Disadvantages of Renewable Energy: Green Illusions

Sunday, December 16, 2018

From the very start, we are told that we should use less of fossil fuels. We should use renewable energy sources like the sun and the wind power as much as possible; they don’t have any adverse effects. But is it true that they – along with many alternative energy sources – can solve all our future environmental problems? I guess not. If you are aware of current environmental issues and want to find a reliable solution, it’s you who have to change. Although they look like a potential solution, there are many disadvantages of renewable energy.

Even these sources of energy are aiding the causes of environmental problems instead of solving it.

Ozzie Zehner, in his book – Green Illusions – talks about the disadvantages of renewable energy. He exposes the cons of renewable energy and says why we need to change our consumption pattern for a better future of the environment. We can’t solve the energy crisis by technological advances alone. Mr. Zehner, by the way, keeps an eye on the climate changes and also helps the US government in formulating environmental policies.

Listen to the summary at Blinkist or listen to the book at Audible.

Side-effects of conventional energy sources

Coal factories produce a lot of carbon dioxide which is one of the biggest environmental issues; yet, coal production is very cheap.
Coal factories produce a lot of carbon dioxide which is one of the biggest environmental issues; yet, coal production is very cheap.

Before we dive into the disadvantages of renewable energy, let’s remember why the uses of renewable energy sources increased. For a long time, we are using fossil fuels, and a recent discovery is the nuclear power.

And one of the most used fossil fuels is the coal. You can count me a number of damages it causes to our environment, right? The burning of coal produces carbon dioxide which increases global warming. Then, it also causes air pollution and thus, health hazards. Yet, people use it widely because it’s cheap; cheaper than oil, the other fossil fuel.

Read more: How to Measure the Inequality in the World

And even the usage of nuclear power isn’t a lot benefitting. Uranium, the most prominent of the atomic fuels is a lot more dangerous and has to be kept secured. Not only the storage is expensive but also the radioactive waste disposal isn’t cheap.

These demerits of the conventional sources increased the importance of renewable energy and alternative energy sources.

How perfect are alternative energy sources?

Biofuel production includes cutting down a lot of trees which contributes to the effect of global warming.
Biofuel production includes cutting down a lot of trees which contributes to the effect of global warming.

While the fossil fuels come in cheap, they are depleting fast. And because of this everyone is turning to use more of the alternative sources of energy like solar, wind, water, hydrogen and biofuels among others. But these too, don’t come without side-effects. 

Before talking about the disadvantages of renewable energy sources, let’s see how the other alternatives perform.

These sources aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and also lessen the use of fossil fuels. And they are successful in achieving those targets, but they aren’t as efficient as fossils (as of now). Take the hydrogen power for example.

The by-product of the process is water, pure water. Environment-friendly it is but the hydrogen cell requires a significant amount of energy to convert the gas into its liquid form and then use it to, say, power a car. Researchers even tried solar-powered cell for the conversion, but the process is so slow that it isn’t practical. Even the biofuels have dangerous effects.

Read more: What about the Benefits of Renewable Energy?

Biofuels such as biodiesel, biogas, and others do help as cleaner energy but at the cost of food security. In Brazil, many farmers cleared forests to set up biofuel farms, and they also use their current land to produce biofuels. It hurts food production and cutting up of forests results in contributing to one of the most significant environmental issues – global warming.

So, what option do we have? Using sun, wind and water power? Let’s check them out.

Impact of renewable energy sources on nature

Hydropower is yet another example of disadvantages of renewable energy. It can impact the production of food negatively due to its impact on river flow.
Hydropower is yet another example of disadvantages of renewable energy. It can impact the production of food negatively due to its impact on river flow.

What harm could renewable sources do? They are infinite and are there to help us since time immemorial, isn’t it? But have you ever thought about the technology behind?

During the process of manufacturing of solar cells, there are many greenhouse gases produced which are more harmful than carbon dioxide. One such byproduct is nitrogen trifluoride which causes 17,000 times more damage than carbon dioxide. So, should we use more of hydropower then? After all, it uses a simple mechanism.

Read more: Learn about the Global Recycling Industry

But even hydropower has its share of side-effects. When you build a dam to harness the water power, there may be a water shortage in other areas where the river flows. And that will impact the production of food. So, you see there is a long list of environmental problems and solutions? None.

But there still is something that we can do. Read next to find out what’s that.

Solution to the energy crisis

Consuming less energy is the solution of the environmental pollution problem.
Consuming less energy is the solution of the environmental pollution problem.

People believe that if one can find an answer for the increasing energy needs, they won’t need to cut on their diet – their energy usage. They think that technology can provide us with cleaner alternatives, but you have seen that even technology can’t overcome the disadvantages of renewable energy. 

Those technological innovations also hurt our nature in a way. Believe it or not, the only way to solve the energy crisis is to decrease our consumption. You all can help. All those green energy and clean energy advertisements are mere marketing gimmicks to make some profits. 

Technology is helping us produce more energy, which in turn, leads us to consume more and thus, increasing the demand.

So, what we need to understand is our present behavior impacts the future. Moreover, using less energy saves money and thus a happier life as you need to spend less on energy bills. 

Some measures you can take are –

  • Educate people, which helps in controlling the birth rate and thus lower consumption.
  • Use greener packaging, and thus, a lesser amount of junk for recycling.
  • Last but not least, use a bike instead of cars.

And do you know, it’s better to be in the city than in the suburbs? How? Instead of driving 20 miles daily from the countryside, wouldn’t it be great if you walk a mile to your work? It would ensure less fuel consumption, and also a healthier you. And cities also have a better public transport system. So, when are you waking up?

Abhijeet Kumar a freelance content writer for aSabbatical.com
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

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