Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy You May Not Know About

The 21st century is a long way from oxen pulling plows and horses pulling carriages. Mechanization and modern technology makes life less arduous and more efficient…so it would seem. Yet all of the state-of-the-art engineering and split-second communication create problems while solving others. Perhaps the biggest challenge is exploding energy demand. Powering cars, planes, submarines and satellites takes power. For the last century, fossil fuels did the job. Now we have renewable energy sources — for better and for worse.

Hydroelectric Power

view from above of a hydroelectric dam


When figuring out the pros and cons of renewable energy, i.e. that which continually replenishes itself, consumers can not ignore hydroelectric power. The energy from moving water is abundant and converting it to electricity is inexpensive. Under the force of dammed up water, turbines then generate usable voltage. No waste is produced nor are any particulates released into the atmosphere.


While the absence of emissions benefits the earth, other side effects of hydroelectric power pose problems. Damming rivers can adversely affect fish and wildlife that depend on it. Moreover, the hydroelectric power plants are linked to diminished levels of oxygen in the water. Such changes can stunt the development of plant life in and around the waterways.


biomass energy



Biomass is a source that exemplifies the pros and cons of renewable energy. Made up of decomposing flora, fauna, manure and garbage–compost, essentially–biomass holds the photosynthetic energy that feeds plants (and the animals that eat them). Emitting no greenhouse gases, biomass has little ill-effect on the climate. Furthermore, it is readily available, and can be used as bio-fuel, bio-diesel and a host of other forms.


Although carbon neutral, biomass is not without pollution, and affects the air we breathe for the worse. In addition, sources like ethanol burn much less efficiently than fossil fuels. Worse, they are more expensive to convert into expendable energy. Without a doubt, widespread use of biomass would take more land for energy production, perhaps even leading to deforestation.

Wind Energy

wind energy farm photo


Every enterprise that seeks public support, it seems, employs images of mammoth wind farm turbines to demonstrate farsightedness and social responsibility. In fact, wind power holds great promise. For one thing, it’s price is low and–better still–less volatile than other forms of energy. Wind is pure and clean, plentiful and infinite. Also, this sector is a large job-creator.


Turbines are noisy, they kill birds, and visually corrupt otherwise verdant landscapes. Plus, wind farms are usually far from the population centers where they can do the most good. While abundant, wind is not constant and it can not be stored in its raw state. This is food for thought when contemplating the pros and cons of renewable energy.

Solar Energy

green energy solar panels


Solar power is supremely sustainable, given the fact that the sun is expected to remain in place for the forseeable future. Emitting nearly zero carbon, solar power generation is much friendlier environmentally than even the cleanest burning fossil fuels and other alternative sources. These are significant factors in the battle of pros and cons of renewable energy.


Constancy is also an issue for solar energy. Like satellite TV, generation does not occur so well on overcast days. Like wind energy, storage is a work in progress. Add to these drawbacks the fact that solar panels require copious space to create significant amounts of electricity. Here, energy competes with agriculture and conservation for precious swaths of land.

Animal Waste


biogas turns into energy


Farmers and ranchers have long struggled with the matter of waste management. Anaerobic digester technology is changing that in a big way. Extracting the methane from livestock manure, these instruments convert the gas to usable energy, leaving very fertile ash in its wake. Actually, the ash is often more nutritious fertilizer than the manure itself. Farmers with anaerobic digesters often sell surplus energy back to the public utilities.


Yet the pros and cons of renewable energy like this include drawbacks. Anaerobic digesters are very expensive. Many livestock producers must juggle an array of government subsidies and loans just to afford it. Additionally, they are impractical for smaller farms, since they are both time- and space-intensive.

Landfill Waste

Landfill-to-Energy Process


The rotting organic substances in landfills likewise emit methane. As a matter of fact, municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest origin of methane emissions. Esentially, landfill gas is like that produced by anaerobic digesters, except that the process can take up to a year. Using wells and vacuums, personnel can now collect and contain the methane for energy conversion. This keeps it out of the atmosphere and serves as an alternate energy source.


Making good use of landfill gas mitigates the existence of what most people believe are necessary evils. Still, the pros and cons of renewable energy like this are not always clear. Statistics are uncertain relative to gas recovery and energy production. If they do not compete with other fuels in terms of efficiency, the only way to get more methane would be to create more landfills. Few see the desirability of that.

Geothermal Energy

Power plant of geothermal energy in Iceland


As most are aware, the center of the earth is very hot: 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact. The good news is that nobody has to delve to the planet’s core to access this energy. Renewable, sustainable and ecologically healthy, geothermal heat exists in boundless reserves. As its steam cranks the turbines that produce electricity, earth-based power leaves virtually no mark on the earth’s surface.


Geothermal sources are not present uniformly around the world. Technology for energy conversion is costly, as well.

Summing Up

Clearly, each renewable energy method holds promise and faces obstacles. Important for conservationists to remember is this: the ingenuity that gives rise to these technologies can, perhaps, yield solutions. Patience and commitment can shift the pros and cons.

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