, businesses, and communities is constantly growing. Nevertheless, it’s expensive and finite. That’s one of the reasons poorer regions can most benefit from it.
The use of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas remains high, as they are the primary energy sources used in the world, representing 80% of the global energy matrix.
According to Executive Director Fatih Bir of the International Energy Agency, “Renewable energies were already expanding quickly, but the global energy crisis has kicked them into an extraordinary new phase of even faster growth as countries seek to capitalize on their energy security benefits. The world is set to add as much renewable power in the next 5 years as it did in the previous 20 years.”.
Get to know better the best-known types of renewable energy, their benefits, and risks:
1 - Hydro energy
Pros: For now, it is the most reliable type of energy than, for example, solar or wind energy, because it allows electricity to be stored when demand peaks, making it a worthy cost-benefit. Moreover, since it generates a lot of electricity, it lowers the cost for the end consumer.
Cons: The environmental impacts of this type of renewable energy, start with the construction of power plants that can destroy ecosystems, modifying landscapes, and cause flooding. Another negative issue is the blocking of rivers and the mandatory replacement of the local population where the plant would be built. Methane production from submerged vegetation can decompose, polluting the rivers. Finally, in periods of drought, the cost of energy can get higher.
2 - Nuclear energy
Pros: The generation of this type of energy does not cause pollution at all in the atmosphere because the emission of toxic substances is low. The process for generating nuclear energy is considered by experts to be simple and its maintenance is low cost. It is a great and important stimulus for the construction of roads, commerce, and industry in the adjacent regions, as well as bringing electricity to even the most remote areas.
Cons: If any accident happens at nuclear reactors, the effects of the leaked radiation on the population and the environment are mostly fatal. The atomic waste, if left untreated, is another concern. Ultimately, when the hot water used in the reactors is returned to rivers and lakes, may cause thermal pollution.
3 - Solar energy
Pros: Because the electricity is generated from the sun's rays, its cost is low and it is a smart solution even for urban street lighting. The energy that comes from the sun is generated around ten thousand times more than any other energy. Through panels with photovoltaic cells, it captures thermal energy to heat houses in many ways, like the shower and their interiors. Very important in cold regions as well. It is also responsible for generating electricity if needed.
Cons: One of the disadvantages of solar energy is the need to extract and process silicon to produce solar panels, which creates pollution. Another issue is that it only yields 25% of all local energy, mainly because its storage system is inefficient since production fluctuates with the local climate. Places with longer nights have this disadvantage because that is the time when solar energy diminishes.
4 - Wind energy
Pros: The raw material for this type of energy is wind captured by a turbine with two or three propellers attached to pillars. The propellers capture the force of the wind, moving the turbines and transforming mechanical energy into cheap and sustainable electrical energy. Where there is heavy wind, it will be local with abundant and cheap clean energy.
Cons: The installation of wind power plants still cause environmental impacts such as landscape modification. Not to mention the threat to birds if the blades are placed on their migration routes. Another concern is noise pollution and interference with radio and TV transmissions. There are still controversies regarding the places where the installations are constructed. This may harm local ecosystems and affect the habitat of animals.
5 - Tidal energy
Pros: This natural resource is plenty and infinite in coastal places. Electricity is generated from tidal movements and ocean currents. The risks of tidal energy to nature are minimal and the cost of maintenance is low. Since the volume of seawater is high, it is a raw material that is available in abundance.
Cons: Since tidal power generation is only possible from the construction of dams, locks, and power-generating units, there will be a high cost for the work. A negative impact resulting from this type of undertaking is the change in the way of life of the people who live in the region where the plant will be installed. Another concern is the rivers that flow into the sea, as they tend to have a dynamic and natural balance between discharge, average water velocity, sediment load, and bed morphology. The construction of reservoirs can affect this balance.
6 - Biomass energy
Pros: The best-known forms of biofuel are: biogas, bioether, bioethanol, biodiesel, and vegetable oils. Biofuels are produced from organic matter of plant or animal origin. They do not produce carbon and still have a wide application that can take advantage of solid waste by generating heat in steam turbines.
Cons: Although the burning of biofuel reduces the emission of CO2, there is a production of other gases that can increase the "greenhouse effect". Another negative point is deforestation in order to establish new cultivation areas, requiring a large consumption of water. The reduction of agricultural diversity, given the monoculture plantations, is also an issue to be solved.
7 - Geothermal energy
Pros: Harnessing the natural heat below the earth's surface generates geothermal energy that can be used to heat places or to generate electricity. This type of energy is essential in colder regions, such as Iceland, for example. The energy is produced by capturing the vapor generated in underground reservoirs through specific pipes and tubes. The cost is low and poses virtually no risk to the environment.
Cons: A negative aspect of geothermal energy production is whether the area has a sufficient amount of hot rocks in order to provide a suitable drilling depth. In the meantime, the process demands much care so that noxious gases do not leak from underground because they may be harmful to the environment.