Cheap Renewable Energy
In addition to hydroelectric power, solar energy, and onshore wind power are also cheap sources of energy. But which is the best option? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Let's explore these options in more detail. Here are a few examples:
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are continuously replenished. These sources, such as sunlight, wind, and water, have a much lower environmental impact compared to fossil fuels. They don't produce greenhouse gases or release harmful pollutants, making them a cleaner, more sustainable choice.
The Economic Benefits of Cheap Renewable Energy
Cheap renewable energy offers a wide array of economic benefits that extend beyond just environmental considerations. These benefits have the potential to positively impact various sectors of the economy and promote long-term sustainable growth. Some of the key economic advantages of cheap renewable energy include:
The renewable energy sector is labor-intensive, from manufacturing and installation to operation and maintenance. As investments in renewable energy increase, so does the demand for skilled and semi-skilled workers, contributing to job creation and reducing unemployment rates in local communities.
Energy Cost Stability
Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power have minimal or no fuel costs, as they rely on naturally occurring resources. This reduces the vulnerability of energy consumers to fluctuations in fossil fuel prices, providing more predictable and stable energy costs for households and businesses.
Reduced Energy Import Dependence
Nations that invest in cheap renewable energy sources can decrease their reliance on imported fossil fuels. This improves energy security by reducing exposure to volatile global energy markets and geopolitical tensions related to energy supply.
Diversification of Energy Portfolio
A diverse energy mix that includes renewables enhances a country's energy resilience. In the event of supply disruptions or price shocks in one energy source, other sources can step in to meet energy demand.
Stimulated Economic Growth
Investments in renewable energy projects spur economic activity by creating demand for goods and services across the value chain. This includes manufacturing of renewable equipment, construction of infrastructure, and related research and development activities.
Private Sector Investment
As the cost of renewable energy technologies decreases, private sector interest and investment in these technologies grow. This fosters innovation and competition, leading to continuous technological advancements that benefit both the renewable energy sector and the broader economy.
The development of renewable energy projects often requires the establishment or improvement of infrastructure such as transmission lines, energy storage facilities, and smart grids. These investments can have positive spillover effects on other sectors and contribute to overall infrastructure development.
Types of Cheap Renewable Energy Sources
The cost of installing and operating onshore wind energy is considerably lower than that of offshore wind. The LCOE of onshore wind was just $80/MWh in 2015, with global installations expected to increase by 10% by 2019.
In addition, the costs of onshore wind energy are lower than offshore, which is more expensive to install and operate. However, offshore wind energy is proving to be an excellent backup resource for a variety of applications, including emergency power generation.
Onshore wind is a growing source of cheap renewable energy, accounting for about 7% of the world's electricity demand. In the last year alone, 93 gigawatts of new wind turbines were installed, with the total installed line expected to reach 743 GW by 2020. Offshore wind farms account for nearly half of this total, with the majority of them located in the UK, China, and Germany.
The London Array is one of the largest offshore wind farms, with a total capacity of 0.6 GW from 175 turbines. It cost EUR2.5 billion to build and now covers the private electricity needs of 1.7 million Britons.
Onshore wind is cheaper than offshore wind, according to Caroline Lucas. The cost of onshore wind energy is based on the production of electricity from the UK's wind resources, which is never depleted. As a result, it is far cheaper than other renewable energy sources.
However, a few major costs must be considered in determining the cost of onshore wind. The most recent study is by BVG Associates, a renewable energy consultancy, and includes a breakdown of cost per megawatt hour.
Despite its high initial cost, onshore wind is an excellent choice for those on a budget. Technology has been improving over the past 30 years.
The capacity of onshore wind energy applications has increased to more than 60 gigawatts globally. By 2022, global onshore wind capacity is expected to reach 750 GW. In addition, onshore wind is a proven, cheap, and environmentally friendly source of power.
Because wind power is cheap, many governments are turning to it. For example, wind power is cheap in Denmark, and the cost of onshore wind power is just 9 cents/kilowatt hour – far lower than fossil fuel-fired power generation.
This makes wind power one of the most cost-effective energy sources on the planet. So, what should we expect in the future? And what will it cost? This is a question worth asking.
In the United States, wind energy is the fastest-growing renewable source, accounting for over a fifth of electricity generation. In 2007, wind energy was only one percent of energy capacity, while coal contributed more than half.
By 2020, the combined output of wind, solar, and other renewables is expected to surpass coal, which accounts for only one-fifth of power generation. It is also estimated to be the most cost-effective energy source for generating electricity in the country.
The cost of renewable energy has dropped dramatically. The cost of large-scale solar projects dropped 85% in just a decade. By 2020, solar and wind power will cost less than energy from existing coal plants. And energy storage is key to the future of renewables.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, battery storage costs fell seventy percent from 2015 to 2018.
Solar energy can also be used to heat low-temperature water. In fact, domestic hot water units routinely use solar energy.
In Australia, solar energy is used for solar electricity production. It is also used in utility-scale solar power plants, mostly photovoltaic. These advantages make solar energy a viable investment for many households.
The cost of installing solar energy is low enough that many governments are incentivizing its adoption.
The cost of solar power is astronomically high compared to other renewable energy sources. However, if carbon emissions are priced, solar power will become economically viable. Some Californian plants have already made the switch from solar thermal to solar PV.
One of the biggest challenges is financing the project. A $6 billion project in Blythe, California will use parabolic trough technology. The plant will comprise four 250 MWe units, occupying a total of 28 square kilometers.
The project is partly financed by the US Dept. of Energy with a $2.1 billion loan guarantee and a 20-year power purchase agreement with SC Edison. However, this project was later replaced with a solar PV plant, due to the difficulties in obtaining financing.
Solar PV is a highly viable option for generating electricity for a large number of homes. It is becoming increasingly popular in developing countries, and there are many countries that have implemented grid-connected solar PV systems. In fact, more than 30 percent of all new generating capacity will be generated by solar PV in the next decade.
However, many challenges remain. The best way to overcome them is to develop innovative technologies. Fortunately, scientists are working hard on new advancements. Solar roof shingles and skylights are a few examples of what is possible in the future.
In Morocco, the Noor-Ouarzazate CSP plant is one of the largest projects in the world, with 510 MWe solar capacity. Its first phase was completed in early 2016, and the country has contracted for power from it at a cost of $0.19/kWh.
Its second phase is scheduled for completion in 2018 and will use parabolic trough collectors and oil and diphenyl oxide to produce steam for the turbine. The plant is based on the Gemasolar plant, which has a 20MW capacity.
The cost of large-scale solar and wind power has dropped 85% in the last decade, and onshore wind has fallen by almost half that amount.
With a declining cost, more renewables are gaining market share and lowering system costs. By 2020, renewable energy could cost as much or less than coal plants. With the right investment, a huge proportion of households can switch over to renewable energy. The economic benefits are immense.
If you want to create clean, inexpensive electricity, hydroelectric power might be a good choice. Most hydropower facilities are located in streams or lakes.
They use large dams to block the flow of water and create a pool of water above them. This pool is then filled with water and given a path downhill through one or more pipes. When water enters the turbine, it spins it, generating electricity.
The installed costs of hydropower projects vary. Some require significant up-front investments and support from federal incentives, while others need more favorable tax and regulatory environments. Conventional hydro systems fall toward the lower end of the cost spectrum, while those on greenfield and upgrade sites tend to be more expensive.
Low-impact hydro systems, which require fewer infrastructure upgrades, are not expected to decline much in the near future. Hydropower also is an attractive option for domestic use.
The biggest concern with hydropower is that the water produced by dams contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, known as GHGs. Hydrocarbons are created by decomposing organic matter and result in CO2 and CH4.
Early studies claimed that hydro plants in Brazil emitted up to three times more GHG than coal-fired plants. Further, extrapolation from the hydro data has led to the conclusion that hydro alone accounts for four percent of global GHG emissions.
Although hydropower costs have gone up significantly in recent years, the cost of the projects remains low compared to other renewable energy sources. According to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydropower projects cost $0.047 per kWh in 2019.
By comparison, solar PV and offshore wind cost about one cent per kWh. Hydropower is the cheapest renewable energy option by far, but it is not without its drawbacks.
The Future of Renewable Energy
The future of renewable energy holds promising advancements that will reshape the global energy landscape, drive sustainability, and address the challenges posed by climate change. Here are some key trends and possibilities that could shape the future of renewable energy:
Continued research and development in renewable energy technologies will lead to more efficient, affordable, and scalable solutions. Breakthroughs in materials science, energy storage, and grid integration will enhance the performance and reliability of renewable sources, making them more viable alternatives to fossil fuels.
Energy Storage Revolution
Advances in energy storage technologies, such as high-capacity batteries, flow batteries, and innovative storage mediums, will address the intermittency of solar and wind power. This will enable the seamless integration of renewables into the grid, providing reliable and continuous energy supply.
Decentralization and Microgrids
The rise of decentralized energy systems and microgrids will empower local communities and businesses to generate, store, and distribute their own renewable energy. This approach enhances energy resilience, reduces transmission losses, and fosters energy independence.
Combining multiple renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, in hybrid systems can provide a consistent and reliable energy supply. These integrated systems optimize energy production by leveraging the strengths of each source.
Offshore Wind and Deepwater Solar
Offshore wind farms and floating solar arrays in deep ocean waters offer vast untapped potential for renewable energy generation. These technologies can take advantage of stronger and more consistent winds and sunlight, unlocking new areas for sustainable power production.
Electrification of Sectors
The electrification of sectors like transportation, heating, and industry will increase the demand for renewable electricity. Electric vehicles, heat pumps, and electric industrial processes will drive the need for expanded renewable energy capacity.
As I delve into the realm of renewable energy, I can't help but feel a surge of excitement and hope. The prospects ahead are not only intriguing but also crucial for our planet's health and the legacy we leave behind. The economic advantages of embracing affordable renewable energy are crystal clear—opening doors to sustainable growth, job opportunities, and a break from the unpredictable energy markets.
Considering the options like onshore wind, solar power, and hydroelectricity, it's fascinating to see each source's unique strengths and challenges. Onshore wind's rapid growth and dropping costs make it a strong contender, while solar's remarkable innovations and decreasing expenses brighten the path ahead. Hydroelectricity, as a mature and cost-effective option, harnesses the might of flowing water to generate power.