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Clean Energy: Are renewable sources of energy really environment friendly?

Sandeep Sharma

Clean Energy: While solar, wind, and hydropower are considered “green” energy sources, they still have their own set of environmental concerns. The installation of large solar farms can impact vegetation growth and potentially contribute to desertification, so it is important to choose their location wisely. Wind turbines can interfere with bird and bat migrations, which are crucial for pollination and food production, which has the potential to be a critical situation for our rapidly growing population.

Hydropower can alter river flows and disrupt ecosystems, and large reservoirs can affect the earth’s rotation. Thus, choosing an environmentally-friendly location is key to minimizing its impact. Nevertheless, studies have shown that the overall impact of renewable energy on the environment is still significantly less compared to traditional fossil fuels.

Question of efficiency in Clean Energy

While hydropower is efficient in terms of land usage, its availability is limited by specific geographical conditions. Sources such as solar and wind have the challenge of low energy output per unit of land used. It is estimated that approximately 5 to 10 times more land is required to generate the same amount of energy as a conventional power plant.

Although renewables present some challenges, they are still viable solutions. However, relying solely on renewables may not be enough to meet our growing energy demands, especially as we increasingly electrify transportation. To ensure a secure and sustainable energy future, it is crucial to explore not only renewable sources but also other reliable and efficient energy solutions.

Energy-packed power source

Nuclear power, fueled by highly energy-dense uranium, offers a lower land usage requirement compared to traditional fossil fuels. With natural uranium being 11,000 to 16,000 times more energy dense than coal, much less fuel is required to produce the same amount of energy. Although uranium mining has environmental impacts similar to coal mining, the quantity required is significantly less. Additionally, nuclear power generation does not produce greenhouse gas emissions and is a reliable source.

The reliability factor

While it’s commendable to aim for a future powered solely by renewables, the limitations and intermittency of renewable sources such as Solar and Wind cannot be disregarded. In these situations, other additional sources such as Coal and Nuclear may appear to be feasible options. However, the detrimental environmental impact of Coal underscores the significance of considering nuclear power as a more viable alternative.

The cost factor in Clean Energy

Coal may seem like a cost-effective solution due to its abundance, but the negative impact it has on the environment makes it an unsustainable option. On the other hand, while renewable energy sources may have higher upfront costs, they have low to no operational expenses, making them more cost-effective in the long term. Nuclear energy may also require higher initial costs for radiation safety measures and proper waste management, but its low fuel requirements help to balance the costs.

Clean Energy and the people factor

Coal is the most affordable energy source to implement, but its popularity has declined due to increased awareness of its unsustainability. On the other hand, renewables are often supported by government policies and incentives, making them a more appealing choice. However, public perception of nuclear energy has limited its support from policymakers in the past. But globally, there is now a slow shift in mindset regarding the benefits of nuclear power, and it is important to take advantage of this and educate the public and promote its future use.

The author is based in Canada and is an authorized Nuclear Operator and owns a sustainable energy firm. 

(Views expressed above, solely belong to the author)

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