Alternative energies are sources outside of fossil fuels that can power your economy. It includes sources such as wind, biomass, solar, and geothermal. Over time, the nature of these alternative energy sources has changed dramatically.

The controversies over what must be taken as alternative energy still exist and some of the alternative energy advantages and disadvantages.  In the past, coal became an alternative to wood fuel, while oil was replaced by petroleum. But Ethanol cannot be an alternative fuel to standard gasoline. Some even argue that coal gasification is an alternative to petroleum.

So, the sources of energy that suit to be named “alternative” are solar, wind, hydroelectric, marine, and geothermal energy. It is obvious that the benefits of such sources overpower its shortcomings.

Let’s look at the real advantages and disadvantages of switching to renewable energy sources.

Table of Contents

Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy

Benefits Drawbacks
Zero pollution Weather affects energy supply
Renewable resource Low efficiency
Use of land resource High cost
Makes real economic sense Uses a lot of space
Creation of bio-based fuels Storage of solar energy is expensive
Stabilized global energy prices
Less maintenance of facilities
Good for regional areas

List of Advantages of Alternative Energy

Although switching to renewable energy sources completely, might not be possible yet. The balance between existing sources and alternative sources can solve many scarcity problems.

Zero Pollution

Wind power gives us energy without contaminating the environment at all. There is no chemical process involved except the creation of the turbine that rotates when the wind blows. The combustion of fossil fuels is minimum during the manufacturing process.

Similarly, solar and hydroelectric energy offer similar benefits as well, but to a lesser extent. Geothermal energy is considered the best. As you can access it any time without worrying about emissions after installation. With these options, you leave fewer harmful byproducts behind and cut back on air pollution.

Renewable Resource

They are all renewed by nature with time so you do not have to worry about running out of these sources. Existing sources of energy such as oil, gas, and coal are limited and have a strong possibility of running out in the near future. An alternative energy source can omit the chances of over-reliance on fossil fuels.

Use of Land Resources

Coal mining occurs underground or through strip mining efforts. Petroleum can be accessed through fracking techniques. So, making the use of the same land while working to develop these energy resources is impossible.

Except for solar farms, you don’t have to face such limitations with alternative energy resources.

Makes Real Economic Sense

With the transition to renewable energy, many new and stable jobs have been added in the world economies. With a relentless effort for the development of alternative energy, countries like Germany and the UK have successfully created thousands of stable jobs.

Creation of Bio-based Fuels

The alternative energy industry offers the creation of bio-based fuels like ethanol and algae biofuel. The products we use to create them can absorb as much carbon dioxide as they release in the atmosphere when used. So, the net consumption is the same even after accounting for all emissions.

Stabilized Global Energy Prices

Alternative energy can help to establish the stability of energy prices across the globe. The cost of alternative energy highly depends on the initial installation cost of the system as opposed to fossil fuels, whose prices depend on the increase and decrease in inflation and availability of resources.

Less Maintenance of Facilities

Once the infrastructure for harnessing renewable resources is set up, there is almost zero maintenance required. This allows the owners to reap big profits and provide cheap electricity to the population.

Good for Regional Areas

Mostly, energy projects are situated in regional areas away from big cities, bringing benefits to these places as well.

List of Disadvantages of Alternative Energy

With so many positive aspects, there are some reasons why renewable energy can be troublesome.

Weather Affects Energy Supply

Relying on a certain weather condition impacts the constant availability of energy supply. For example:

  • Wind turbines need wind that turns their blades.
  • Hydro generators need rain to fill the dams for the supply of flowing water.
  • Solar panels need sunshine and clear skies to get the heat needed.

Low Efficiency

The low efficiency of these technologies can create a problem in the feasibility of energy projects. As it takes a long period to get a return on the investment which does not justify the initial investment.

High Cost

It can take billions of dollars to establish and install some alternative energy resources. For instance, the placement of turbines for wind energy can make construction costs 50% more expensive compared to nuclear energy.

Uses a Lot of Space

The higher your need for electricity, the more panels you will need. Since the goal is to collect as much sunlight as you can, solar PV panels are going to require a large space. Some roofs might not be strong enough to hold or big enough to fit the total number of panels you need.

Storage of Solar Energy is Expensive

Since the captured sunlight needs to be stored right away, you require large batteries. They are used in off-grid solar systems and charge at daytime to use the energy at night. This solution to solar energy can be quite expensive.

What Can We do to Overcome the Problems of Alternative Energy

We cannot control nature, but if we reduce the amount of energy we consume, we won’t need a big supply. Alongside that, we can build more energy facilities to help meet our energy demands.

The clearest fact is that maintaining a balance between lots of different sources of power is the ultimate solution to solving all our energy problems.

Final Words,

Traditional fossil fuels can generate large quantities of electricity. It can be difficult to produce the same amount of energy as non-renewable resources. You fully depend on external factors such as weather conditions.

But unlike fossil fuels, these alternative energies cause less harm and will never run out.

(Last Updated on June 16, 2020 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.