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Investment into Alternative Energy Will Have a Positive Impact on Global Environmental Issues.’ to What Extent Do You Agree?

Essay by   •  December 16, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  1,626 Words (7 Pages)  •  401 Views

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Investment into alternative energy will have a positive impact on global environmental issues.’ To what extent do you agree?

Since the first solar power system was developed in France in 1860 by Augustin Mouchot (Perlin,1999), who was greatly concerned with a possibility of coal, which had been burnt for up to 4000 years, running out, modern science has made a gigantic step in developing alternative energy technologies. As the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere started causing climate change, the renewable energy sources have become the most obvious solution to the problem caused by burning fossil fuels. “Renewable energy is energy obtained from naturally repetitive and persistent flows of energy occurring in the local environment”; this general definition of renewable energy in the book Renewable Energy Resources by John Twidell and Tony Weir (2015) is derived from the idea that sunshine, oceans, rivers and wind are inexhaustible elements that support life on planet Earth and will be around for the next billon years. According to Twidell (2015), solar radiation, wind power, biomass, geothermal heat and hydropower comprise a global energy resource whose “scale of practical application ranges from tens to many millions of watts”. The fact that more than half of all added power generation capacity in 2015 came from renewables, and investments into green energy reached nearly $286 billion, according to Ban Ki-Moon (2016), is a clear evidence that our world has entered a new era of a low-carbon future. Through a critical analysis, this essay aims to prove that being environmentally friendly, inexhaustible and sustainable,renewable energy resources can help solve major environmental problems of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, slowing down global climate change and freeing the Earth from nuclear waste; therefore, investment into alternative energy will have a positive impact on global environmental issues.

One of the major beneficial factors of alternative energy is that it is environment friendly in that it provides the most secure electricity. In his article “Cost of Solar” (2014), globally recognized energy expert Zachary Shahan refers to the US military research which came to a conclusion that solar energy safety is much higher than of any other large power plants,which in cases of accidents may cause irreversible environmental damage such as Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear reactor accidents. Additional benefits of the solar energy according to Twidell ( 100) is that technology generating solar energy such as solar panels for water heating is “extremely benign andacceptable technology.”This means that there are no dangerous or harmful emissions or techniques involved in manufacturing, installation and operation of the technology involved. Furthermore, it can be partially efficient even in the areas where sunshine hours are limited. Twidell (100) emphasizes that even when solar panels are used just for water preheating up to 30-60 degrees as in colder climates, it “gives the benefits of improved sustainability and fewer greenhouse gas emissions”. Finally, an enormous environmental benefit of solar energy technology such as solar panels is that it does not use up valuable land but can be installed on almost useless rooftops. As clearly seen from the above evidence, solar energy technologies are environment friendly, safe in operation and produce no pollution.

Another advantage of alternative energy such as solar, wind and hydro power is that it is sustainable due to the fact that it is unlimited and renewable. With the recent world’s population growth, industrialization and increasing energy demand in previously undeveloped countries, the demand for electricity is soaring. Researchers at Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate &Sustainable Energy Finance state that “power sector emissions will grow more than 10% between now and 2040”. Contrary, the renewable energy generation does not produce harmful substances that accumulate in atmosphere and hydrosphere. Renewable energy sources do not pollute environment with CO2 and other poisonous greenhouse gases. Moreover, Twidell (2015) emphasizes “since RE supplies are obtained from ongoing flows of energy in the natural environment, all renewable sources should be sustainable.” This also implies that since the sun, the wind and water are always present in our environment, renewable energy sources are by far more reliable than fossil and nuclear fuels.

Furthermore, solar and wind energy sources are extremely water efficient. While coal, nuclear and gas powerplants use an enormous amount of water, solar power and wind farms “hardly use any water at all”- shows a study from the Virginia Water Resources Research Centre who discovered that “solar PV uses about 21 times less water than nuclear power (per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced), about 16 times less water than nuclear power, and about 8 times less water than a combined cycle power plant”. The fact that water consumption for renewable energy is minimal creates additional obvious benefit for the environment; it does not create water pollution unlike coal and nuclear mining which pollute water with extremely poisonous chemicals. Finally, water-friendly aspect of renewable energy resources helps address another current environmental issue – access to clean water.

On the other hand, some people argue that renewable sources of energy have their shortcomings just like all other conventional types of energy. For example, they point out that wind power facilities occupy large territories of fertile land that could be used for farming. Yet, the study of National Renewable Energy laboratory (2012) suggests that the land occupied by wind turbines can be used for many productive purposes such as livestock grazing, agriculture, highways and hiking trails. Moreover, the opponents of wind turbines express their concern with the disruption of wildlife and habitats by the noise created by the movement of turbine blades as well as bird and bat deaths caused by rotating blades. Contrary to this belief, National Wind Coordinating Committee (2010) concluded that such impacts are relatively insignificant and do not pose threat to species. Finally more research into animal life habits and better planning of the locations of the wind farms (abandoned or underused industrial land) can significantly reduce the damages to environment and concerns about the land use according to NREL (2010).

One of the most common opposing viewpoints is that nuclear energy can solve many environmental issues. Before the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident, nuclear energy was viewed as “the promise of an almost infinite, free source of energy for humanity”, states Sorkhabi (2011). In addition, the opponents of alternative energy claim that

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