When it comes to the big discussion about energy, it always seems to come back to the question of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. At this point in time, it is almost common knowledge that our planet’s over-reliance on fossil fuels has become both destructive to the environment and expensive.
But, compared to fossil fuels, is solar energy actually a superior option? Let’s examine some of the similarities and differences between solar energy and fossil fuels in today’s post in the hopes of gaining a deeper comprehension of the benefits and drawbacks associated with each.
What exactly is fossil fuel?
The fossilization of plants and animals that occurred deep under the earth’s crust results in the formation of non-renewable resources known as fossil fuels. These flora and creatures existed millions of years ago when the earth was much younger. These fossils eventually turned into fuel as further layers of soil were deposited on top of them.
In most cases, drilling or mining are the two methods that are utilized in the process of extracting fossil fuels from the earth. Oil, natural gas, and coal are all examples of energy sources that are derived from fossil fuels. Since the time that fossil fuels were first discovered, human society has relied on them as one of its primary sources of energy.
What is solar energy?
As you may already be aware, energy that comes from the sun is referred to as solar energy. Solar radiation continuously travels toward our planet from the source, which is the sun. This radiation manifests itself to us as light that may be seen. In addition, there is no reason to suppose that the sun will ever stop shining, therefore it is regarded as a resource that can be continually replenished.
We can essentially transform the light from the sun into energy that we can use by utilizing equipment such as solar panels. When sunlight is absorbed by the cells that make up a solar panel, the panel then transforms that sunlight into direct current energy (DC). From that point on,
“A total of 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) of solar energy impacts the Earth continually,” as stated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That is more than 10,000 times the total amount of energy used in the globe today. This type of energy is also entirely renewable, at least for as long as the sun will be in existence.
Solar Energy vs. Fossil Fuels: Some Quick Pros and Cons
Solar electricity vs. fossil fuels: how do they compare?
Over the course of many years, fossil fuels have enjoyed widespread support and recognition as the energy supply option with the lowest overall cost.
Having said that, it’s possible that this is no longer the case. As a result of the significant price reductions experienced by renewable energy sources over the course of the past several years, solar (and wind) energy are rapidly becoming viable alternatives to fossil fuels.
According to an article that was published in October 2021 by Consumer Affairs, “Going solar is a money-saver in the long term, even though initial expenses are greater for the consumer.” This statement was made in reference to homeowners and other consumers. The price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by fossil fuels ranges between 5 and 17 cents. The price of solar energy is decreasing overall and currently ranges from 3 cents to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour on average.
The fact that the cost of solar energy is continuing its downward trend in addition to the fact that it already has a lower cost in comparison to the cost of fossil fuels is one of the brightest (pun absolutely intended) parts of this research.
According to a report by Bloomberg Green, on a global scale, “it is now cheaper to build and operate new large-scale wind or solar plants than it would be to run an existing coal or gas-fired power plant in nearly half of the world.” This statement refers to the cost of running an existing coal or gas-fired power plant.
Can solar power replace fossil fuels?
- Greenhouse gasses
Carbon dioxide is produced when energy sources such as fossil fuels are used (or CO2). One of the gasses that contribute to global warming is carbon dioxide. When greenhouse gasses are released into the air, they become entombed in the atmosphere of our planet.
Despite the fact that greenhouse gasses allow some sunlight to pass through, they also prevent sunlight from leaving our atmosphere. If that heat is unable to escape our planet, it will cause the globe to become warmer, which will lead to changes in the climate.
The Environmental Protection Agency of the United States states that “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major greenhouse gas released by human activities.” In 2019, carbon dioxide was responsible for approximately 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States that were caused by human activity.
How can solar energy help?
Solar energy does not require the burning of fossil fuels in order to produce electricity; therefore, it does not contribute to the emission of greenhouse gasses into our environment.
It’s possible that you’ve become familiar with the phrase “cutting CO2 emissions” through exposure to recent events or through casual discussion. The decrease of these emissions is at the forefront of our minds whenever we discuss the advantages of using solar electricity.
According to the findings of a research conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “a 35% penetration of solar and wind power would lower fuel expenditures by 40% and carbon emissions by 25%–45%,” which is roughly equivalent to taking 22–36 million cars off the road.
In addition, as was discussed before, solar energy is a resource that can be replenished over time. The energy that we need can be found in the sun in virtually infinite quantities. Solar industry professionals and engineers are developing methods that are both more effective and more cost-effective to harness the power of the sun.
Why aren’t people going solar?
There are both complex and straightforward solutions to this problem.
When it comes to installing a residential solar power system, there is still an important amount of initial investment required. When it comes to the price of obtaining energy, fossil fuels continue to have the advantage, despite the fact that they are less expensive over the long term (for now).
Installing solar panels, on the other hand, is currently much simpler and more accessible than it was in previous decades because of the availability of a number of financial incentives, tax credits, and financing choices.
In addition, as a global civilization, we have grown accustomed to depending on fossil fuels on a daily basis. For countless centuries, the dominant source of energy has been fossil fuels, which have powered and even controlled economies all across the world.
To achieve our goal of shifting to means of obtaining energy that are more diverse, balanced, and sustainable, everyone of us will need to maintain an open mind to new advances and technology. We can only hope that the falling prices and increasing efficiency of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, will persuade all of us to make the switch to a future that is more environmentally friendly and prosperous.