Solar electricity outshines other renewable alternatives
These days, the complexity of the renewable energy industry can be confusing. This is especially true for consumers who are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels to power their homes and businesses. The costs and benefits of the variety of renewable energy sources available differ significantly. Understanding those differences can help consumers choose the clean energy source that is right for them.
Several factors impact the viability of any alternative fuel source:
- Location. The requirement of a particular location for the generation facility limits viability for some alternative fuels.
- Environmental concerns. Not all alternative sources are equal in terms of waste and pollutant emissions.
- Sustainability. Long-term reliability is also essential. Why change to a fuel that is viable for only a short time?
- Cost. Probably the biggest consideration, cost includes the expenditures necessary to develop, install and maintain the resource over time.
Here's how the main alternative fuels -- biogas, nuclear, wind and solar -- compare to each other:
This fuel is created by processing animal waste products that can be environmentally damaging over time. It can be sustainable over an extended period of time, just as farming has been a sustainable industry for eons. However, biogas facilities need large tracts of land to house the animals, and ongoing maintenance costs can be expensive. While it may be a sustainable fuel for the local producer, there would be significant costs in scaling it up to meet the utility-sized needs of a community.
Nuclear power plants can be sited virtually anywhere, but any sort of system failure can pose an extreme radioactive environmental disaster. The 2011 Fukushima Reactor meltdown in Japan in revealed the worst that can happen when this power source fails. For that reason, the cost of building and maintaining a nuclear power plant may not justify the cost of potential damage should it fail.
Windmills have powered industry for centuries. Often used to turn the grindstones used to turn grains into flour, mills driven by wind power have fed entire generations. For use as a utility-sized electricity generator, however, wind energy is limited. Wind turbines must be situated where the wind is ever-present so that they produce electricity non-stop. A wind farm must implement many dozens of turbines to generate the volume of electricity needed to power a community; large tracts of land must be available for the purpose. Once installed, wind energy is clean and sustainable, although the turbines will require the additional cost of ongoing maintenance and oversight to ensure continued optimal output.
Solar photovoltaic (PV)
Harnessing solar energy for electricity generation offers the best alternative fuel source option. Sunlight hits all areas of the planet each day, so locating a solar PV panel is as simple as placing it where the sunlight can hit it. Once installed, solar PV systems generate no environmental risks because they emit no harmful gases. Scientists estimate that the sun will consume its hydrogen fuel supply in approximately 5 billion years, so solar-generated electricity appears to be sustainable for a long time. Perhaps most important to homeowners, solar PV has few if any ongoing costs. There is very little maintenance required because solar PV panels and systems have no moving parts. Once the system is paid off, there are no further costs because the system runs on sunlight as its fuel.
When considering the relative benefits of alternative energy sources, there is really no comparison. Solar PV energy outshines them all.
Solar Joy connects you with experienced solar energy system installers in your area. To find a quality solar installer, call our dedicated support staff at 310.957.5595 or get a free quote online.