Renewable Energy Sources Controversies

Subject: Environment
Pages: 13
Words: 3424
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: College

Wind Energy

The generation of wind power energy has emerged as one of the best options in which clean energy resources can be obtained. It is imperative that most of the developed countries such as the United States and European bloc have established wind energy with the desire for clean and cost effective source of energy.

However, wind energy may not be green at all. According to research conducted by environmentalists and energy regulators on wind energy, it has been noted that wind turbines are likely to threaten birds and animals’ life. A recent case study conducted on wind revealed that wind turbines have increased the death rate of birds and human life near such establishments. Consequently, the whirling of wind turbines and tower blades often kills birds that fly nearby. Besides, larger percentage of avian deaths has been linked with the increased installation of wind turbines.

Collisions between turbines and birds that migrate have direct impact on their breeding and rates of production. Moreover, visual and noise disturbance interferes with the breeding of foraging and staging birds. However, several measures have been established to decimate cases of avian deaths. Additionally, great concern has been shown on the impact of wind energy on wildlife that inhabits near wind firms. In this case, the rotor blades on wind turbines produce a lot of noise that disturbs the animal species near the sites where wind power turbines are located (Aitken 76).

Another challenge associated with wind power plants is that they the infrastructures require plenty of space than the energy produced. A turbine can occupy about 1.8 hectares of land in order to generate maximum energy. It is certain that insects’ species that strike turbine blades are likely to develop adverse effects. In this case, insect populations that reside near wind mills become endangered. In recent studies conducted on wind power generating sites, noise generated from turbines reduces the anesthetic nature of the environment around the firms (Gipe 245).The energy is unreliable and thus it cannot fulfill the needs of users in a harmonious manner.

Nevertheless, a large number of people have consistently shown interest in using wind energy in homes. Considerably, this form of energy growth has increased by 30% in the previous decade. Rapid expansion and use of wind power have been noted in developed countries such as Texas and USA. Substantial growth and expansion of wind power energy have been fostered by several environmental factors. Such factors include the need to decimate carbon emissions and reduce global warming. In this case, wind energy can be considered to be green as compared to other sources of energy such as fossil fuels. According to opinion surveys, a large population supports the establishment of wind power plant in their immediate neighborhood. Approximately, 70-8-% of residents in Denmark and UK highly regards use of wind power energy. Recent surveys have shown that there is an increased large scale acceptance in using the energy in India and China (United Nations Environment Program and New Energy Finance Ltd 96)

The fact that wind power energy is green lies on the basis that its environmental merits are experienced both at the national and global level. A typical example can be drawn from the use of photovoltaic cells in the form of solar energy. Although the latter is increasingly being used, it is import ant to bearing in mind that the development of photovoltaic is still under revolution and that there are some societal resources which have been redistributed. This technology, however, requires intense labor. In some cases, the use of automatic machines to construct this device has resulted into higher production costs to the manufacturers as well as expensive purchase and installation of the component to consumers.

Another impediment in the development of photovoltaic is the high demand for basic raw substances used in the manufacturing process. This has inevitably led to escalation o prices of some items which are commonly used in its manufacture. Besides, specific quantities of materials required are not constant. They keep on changing with time making the process of production even more hectic. For example, photovoltaic cells may consume up to one hundred thousand tons of steel in a given production year.

Another likely constraint in the development of this technology is the significant quantity of energy required. Studies reveal that the production of photovoltaic cells requires an extra energy input compared to other traditional forms o f energy. This implies that photovoltaic technology is rather expensive. Nevertheless, the payback energy is presumably higher than input energy.

It is apparent that wind is a renewable source of energy and thus can be conventionally be generated without depleting the environment in any way. Wind energy is a clean source of power thus it does not result to air pollution. Governments from developed states have high preference on wind power due to the increased cost of fossil fuels. Wind power is naturally available and can be regenerated without being influenced by market forces in the international market. According to international surveys conducted on countries using wind power, it is apparent that the energy incurs low external costs as opposed to other means such as electricity and fossil fuel.

Solar Photovoltaic Energy

Solar energy is frequently perceived as a completely clean and not prone to environmental pollution compared to the traditional forms of energy which have a myriad of harmful effects to personal health and the surrounding ecosystem at large. Besides, the conventional sources of energy have been a real threat to social, political and even economic progress of modern civilizations. The notion on the use of sun as an alternative source of clean energy is indeed filled with hope for a sustainable environmental protection. However, it is imperative to acknowledge that even though solar energy might be deemed as free, it is not factual. There are usually inevitable social and economic costs associated with any form of energy. This paper critical analyses an important aspect of solar energy which entails a non interrupted conversion of light from the sun into electric energy in the development and deployment of photovoltaic cells (Montgomery par. 3).

A common methodological challenge in the application of photovoltaic is that it is cumbersome to directly compare different energy sources due to the difference in potential effects. For instance, it is quite difficult to compare environmental effects of nuclear energy with the repercussions of coal mining on the health of an individual. This lack of common platform of comparison on the available sources of energy facilitates choice of energy to be used.

In addition to the above methodological challenges, the issue behind alternative sources of energy automatically leads to the replacement of an existing form of energy. Whether this is desirable or not remains to be debatable.

The technology behind the development of photovoltaic is ever on the revolution. This has led to pooling up of a lot of information which is not utilized in further understanding the science behind this alternative source of energy. In most cases, a photovoltaic cell is used in identifying hidden forms of radiated energy. A good example of this form of detection is that involving infra red rays. In addition, the quantity and extend of light energy can be measured using a photovoltaic cell. The amount of light received directly from he sun varies and can be detected quite accurately by this device. Moreover, procedures which are chemically induced can largely be put into different applications as well. Finally, photovoltaic technology has one most dominant use which entails the radiation change of light rays into electricity.

In cases where light energy is the only converted components, the photovoltaic are then referred to as solar photovoltaic. The first ever used photovoltaic cell was invented way back during the mid 1950s. It is made use of simple flat solar panes which could trap energy from the sun and convert the same to electric energy.

During the conversion of light energy in a photovoltaic set up, the radiation is systematically interchanged and transferred into a direct current contrary to alternating current usually experiences when electricity is generated from water. Once the light energy has been converted, it can then be tapped and used from time to time. There has been much debate on the efficiency of photovoltaic cells. However, most o f the modern photovoltaic devices run at an efficiency of about thirty per cent. In terms of durability, this type of alternative energy component can last for close to thirty years. This is particularly so especially if the cell is well maintained with regular checks and services. In most cases, the cost of buying and running a set up of photovoltaic cell is relatively high. In spite of this, there are many merits of using photovoltaic as a renewable source of energy.

To begin with, the main raw material which is used to generate electricity in this case is sunlight. This mate4rial is not depleted with time unlike the conventional sources of energy like coal or oil. It can be used time and again as long it is not hampered by such factors like cloud cover and geographical setting of different places on the earth. Apart from this, harnessing sunlight does not require any spending. In other words, sunlight is virtually a free source of energy. Finally on the advantages of photovoltaic cells, both human health and the physical environment is not polluted. This is why it is referred to as a clean source of energy. One of the astronomical uses of photovoltaic cells is in the provision of electric energy which is very important in powering space objects in space exploration.

In a more coherent application of energy from the sun, there are usually those small remote locations where the supply of normal electricity is not possible for one reason or the other. In some cases, it may not be economically convenient to channel expensive power lines where most consumers are graded as small scale. For this fact, the deployment of photovoltaic cells remains to be most viable source of energy.

A very important principle in obtaining electric energy from photovoltaic cells is a phenomenon referred to as photoelectric. This working principle of photovoltaic cells is based on the fact that there is during conversion; the negatively charged species are lost from the metal surface. On the other hand, a photovoltaic cell operation involves the movement of electrons from regions of low energy to those of greater energy. The reason why these negatively charged species move from lower energy regions to higher ones is because of energy activation brought about by packets of light from the sun. The light packets are known as photons. Each of the photon providing the transition o electron s must be endowed with appropriate energy schemes.

There are different categories of photovoltaic cells depending on their varying levels of output and general efficiency standards. In the first place, there are those referred to as high efficiency cells which have the potential of producing a higher quantity of electricity per any given amount and duration of sunshine. Most industrial applications and energy needs have put a lot of focus on the efficiency of photovoltaic which will in turn lead to reduced or sustained costs. Hence, cost effective photovoltaic cells are being innovated from time to time in order to meet the dire need for cost management.

In this regard, there are two main broad strategies which can be put in place in order to improve or increase the effectiveness of photovoltaic cells. The first strategy is to improve on the efficiency of these cells while the way is to minimize their costs within a given dimension. Nonetheless, it is not economical to increase the effectiveness of solar generated electricity without working towards lowering the grand cost per one unit of electricity. This can be explained by the costless nature of sunshine. The base line for weighing efficiency of photovoltaic cells will heavily rely on the cost of sunlight (if any), the surface area exposed directly to the source of sunlight and the mean mass of the cell under question.

There are those photovoltaic which have a very layer exposed to trap light energy from the sun. In 2002 for instance, a thin layer of this energy device was found to be about twenty per cent efficient. This high percentage efficiency was only possible after a series of research activities was carried out in Sheffield Hallam University. Nevertheless, this level of efficiency of photovoltaic equipment has not been proved by other external research centers like chemical laboratories. On the same note though, the United States energy research department has managed to attain almost a similar level of efficiency of photovoltaic. In this case, both a mixture of copper and gallium have been used to achieve the desired results.

Of late, this research unit in United States has already built an automatic machine which can assess and analyze the effectiveness of these photovoltaic. The main long term objective has been to increase the efficiency level of this alternative source of energy. The cells have been experimented upon and verified under different circumstances. For example, one method which has been used to develop the thin films is by letting the gaseous phase deposit itself through a triple step conversion of liquid to vapour. In the first stage, indium, gallium and selenium are evaporated. The second stage involves the evaporation of copper while selenium is converted in the final stage. Once this cycle is complete, the process repeats itself time and again.

Silicon is the most dominant semiconductor used in the manufacture of photovoltaic other materials do exist as well although their uses are limited. Under this category is gallium arsenide which is the least used in this technology. For this reason, it is quite cumbersome to determine the effects of this semiconductor. Gallium arsenide is composed of two distinct semiconductors namely gallium and arsenic. Gallium happens to be part of the intermediary product during the extraction of aluminum from its ore. Medical statistics on the hazards of gallium indicate the toxic intake level of this metalloid is 110mg/kg of the substance

The technology being the development of photovoltaic is vividly superb to conventional sources of energy like coal when environmental benefit if considered. The burning of coal releases extreme amount of wastes to the surrounding environment. In real sense, there are no proved negative environmental effects generated by the use of silicon in the manufacturer of photovoltaic cells.

The development of this technology also requires significant quantity of energy. Studies reveal that the production of photovoltaic cells requires an extra energy input compared to other traditional forms o f energy. This implies that photovoltaic technology is rather expensive. Nevertheless, the payback energy is presumably higher than input energy.

Will the Use of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Plants Be Eliminated Completely?

Fossil fuels and nuclear power plants will hardly be eliminated in the future because they still remain the main source of energy that can be generated quite easily and cheaply. In addition, renewable energy resources require well established infrastructures and advanced technological platform. Such requirements may not be easily acquired by many nations.

Hydroelectric Power Generation and the Use of Fossil Fuels

Some of the top five countries that are strongly committed in the utilization of renewable energy sources for electricity generation include Brazil, China, Spain, Germany and the United States. These countries stand to benefit a lot from renewable energy resources as discussed below.

One of the greatest merits of using hydro power to reduce global warming is that it is a renewable source of energy. Unlike coal, uranium or other fossil fuels, running water can be used uncountable times to produce electric energy. Similar to solar or wind energy, it cannot be depleted. Natural gas or coal is exhausted with time.

Reduction of carbon dioxide emission would be greatly hampered if hydro power generation is not utilized to the optimum. For instance, global warming could affect power production using water. Several studies have indicated that the rate of evaporation is very high owing to increased temperature. Should this happen, then the amount of water flowing down the rivers would be less resulting to less power generation. This is a great risk and impediment towards using water as an alternate source of clean energy to reduce global warming.

Another drawback in the use of hydro power lies with the cost of constructing dams. Developing and underdeveloped countries may not afford such high costs. This is a serious setback. Besides, dams have to be in operation for many years in order to realize returns.

Developing dam areas may lead to environmental degradation due to excessive flooding. Water pools from dams can pose health risk to the surrounding human population by enhancing waterborne diseases. People may be displaced and relocated to allow construction of dams.

Worst consequences of global warming are being experienced in the world today especially in regions where excessive emissions of harmful gases are rife. International intervention is underway to control the effects of global warming. Among the many institutional arrangements and policy measures proposed to control the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and effectively abate the processes of global warming.

One method of addressing global warming is adopting the use of renewable and green energy from hydro power. Fossil fuels which contain high carbon content produce large volume of greenhouse gases. Hydro power is the energy produced from flowing water. High water falls and molten snow emanating from elevated points can be used to drive turbines and generate electricity. While fossil fuels are expensive to mine, hydro power can be harnessed easily and cheaply into electric energy.

There are several other merits of hydro power over fossil fuels in curbing global warming. Generating energy using hydro power is self reliant. The cost of other kinds of fuels does not affect harnessing power from water. The main raw material here is water and is cheaply and readily available. Whenever the cost of oil goes up, that of hydro power remains constant.

Operating power generating plants which use fossil fuels may need a lot of workers leading to increased environmental pollution. Hydro power plants are mainly automated. Such measures in place ensure that extreme emissions of carbon compounds are reduced. Also hydro power plants are quite flexible to set up. Any size of a river can be utilized to generate power enough to serve a small community or big establishments (Schrijver 54).

Although fossil fuels lead to greenhouse emissions, the pollution from hydro power is very negligible. When the power plants are being erected, there are minimal pollutions but this is common whenever power stations are being constructed.

The Smart Grid Technology

The generation and distribution of electricity from renewable energy resources can be a complex task especially in regards to obtaining vital consumption data. Hence, an electrical grid known as the smart grid is often used to enhance sustainability, economics, reliability and efficiency of electricity production. The system makes use of an Information and Communications platform in transmitting the needed data. Some of the information that can be captured by the smart grid includes consumption patterns of electric users and energy supply needs in a particular locality or quota.

The Smart Grid European Technology Platform is the key player behind this technology. However, other countries in the developed world have also embraced the Smart Grid technology (Lovins 43).

The Smart Grid technology has the following key merits in the distribution of electricity from renewable energy:

  1. The system is efficient bearing in mind that it provides duration and amount spent in terms of electricity cost and also enables peak curtailment. In addition, there is improved efficiency in load adjustment.
  2. It enables easy marketing of the electricity generated by providing kilobits and megabits in the process of selling, creates a portfolio for high-end services, and also enables demand response support.
  3. It enhances high level of flexibility on platforms related to the topology of networks.
  4. The Smart Grid is also highly reliable.

Technical challenges of the Smart Grid technology include:

  1. Environments that have been extensively regulated often tend to hinder operational efficiency. Hence, investors in this area are usually discouraged.
  2. The security of the Smart Grid technology is a real cause of concern due to rising cases of cybercrimes.
  3. The emission of Radio Frequency radiations from the installed meters is still a challenge. There is need to install meters with added safety against RF infiltration.
  4. It is technically costly to acquire and install Smart Grid infrastructure.

Works Cited

Aitken, Donald. Transitioning to a Renewable Energy Future, New York: International Solar Energy Society, 2010. Print.

Gipe, Paul. The Wind Industry’s Experience with Aesthetic Criticism. Leonardo 26. 3 (1993): 243-248. Print.

Lovins, Amory. Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, New York: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011. Print.

Montgomery, Leigh. Top 5 nations that use renewable energy. 2012. Web.

Schrijver, Nico. Development Without Destruction: The UN and Global Resource Management. Geneva: United Nations Intellectual History Project Series, 2010. Print.

United Nations Environment Program and New Energy Finance Ltd. Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2007: Analysis of Trends and Issues in the Financing of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in OECD and Developing Countries. Geneva: GNP Publishers, 2007. Print.