Both renewable and non-renewable energy sources have their benefits and drawbacks. When it comes to environmental concerns, renewable energy sources have few drawbacks compared to non-renewable energy. Fossil fuel, coal, oil, and natural gas have adverse effects on the environment. This has led to the shift from non-renewable to renewable sources. However, renewable sources are not 100% perfect; they still impact the environment in a variety of ways. Non-renewable energy sources cause air and water pollution. They are the major sources of carbon emissions that have led to global warming. By-products from the combustion of fossil fuels cause death to wildlife and destroy the natural habitat. Waste from such sources has accumulated in large quantities hindering proper utilization of land.
Renewable energy is clean and has been praised a lot in the past decade. Countries such as China, Scotland, and the US have invested millions in this sector. With renewable energy sources, the environmental effects are minimal. They vary depending on the technology used to produce energy. The geographical location of the production plants also determines the effect of the energy source. For wind power, windmills trap wind to generate electricity. This is one of the cleanest forms of energy. It is also very sustainable since wind cannot be exhausted. This makes it a great option for large scale electricity production. The drawback with wind power is that the land where windmills are constructed is lost. This land can neither be cultivated nor used for residential houses. Windmills also scare away wildlife and destroy habitats.
Solar energy is another highly sustainable energy source. Sun rays are used to generate electricity. They are free and cannot be exhausted. However, the technology used in the manufacture of solar panels can be detrimental to the environment. These are the photovoltaic (PV) cells and the concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP). For geothermal energy, the hydrothermal plants are built near hot springs. There are more enhanced geothermal plants that are drilled deep into the earth’s crust to trap heat. This heat is converted to electric power. The technology used to convert the heat or steam to electricity may cause environmental hazards. The cooling technology, air-coolers, and water-coolers also determine the sustainability of this source.
The combustion of biomass waste to produce electricity is another sustainable energy source. However, the type of waste and how it is collected affects the emissions produced. The land used in combustion cannot be used for other purposes such as cultivation or building. Biomass combustion also produces emissions similar to the combustion of fossil fuel, though on a small scale. It is therefore not fully safe for the environment. Hydroelectric power comes from production plants constructed in dams and rivers. This equipment uses water currents to produce electricity. This is a very pure and sustainable energy source. The drawbacks of hydroelectric power include loss of land to construct dams, displacement of people, aquatic creatures, and wildlife, change in ecosystems, and safety concerns.