11 Problems Plaguing Renewable Energy (Part 1)

Many experts in the environment and power industries are looking at renewable energy as the answer to the demands of the future world. Several countries have already begun integrating solar power into their main energy grids, while some are relying on wind power.

Yet, despite the promising future that renewable energy is poised to bring, the industry is still ironing out some kinks. Use of renewable energy is not without its problems.

In this two-part article series, we will discuss some of the issues plaguing renewable energy.

1. Expensive energy storage for large-scale use

Lights are usually turned on at night, when solar power is unavailable. That is why power storage devices have become the solution to store harvested solar power during the day so that it provides energy in the evening. Unfortunately, storage batteries are ultra-expensive. Purchasing enough batteries to provide just three days of storage for an average American household costs about $15,000, and those batteries only last for about five years, according to this news article.

2. Low reliability

Wind and solar energy may not be available at all times, making them less reliable than conventional energy sources such as natural gas and nuclear plants. Because renewable energy is not available constantly, traditional power plants will have to be on standby at all times.

3. Inability of old power grids to accommodate renewable energy sources

Despite their advanced age and heavy usage, power grids in the U.S. are reliable and rarely experience blackouts. Conventional energy sources provide much more stable electricity, which the power grids need. The inconsistency of solar and wind energy may either cause power dips or fry the power grid lines altogether.

4. High cost of power grid rehabilitation

Building power grids is not cheap. It requires trillions of dollars. That’s why plans to rehabilitate or rebuild existing power grids to accommodate renewable energy may not be a practical project. The benefits of renewable energy may be significantly outweighed by the absurdly high initial expense.

5. No renewable energy generation in high-demand hours

Electricity is in high demand during the evenings at around 6:00 PM. During this time, the amount of solar energy harvested is near zero. In other words, renewable energy cannot be used in times when it is needed the most.

Next week, we will look at six more problems that we have to overcome before renewable energy becomes the norm.

[Photo courtesy of mike krzeszak on Flickr]