Renewable and nonrenewable energy are topics that we hear about on a daily basis in the news, but the terminology is still relatively new to many of us. What exactly are they? What are the benefits and drawbacks of renewable versus nonrenewable energy sources?
What are renewable and nonrenewable energy sources?
A renewable energy source is one that we can access indefinitely; it constantly replenishes itself without human intervention. Renewable energy sources are derived from natural elements such as wind, water, sunlight, and plant matter. There will always be wind, sun, and water, regardless of how much of each resource we use to generate energy.
Nonrenewable energy sources, on the other hand, are limited in quantity. Most of the time, this refers to fossil fuels like natural gas, oil, and coal. While these resources do come from organic matter, they take hundreds of thousands of years to form and require a high-pressure environment to become the oil, coal, and gas we use for fuel. They are lost forever once they are burned.
The Significant Differences Between Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources
The following points are significant in terms of the distinction between renewable and non-renewable resources:
- Renewable resources are those that can be replenished through natural processes over time. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, are natural resources that will not be replenished in the near future.
- Renewable energy can be more expensive than nonrenewable sources in terms of upfront costs. Why? Generating energy using renewable technology, which is still in its early stages, is more expensive due to manufacturing and installation costs. However, when all of the savings that renewable technologies provide over their lifetime are considered, they outperform nonrenewable resources by a wide margin.
- Renewable resources do not go extinct easily, so they are naturally sustainable. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, deplete over time, i.e. they are exhaustible in nature and can be depleted when subjected to large-scale consumption.
- Renewable resources abound in nature in infinite quantities, whereas nonrenewable resources are scarce.
- When compared to non-renewable resources, renewable resources emit less carbon. As a result, they are pollution-free and environmentally friendly. Because renewable resources are abundant, they are less expensive than nonrenewable resources, which are more expensive. Renewable resources, however, have a higher maintenance cost than non-renewable resources.
- Renewable resources regenerate/reproduce themselves faster than they are depleted by living organisms. Non-renewable resources, on the other hand, either take centuries to regenerate or become extinct, so the scale at which they are regenerated is smaller than that of their consumption.
As you can see, while renewable energy has a high initial installation cost, the savings and sustainability it provides are in a league of their own when compared to non-renewable sources.
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