Advantages and Disadvantages
Imagine a life without washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, computers, televisions, lights, and cars. Imagine a planet so polluted that the lakes and streams are poisoned, and land depleted of resources from people trying to find more energy sources. One day this may be a reality if we do not do something to change how we use our energy resources. This may be the case if society keeps using non-renewable energy resources at its current consumption rate. Our only hope may be the development and use of renewable energy resources. Renewable sources not only will help our planet stay clean due to little or no pollution, but may also help the economy.
Electricity is a vital service a majority of the world uses on a daily basis. If it were to be depleted, many of us would not know what to do. Thankfully, however, not all sources of energy are non-renewable (although the renewable sources do have their downsides). Some sources are more prevalent in certain areas, while they may be extremely scarce in others; on the contrary, some sources are found all over the world, but only in trace amounts. The world around us uses many different types of electrical energy and a variety of sources from which that energy may be extracted. Solar, biomass, wind, oil, gas, hydropower and coal energy all have their positive and negative aspects. Without them, the high-tech world we live in would “power down”.
Solar power, to begin with, is simply the conversion of heat and light from the Sun into usable electrical energy. For most, the things that come to mind when solar power is mentioned are solar panels. An important thing to remember is that solar power depends on the sun being out, and when it’s not, solar panels produce no power. Thus, the energy needs to be stored and released when necessary – for example, a solar-powered lawn light only needs to be luminous at night. There are storage systems that can collect the suns energy to be used during cloudy weather or at night. The production of PV cells causes far less pollution than fossil-burning power plants. Although the manufacturing of these cells does require the use of harmful metals such as lead and mercury and also produces some greenhouse gasses, these levels are not nearly as much as coal-burning power plants. In most PV systems, cells are grouped together into larger panels or modules. These panels can be small, like the ones found on calculators, or big enough to cover acres of land.
As you can see, there are both pros and cons about solar energy. What’s great is the fact that once installed, a solar system is nonpolluting and can last anywhere from 15-20 years. Some of the draw backs we have already touched on. These things include the fact that in order to use solar power, whether it is in a household or a whole country, sun light must be continually present. In many parts of the world sun light is scarce, cloudy weather is fairly common. Setting aside an area for solar panels to supply a whole community requires a relatively large amount of space. In a lot of cases this would disrupt the ecosystem there. Despite these cons, solar energy is easy to harness and is the most abundant energy source available. Best of all power from the sun is free.
Wind energy is the process in which the wind is used to produce mechanical power or electricity. An important thing to note is that the mechanical energy required to turn the turbines is ultimately fueled by the Sun – sunlight warms air and causes it to rise, fall and generally move around. Wind power has been used for centuries. Ships have used wind to carry them across the ocean ever since they were invented and windmills pumped water and grinded grains on countless farms. As time went on, humans realized just how useful the wind was and decided that its strength could be used to power electrical devices.