Theuse of alternative energy is beneficial and economical
Renewableor alternative energy is perceivable as energy that is eithersupplied by the sun continually or taps inexhaustible resources likegeothermal energy (U.S. Department of Energy 1). Conversely,non-renewable fuel is energy that comes from fossil fuels (oil,natural gas, and coal). The sources of non-renewable energy arefinite they form very slowly in comparison to the rate at whichenergy is used. A review of why alternative energy is more economicalor beneficial, compared to non-renewable energy, is prudent.
Asignificant decline in the cost of renewable energy technologies hasbeen witnessed in recent times (Union of Concerned Scientists). Forinstance, statistics reveal that the price of a solar panel hasdeclined by 60% since 2011. Additionally, the cost of producingelectricity from the wind went down by 20% in the period between 2011and 2012, and by over 80% since 1980. In fact, in regions such asTexas, wind energy has been proven to compete directly with fossilfuel on cost. Nonetheless, the cost of implementing renewable energyis still higher compared to fossil fuel energy. Building 1 Megawattcan cost approximately $3.5 million to $6 million, for example. Also,oil and gas lobbies receive ten times the amount of the subsidiesthat the companies that produce clean energy receive despite theirmassive investments in the sector (Shah). However, in spite of thenumerous challenges facing the renewable energy industry, the cost ofgenerating renewable energy has been proven to decline significantlyafter the investment of facilities. Over time, the cost of producingalternative energy decreases because, for most technologies, thesource of renewableenergys is free. Thus, over time, prices stabilizeas opposed to fossil fuel prices, which vary dramatically (Union ofConcerned Scientists).
Consideringthe above, renewable energy also has a vast and constantlyreplenished source of energy (Union of Concerned Scientists). Strongwinds, sunny skies, heat generated by the earth, plant residues, andfast moving water are all potential and inexhaustible sources ofalternative energy. The technical potential of each of these energysources is based on its overall availability, considering particulartechnological and environmental constraints. Studies reveal thatalternative energy sources in the US when combined, have the capacityto produce 482,247 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.This amount of energy surpasses the amount of energy used by thenation by up to 118 times. However, the spatial energy intensity ofalternative energy sources downplays the full potential of this typeof energy (Schmid 774). Thus, to have a greater impact, space isneeded. This allegation brings to bear the issue of land, which, byextension, also leads to the development of concerns such ascompetition for the use of land. Questions such as the protection ofeco-systems, biodiversity conservation, and food production usuallycome up when topics centering on the implementation of alternativeenergy are being discussed. Nonetheless, with the development ofbetter technology, such issues are being addressed. For example,technologies that have the capacity to maintain high conversionefficiencies and the combination of renewables are measures that arebeing instituted to facilitate energy efficiency. These developmentsadvance issues of global warming emissions.
Humanactivity has been proven to result in significant increases intemperatures and harmful environmental, health and climate effects(Union of Concerned Scientists). Electricity production, for example,accounts for one-third of global warming emissions in America themajority of these emissions come from coal-fired power plants (25%)and natural gas-fired power plants (6%). Conversely, alternativeenergy power plants produce petite to no global warming emissions.The International Panel on Climate Change aggregated data thatrevealed that global warming emissions that were linked withrenewable energy, including installation, manufacturing, operation,and even decommissioning and dismantling were minimal. In essence,natural gas emits approximately 0.6 to 2 pounds of carbon dioxide perkilowatt hour and coal emits about 1.4 to 3.6 pounds of carbondioxide per kilowatt hour. Conversely, solar emits 0.07 to 0.2 perkilowatt hour, and hydroelectricity emits 0.1 to 0.5 pounds of CO2per kilowatt hour. Considering the before-mentioned figuresalternative energy is friendlier to the environment compared tofossil fuel energy thus, bringing to bear questions regarding theimpact of using alternative energy on public health.
Usingalternative energy as opposed to fossil fuel energy has been provento have substantial public health benefits (Union of ConcernedScientists). Natural gas and coal power plants have been associatedwith the development of ailments such as breathing problems, cancer,neurological problems, and heart attacks. The use of renewable energysignificantly reduces premature mortality, lost workdays, and healthcosts in general. The national economic impact of health-relatedproblems brought about by fossil fuels is between $361.7 and $886.5billion. Solar, wind and hydroelectric systems generate energy thatdoes not result in air pollution. Biomass and geothermal energysystems, however, emit gasses that cause air pollution, albeit atmuch lower levels compared with natural gas and coal-fired powerstations. Additionally, solar and wind-powered systems do not requirewater to function. Consequently, these systems reduce the strainimposed on natural resources such as water. Fossil fuels, incontrast, have a significant impact on water resources. Natural gasdrilling and coal mining, for example, have resulted in the pollutionof drinking water.
Alternativeenergy offers a more resilient and reliable energy system (Union ofConcerned Scientists). Solar and wind power systems are less prone tothe problems associated with conventional power systems. Since therenewable energy systems are widely distributed, large-scale failuresin such facilities are less probable. Simply put, since thestructures used in these establishments usually spreads across a widegeographical area, a severe weather event in one region will notinterrupt power in the entire region. Modular systems comprisevarious individual solar arrays of wind turbines. Thus, even if someequipment in the system is damaged, the other systems will remainfunctional. A case in point is Hurricane Sandy`s destruction of thefossil-fuel dominated electric generation and circulation systems inNew Jersey and New York, leaving millions of people without power.Conversely, the same Hurricane affected the renewable energy plantsin the Northeast but the damage impacted to these facilities wasminimal. Such occurrences are expected in the future since heatwaves, droughts, intense storms, and wildfires have been projected toincrease due to global warming.
Ina recap of the above discussion, renewable or alternative energy isperceivable as energy that is either supplied by the sun continuallyor taps inexhaustible resources like water. Conversely, non-renewableenergy is energy that comes from fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, andcoal). The sources of non-renewable energy are finite they form veryslowly in comparison to the rate at which energy is used. Thus,alternative energy has proven more economical compared to fossil fuelenergy, as discussed above.
Schmid,Jürgen. "Renewable Energy." 774. Web. 13 July 2016.
Shah,Abhishek. "Disadvantages Of Renewable Energy – Drawbacks ofDifferent Alternative Energy Sources | Green World Investor."Greenworldinvestor.com.N.p., 2011. Web. 13 July 2016.
U.S.Department of Energy. "Dollars from Sense: The Economic Benefitsof Renewable Energy." (1997): 1. Web. 13 July 2016.
Unionof Concerned Scientists. "Benefits of Renewable Energy Use."Unionof Concerned Scientists.N.p., 2016. Web. 13 July 2016.