We’ve all been there, that dreaded moment when you’re watching your favorite television show and suddenly the power goes out. Better yet, you are working diligently online to finish a clients order on time when a severe thunderstorm rolls through and damages your transformer, leaving you high and dry unless you’ve wisely created an alternative energy source. Anyone whose been there before will attest to the fact that there are numerous benefits and drawbacks to using renewable energy. It seems using both traditional and renewable sources for your electricity ensures you can take advantage of all the benefits this new technology offers, while minimizing some of its drawbacks. Briefly, I will explain some of these benefits and drawbacks in a little more detail to clarify some things for those interested in pursuing green energy technologies for their home or business.
4 Benefits To Going Green
- One of the main benefits to going green is obviously unlimited renewable energy. For those who live in hotter, sunnier climate’s like Texas or Arizona, solar panels are a must for residential homeowners looking to save money on their electric bill. Not to mention the added benefit of earning some cash on the side for selling excess electricity back to the grid. For example, under Arizona’s new solar export plan, solar customers are guaranteed a set rate of $0.12 per kilowatt for extra energy they produce for the next 10 years, meaning they are paid this flat rate for energy they send back to the grid. Keeping these considerations in mind when deciding to replace, or supplement your existing electrical energy source will help you successfully navigate the wide world of renewable energy. A great place to start collecting information is the Solar Energy Industries Association, otherwise known as seia.org. Those weighing out their options should start by getting a little extra knowledge about their own states buy back net metering programs.
- Other obvious benefits to renewable energy are the tax credits. The Department of Energy has tons of information on net metering, including which appliances are eligible for certain government tax credits. It’s recommended that those interested in maximizing their tax savings should visit energy.gov to learn more about maximizing their tax credit potential. Currently, taxpayers can claim up to a 30% credit on qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located within the United States and is owned and operated as a residence by the taxpayer. Solar water heating systems placed in service before December 31st, 2019 are eligible for a 30% credit. The same holds true for solar electric properties, 30% for systems placed in service on or before December 31st, 2019. These benefits gradually decrease leading up to January 1st, 2022 from 30% to 22%, with no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008.
- Besides tax credits and extra cash, another advantage to using renewable energy is ease of maintenance. Solar panels and wind turbines are intrinsically easier to manage and work on as their operating systems aren’t as sophisticated as generators which rely on fossil fuels. Generally, renewable energy generators utilize fewer moving parts and don’t rely on flammable, combustible fuel sources to operate. This translates to less overall maintenance requirements when compared to traditional gas-powered generators or other sources.
- Lastly, renewable energy has numerous health and environmental benefits. Generating energy from renewable sources emits little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants. This means a smaller carbon footprint and greater overall positive impact on our natural environment. It is a well-known fact that harmful pollutants lead to respiratory and cardiac health issues, renewable energy can help decrease the prevalence of such pollutants and lead to an overall happier, healthier life.
4 Disadvantage’s To Renewable Energy
- While there are many advantages to using renewable energy sources, there are also ample disadvantages. Many forms of renewable energy are collected at specific locations, meaning distribution networks must be set up to take advantage of all the power generated. Creating these distribution networks requires massive fossil fuel investments that may take generations to neutralize using the renewable energy resources they help create. While renewable energy presents a massive opportunity for reducing our collective carbon footprint, its full implementation will take decades.
- Another disadvantage to using renewable energy sources for generating your power are the backup and storage resources required to maintain viability. For example, solar panels are a great resource for generating needed electricity during the day and in sunny climates, but perform very poorly in colder, less sunny climates. Furthermore, they can only generate power during the day, never at night. For instance, in Seattle, only 71 days per calendar year are classified as “sunny,” or having cloud cover less than 30%. Northern cities are known to go for prolonged periods of time without any sunlight during their winter months, making solar panels an unlikely investment for most homeowners. Be sure to always factor in your location’s typical climate and plan accordingly when trying to utilize renewable energy resources. Storage capacities are another story. Most storage capacities required for efficiently utilizing renewable energy sources can initially be a pricey investment, making them something beyond what the average person or community can typically afford.
- A third disadvantage to using renewable energy resources is the massive amount of space required for their operation. To produce 20 megawatts of energy, current solar technologies require 100 acres of space. Compare this to the footprint for a nuclear power plant which uses one square mile to produce 1000 megawatts of energy. What this means is that solar energy is roughly 40 times less space efficient then nuclear energy. While the energy created from renewable resources is theoretically unlimited, its real limit is defined by space and climatic conditions.
- Lastly, few consumers are aware that renewable energies, while typically cleaner than most fossil fuels, utilizes resources like biomass which still burn waste products and put pollutants into the atmosphere. For instance, greenhouse gases like Carbon and Methane are still emitted through facilities using renewable energy resources as they require fossil fuels to produce such energy. Fossil fuels on the other hand, do not rely on renewable resources.
Summing things up, renewable energy presents us with many potential financial and environmental opportunities. While a future which relies solely on renewable energy resources is desirable, current technology prevents it from being completely feasible. Advantages like exclusive tax credits, decreased energy use, lowered carbon footprints, and cash back incentives for selling access energy back to the grid may be offset by its numerous disadvantages. Disadvantages like storage capacity, space required to produce energy, and the costs involved in building and implementing renewable power sources may prove cumbersome to those trying to save money without risking a huge financial investment.