s the environmental narrative keeps gaining traction and awareness of carbon emissions grows, renewables gradually replace fossil fuel energy. But when it comes to using renewable sources of energy in households, many questions still linger.
Planning to go renewable? Check out pros and cons of the top green energy types
We are here to clear things up and outline the key pros and cons of some popular renewable energy technologies. So let`s take stock of the most widespread options to implement renewable energy facts at your home.
Solar power: the fastest-growing renewable energy solution
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, this type of energy makes for the fastest-growing renewable energy source in the country with 25% YoY growth in 2021. Residential use has played its part as solar energy systems have proven to be an efficient household solution.
You might wonder what makes this renewable energy option that popular. One of the advantages is that solar panels don’t require any extra space and can be easily installed on almost any rooftop, which makes them the best alternative for domestic energy generation.
Another advantage of this source of renewable energy is its far-reaching financial benefit. It might take from 5 years to decades before a solar energy system covers its installation costs, but in the end, you will be able to sizably cut your energy bills. Plus, you can maximize bill savings by sending extra energy generated by your system to the local grid in case it is attached to it.
And on top of that, a solar panel doesn't require a lot of maintenance and can generate renewable energy at full capacity throughout its 25-30-year lifespan. The only inconvenience you might have is cleaning and some small replacements of parts.
As for disadvantages, the main one appears to be the large initial investment associated with installing a solar energy system. The cost will depend on its size, complexity of installation work, and federal or local renewable energy rebates available.
One more thing you should keep in mind is that these energy systems largely depend on the weather. On overcast days generation efficiency drops, which may create energy shortages. So you may need to install battery energy storage.
Windpower: pros and cons of this market-leading green energy source
Wind power holds the top spot in the U.S. renewable energy generation with a share of 46%. That figure speaks for itself, however, wind energy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. So, let's look at the reasons for and against America's favorite renewable energy source.
The principal benefit of this renewable energy option lies in its high efficiency. Turbines convert roughly half of the captured wind into energy, which leaves solar panels with their 20% energy efficiency far behind. Uninterrupted operation is another plus point: turbines generate energy night and day providing a fairly steady supply. And if you overproduce, you can sell extra power to the local grid.
Wind energy is also believed to be the cleanest renewable technology in terms of carbon emissions, producing only 11 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour.
However, wind energy has its flaws, and high costs come to the fore. Not only is the turbine itself a more expensive renewable option than a solar panel but also its maintenance.
The other sticking point of this renewable energy type is location. Wind power installations require steady wind without strong gusts. Moreover, turbines can create excessive noise and need a lot of space. All these factors limit opportunities for using wind energy technologies in urban areas.
Hydro: reliable although highly site-specific renewable option
Hydropower is the world's largest renewable energy source. But even though the bulk of the total hydro energy volume is generated by large-scale projects, small installations create huge opportunities for rural homeowners to adopt renewable energy. In case your property has a stream with permanent and fairly abundant water flow, you can easily power your home using this renewable energy source.
The principal advantage of domestic hydro generation systems is that they offer a stable power source, no matter what time of day or weather conditions are. It makes them a good choice for off-grid homes with no access to the local electricity network. Other benefits of this renewable energy source are long service life and low maintenance as hydropower systems can function for up to 50 years.
For all their strong points, hydroelectric renewable energy systems have strict limitations in terms of location and are only suitable for rural and suburban areas with a water stream nearby.
As is the case with other residential renewable energy solutions, home-scale hydropower systems are associated with high initial costs. So it might make sense to launch a community-run hydro energy scheme and share energy among the community members.
Geothermal: versatile yet the least environmentally safe renewable energy
If electricity generation is not an issue but you still would like to heat your home with renewable energy, geothermal power might be a perfect solution.
But it has its pros and cons as well. As for pros, heat pumps driven by geothermal energy are the least location-specific and do not require large land space or particular weather conditions. Long-term cost savings is another advantage of this renewable solution: according to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal heating uses 25-50% less electricity than conventional heating systems, and hence drastically lower electricity bills.
But it's also important to look at the cons. In order to harness geothermal energy, a sophisticated and complex system has to be installed, which results in high initial investments. Besides, environmental concerns have to be taken into account as well: although geothermal energy is considered sustainable, the drilling can cause carbon emissions and even some minor earthquakes.
Сriteria to rely on when choosing a renewable energy solution
To sum it up, let’s highlight some key factors worth considering when switching to renewables. The first one is location, given that your renewable energy system’s efficiency will almost entirely depend on it.
The second factor is cost. All renewable energy options are likely to be quite a stretch for your budget. However, prices may vary depending on geography, size of your energy system, and energy service provider.
It is important to carefully calculate exactly how much power you might need. This will determine the scale of your domestic renewable energy project and hence its cost.
Another point is tax incentives and subsidies encouraging the adoption of renewable energy technologies. They may significantly reduce the cost of your renewable energy system and reduce the payback period of your renewable energy investment.