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9 Myths About Renewable Energy, Busted!

This article presents evidence and facts that demystify some of the most popular myths about renewable energy relative to its economic viability, sustainability, and technological reliability.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.

-John F. Kennedy

Don’t let yourself be spooked by Renewable Energy Myths. It is the most promising source of energy as it is virtually inexhaustible, readily available, and pollution free in nature. Read on as we address some of the renewable energy myths and correct some of the misinformation regarding this important alternative energy source.

Myth #1: Renewable energy is unreliable. These are useless on cloudy, rainy or snowy days as the sun isn’t always shining and it’s not always windy.

Well, this is the much Talked about Myths about Renewable Energy

Fact: Even on cloudy days, sunlight is capable of reaching solar array and providing a substantial amount of electricity for the day.

Here’s the interesting part

Ultraviolet light reaches the Earth’s surface in abundance on cloudy days. Some solar cells can capture UV rays, such as solar PV (photovoltaic) panels which convert light energy directly into electricity using a photovoltaic effect.

And if it rains – have no fear! Sunlight still reaches the panels, and in addition, the array gets a free cleaning, which can actually increase its production.

Regarding wind power, the smart thing to do is to diversify investments in a variety of renewable energy resources. Wind, combined with other renewables and a smart-grid, will be more reliable and emit zero carbon. This will stabilize energy prices and increase energy security all the while mitigating climate change.

Fossil fuels are just as unreliable: in 2008, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike inflicted significant damage to the nation’s oil and natural gas infrastructure, affecting production.

Myth #2: Renewable energy costs too much

Among the many myths about our energy supplies, one of the most insidious is the high price of renewables.

This argument is short-sighted, superficial and highly misleading because it ignores the fundamentally different economic prospects of conventional energies on the one hand and renewables on the other.

Fact: According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the average cost of electricity generated by solar and wind energy could fall by up to 59 percent by 2025 if the right policies are in place.

It is obvious that conventional energies will become more and more expensive over time, whereas the costs for renewables steadily decrease. Rising fuel costs from depleting resources (oil, natural gas, coal, uranium) inevitably result in increased costs for the conventional energy supply. Extraction costs will rise because the remaining resources become harder and harder to extract, necessitating complex technical efforts. What is more, due to the depletion of conventional energy resources, the fuel supply is coming from fewer and fewer sources in an ever-decreasing number of countries, which increases the monopolization of resources. Suppliers of conventional fuels gain more and more opportunities to raise prices. The inevitable price rises apply to oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium.

Myth #3: Renewables can’t provide electricity 24/7

Fact: Undeniably, a wind farm or solar panel does not provide electricity 24/7. However, the energy storage technologies, like batteries, solar thermal and pumped hydro, can be used to build greater reliability and flexibility into the electricity grid. They can store wind and solar power to provide electricity 24/7.

Not only that, 24/7 electricity can be achieved by having a mix of sources: solar and wind power, natural gas, and anaerobic digestion plants.

Myth #4: For hydropower generation, a large water reservoir is required

This is a big one – and the least credible.

Fact: Most small-scale hydropower systems, as well as Mini Hydro Systems or Micro Hydro Systems, require very little or no reservoir in order to power the turbines.

These systems are commonly known as ‘run-of-river’, meaning the water will run straight through the generator and back into the stream. This has a minimal environmental impact on the local ecosystem.

Myth #5: Renewable energy gets subsidies whereas fossil fuels and nuclear energy don’t.

Fact: Fossil fuels and nuclear energy have gotten subsidies for decades. Actually, fossil fuels have received government subsidies for 100 or so years. Renewable energy also receives subsidies, but not to the same degree.

Myth #6: Wind turbines kill Birds?

Fact: A widespread argument against wind farms is their probability to kill bats and birds. Tragically wind turbines do kill some birds. But they're responsible for only 0.01% of bird deaths caused by humans.

Myth #7: Wind turbines make noise

Fact: Yes they do make some noise but it’s negligible. For the closest households to wind farms, the background noise level is equivalent to a fridge's hum. Moreover, modern turbines are designed to minimalize noise, and most countries have regulations about where turbines can be placed.

Myth #8: Renewables Require Too Much Land to Produce Electricity

Fact: Critics of renewable energy often argue that renewables are more land intensive than conventional energy-generation technologies. This may be true when looking statically at the land occupation and the development of some renewables, particularly biomass and hydro. Nonetheless, when assessing dynamically the entire lifecycle land requirements of energy conversion technologies, this is not the case, especially for modern renewables.

As a matter of fact, in regions such as Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa or Turkey, a power sector hypothetically run by 100% PV alone could fully satisfy projected electricity demands using less than one percent of the region’s total land. (Source: Denruyter and Mulder, Solar PV Atlas: Solar Power in Harmony with Nature.)

Myth #9: Wind farms are inefficient

An orchard only produces apples for a short period in the year but is, nevertheless, immensely valuable.

Fact: A modern 2.5MW (commercial scale) turbine, on a reasonable site, will generate 6.5 million units of electricity each year – enough to make 230 million cups of tea. As the fuel source, the wind is limitless and free and does not emit pollutants or greenhouse gases, the traditional concept of “efficiency‟ is far less relevant. Efficiency is important if the fuel is expensive. Coal and gas power stations are about 36% and 55% efficient respectively.

If you’re interested in learning more about renewable energy, don’t be fooled by these common misconceptions. Research the pros and cons of renewable energy before coming to any conclusion.

Renewable energy is a clear winner when it comes to boosting the economy and creating jobs.

-Tom Steyer

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