Which Renewable Energy Source is the Most Reliable and Efficient one?
To decide which renewable source of energy may be most reliable and efficient for future development it's best to look at the two most popularly discussed methods of producing power and decide how the pros and cons compare.
Currently all forms of renewable energy may increase electric bills for consumers. Technology advances and mass production of parts and supplies needed to install systems should result in lower prices in the future.
Hydroelectric power is already in place in parts of the country and is efficiently operating. However, there are few areas suitable for further development and the damage to wildlife, fish and flooding of areas below dams has been more of a problem than expected when the huge dams were built.
Biomass is a fuel of the future. It holds great promise but except for limited applications it is not ready for prime time yet when it comes to building power plants.
Solar energy is not brand new as the concept has been discussed for about 20 years. We know the immense amount of energy sent to the earth from the sun and it seems logical we should be able to harness that power.
The fuel for solar energy is free from the sun. Unlike fossil fuels, we don't have to drill deep wells or tunnel mines into the earth. The process of solar energy production is that of capturing the sun's energy when it reaches the earth.
This is done through solar panels. The high cost of solar panels has been a deterrent in the past but Chinese manufacturers are now producing solar panels selling for almost 50% less than panels sold ten years ago.
The problem with solar energy is that power can only be generated during hours when the sun is shining. At night or on cloudy days, solar panels are useless for creating electricity.
For this reason, the focus of research is on ways to store energy from daytime hours to provide a constant power source that can be used at any time of the day or night. Currently, this requires batteries and adds a considerably amount of the cost of solar power.
For a home located in a remote area, solar panels have proven useful in providing power. Even simple solar collection systems can provide hot water and more complex systems can run the systems of an entire home. One drawback of solar power is the size of panels.
Commercial use of solar energy requires a large amount of land where sunlight is unobstructed in order to position a sufficient number of solar energy collection devices. Solar energy works best in warm climates where the sun's rays are strongest.
Using Wind to Generate Energy
Wind energy is a darling of the environmental movement. With no emission problems and no runoff to pollute land and streams, you might think a wind turbine mounted on a tall tower is the perfect renewable energy resource. In some areas, this may prove to be the case but there are a few drawbacks.
Locating of wind turbines is restricted to areas where the average wind speed is reliable. The plains of the Midwest are good areas for wind energy development as are coastlines of some states.
Land use is a concern of wind energy opponents. The placement of multiple wind turbines occupies a large parcel of land. Some people see these as a sign of clean energy and progress while others see the stork-like structures as a blight on the land.
Another concern about wind turbines is the cost of installing wind farms and the rather high cost that would need to be charged to make a wind farm commercially viable.
Recent research has developed a wind farm plan that places towers much closer together with little loss of energy captured and this may, in part, address the concerns about land use.
Wildlife experts have concerns about bird populations in areas of wind turbines. The huge rotating blades have caused some bird deaths and currently one of the planning stages for a new wind turbines installation is to study bird migration patterns to avoid placement in those areas. Sound is another problem for some people.
Wind turbines produce a low humming noise when the blades are in motion. That noise is not disruptive but is hard to predict. Someone living close to a wind farm may not notice much noise at all while a home located a mile away may claim the noise is driving them crazy.
In the future, we may not need to decide which "renewable source of energy" is the most efficient and reliable one. Instead, we may use several types of new energy sources tailored to fit the needs of specific areas.
Developing solar power in cold northern states where cloudy days are the norm for several months each year isn't efficient. Locating wind turbines in areas where dense forests or foothills keep the wind from blowing strongly in a predictable direction would make no sense.
We are accustomed to think of energy production as a single process but in the future it may be a group of processes that provide power to our homes. We may have wind farms located all along our coastlines either on land or in the water.
We may have solar panels covering the roofs of buildings in a town to produce energy in a southern state. The only practical way to replace fossil fuels is to use renewable energy in the way that works best for that particular process.