As the world looks toward renewable energy resources, two of the most basic sources of energy, wind and the sun, head the list of options. Although considered friendly energy sources, wind and solar energy have pros and cons. Researchers continue to explore ways to overcome wind and solar disadvantages. Consumers must balance the advantages and disadvantages of each when considering converting to wind or solar power.
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With increasing global populations and industrialisation, demands for energy have skyrocketed. Using primarily nonrenewable energy resources such as oil, coal and natural gas, energy consumers are looking at depletion of these resources. Furthermore, fuel from nonrenewable energy resources emit carbon gases into the environment. As a result, many scientists, governments and environmental groups blame these emissions for global climate change and its accompanying ecological disasters. The main source of hope to address these pressing issues is renewable energy. Wind power and solar energy are considered to be two of the most environmentally harmless resources.
The types of energy that can be derived from the sun are thermal or heat energy, photovoltaic )also called "solar cells") and concentrated solar power. Wind turbines convert kinetic energy into mechanical power that can drive generators, water pumps or other devices that require electrical power. Each type of wind and solar use comes with great advantages as well as significant challenges.
The energy of the sun can be converted into electricity. The process that drives conversion is complex--all that needs to be known is that the process works and that the sun is a reliable energy source. Wind turbines harvest naturally occurring wind patterns into electricity. Understanding how solar and wind energy work helps to quiet myths that circulate about these renewable energy sources.
The obvious advantage of wind and solar power is that both are renewable resources. The wind blows and the sun is far from burning out. Wind and sun power are sustainable and non-polluting. Wind-driven power is a proven technology. On a large scale, wind farms are within the reach for regional and business uses. Solar energy has distinct advantages as well. Solar energy is non-polluting and quieter than the generation of fossil fuel-powered energy. Once solar power recovers the initial investment, it is free. Solar panels can be installed on most rooftops.
For their significant advantages, wind and solar energy present challenges that require ancillary power sources. Wind energy is only reliable when the wind blows. When a power system relies largely upon wind, a backup system must be provided. Backup batteries are costly and must be replaced from time to time. The primary disadvantage of solar power is initial investment. Although solar panels pay for themselves and become a free source of energy, they are expensive. Other disadvantages are significant. The sun does not shine all the time. Approximately half the time, the sun does not provide energy. Access to sunlight is a consideration for regions where the sun does not regularly shine. Pollution can impede the sun's access to solar panels.
It is undeniable that the use of fossil fuels for energy is coming to an end. As populations make the transition from nonrenewable energy resources to renewables, the advantages of wind and solar power will drive consumers in those directions. The disadvantages demand resolutions that will make wind and solar more viable alternatives for large and small energy needs. Some issues cannot be directly resolved. Therefore, other renewable resources such as geothermal energy are being explored.
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