Riddle me this: what can the citizens of planet Earth use for their energy needs, without worrying that we will run out? Here’s a clue – the answer is NOT coal, petroleum and natural gas.
These can be exhausted, not to be replenished in quite a few lifetimes as they take a long time to form.
The lives lived in these times might get a tad uncomfortable, unless something changes soon.
What is the answer?
The sun keeps shining and the wind keeps blowing. These are natural resources that keep replenishing. Renewable energy is the answer to our riddle, and refers to energy harnessed from these sources.
Making use of renewable energy in your household might seem daunting – it is after all a change, and change is a challenge.
While the words ‘renewable energy’ sound all, well, new, mankind have been making use of it for a long time already, and it comes with clear benefits.
Renewable energy: what’s in it for me?
Is renewable energy worth your time and effort? Apart from not being able to dry up, these are the benefits:
- You have a consistent, reliable source of energy. The supply of fossil fuels can be disrupted by wars, strikes, trade disputes and political instabilities. When the source of the fossil fuel runs dry, nothing further can be done. With renewable energy the above factors don’t present a problem. Once a renewable energy station is in place, access to constant energy sources is a given.
- Renewable energy requires little to no maintenance. This counts for both large scale renewable energy facilities and the solar panels on your roof.
- The Earth is better off when its inhabitants make use of renewable energy.
This is quite an improvement on fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases when burned.
Greenhouse gases are the main culprits behind global warming and climate change.
The gases absorb heat from the sun, and keep this heat trapped close to the Earth instead of releasing it into space. This is known as the greenhouse effect.
Last year, National Geographic reported that the level of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere was at the highest ever recorded. If ever there was a time to consider alternative energy solutions, this is it.
- Using renewable energy at home will in the long term save you a lot of money. Yes, there might be an initial investment to get your chosen technology in place. After that, you will not need to pay for refuelling and you will be free of electricity usage to power your system. Everything happens naturally with energy from nature. Similarly, larger renewable energy operations require considerable capital to develop, but this gets balanced out with a much lower running cost.
- You will not have to deal with phone calls from grumpy neighbours, as renewable energy sources are noise-free.
- Renewable energy could just increase your lifespan. The burning of fossil fuel releases dangerous nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.
We have gotten used to this in our daily lives – it is the smog we breathe in everyday.
The nasty, grey air we inhale comes from cars, trucks, ships and airplanes, coal-fired power plants and large industrial operations. That is, the burning of fossil fuels.
A recent study showed that pollution from the burning of fossil fuels was to blame for around 4.5 million deaths in 2018. Of these deaths 400 000 were children under the age of five.
A 2018 study by the University of Texas found that the effects of air pollution reduces people’s lifespan by over one year globally.
A more recent study, published in March 2020, found this number to be even higher – an average of three years.
“Globally, the loss of life expectation from air pollution surpasses that of HIV/Aids, parasitic, vector-borne, and other infectious diseases by a large margin,” the study grimly concludes.
With renewable energy we will see lesser instability in energy prices. Inflation is the result of the decrease or increase in the supply of fossil fuels.
Renewable energy eliminates this, as there is no reason for the cost of a natural resource to fluctuate.
So, what’s the catch?
Renewable energy might sound too good to be true, and it does come with a few disadvantages. These are not too drastic and can be solved with good planning:
The supply of energy from renewable sources is extremely dependent on favourable weather conditions. Wind turbines, for example, cannot function without wind.
The solar panels on your roof will make no difference at all in the absence of sunny weather.
The effect of this is even more pronounced in areas where we have seasonal weather patterns. A whole winter without sun, for example, would be detrimental to the generation of solar power.
With renewable heating, less isn’t more. We need more of the energy source to produce the same amount of energy as we would with fossil fuels.
For example, an electrical heat pump for your swimming pool will give you a warmer average pool temperature in a shorter time than the solar panels on your roof.
A possible solution for both the above-mentioned points is to rethink the way we use energy. The time has come to step away from a culture of consumption, and find ways to use less.
For household use you can purchase solar storage batteries which store power generated by the sun. This is a solution for cloudy days.
Another drawback of renewable energy is that the technology required to harness this type of energy is expensive to put in place. It does in time pay for itself though, with all the costs that are saved in the long run.
How to convert to a green life
Solar power is one of the most well-known ways of using renewable energy. Various products based on your personal needs and lifestyle are available to get you started.
You can opt for powering your whole household with solar power, or you can choose to use it only for certain things, such as warming your swimming pool or geyser.
Alternatively you can invest in a solar fridge or even a solar battery charger.
Other ways to bring renewable energy into your home include utilising wind power – if you don’t mind the appearance of a few wind turbines outside.
You can even generate power with water, if you have a source of flowing water on your property.
This works similar to wind power. You will have the water flowing through a turbine to power your home.
The bottom line
If renewable energy is not yet part of your household, do not let the newness of it put you off.
It is easy on the pocket (long term), easy on the planet, and gets on with the job without needing much of your valuable time.
In a country where we tend to have more sun than electricity, there is no doubt that renewable energy is the way of the future.