Renewable energy isn’t going to solve our climate change problems – but the evidence now exists that it is viable, reliable, and ready to go.
So if you have done everything you can to achieve energy optimization in your business, it may be time to seriously consider renewable energy to meet your energy needs.
But there are still some myths out there, which we want to dispel.
Myth 1: Renewable Energy Is Worthless Without Government Incentives
There was a grain of truth in this at one time. But no more.
Wind and solar energy have plummeted down the cost curve, and continue to fall.
According to financial advisory firm Lazard, on a levelized cost basis unsubsidized wind power is the cheapest source of electricity generation in the US at just $0.03 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). That is followed by the newest natural gas-fired power plants at $0.04 per kWh. But hot on its heels is unsubsidized utility-scale solar power at $0.043 per kWh.
This data goes a long way to explaining why major utility companies now have ambitious plans to retire coal-fired capacity and transition to wind, solar, and natural gas.
While government incentives still exist, and they certainly play a part, the true value is not the monetary amount, but in creating awareness and changing mindsets.
These incentives ensure that pilot projects with new technologies are completed, providing proof of concept and therefore encouraging others to implement projects.
And as the cost of renewable technology comes down, government incentives can be reduced and phased out.
Myth 2. Renewable Energy Won’t Make Sense For My Business
There is no business where renewable energy does not make sense, although it makes more sense for some rather than others.
For example, if you are a low energy building such as a pick and pack warehouse, it is more than achievable to have the vast majority of your energy coming from microgeneration on site such solar PV on your roof. This applies even in less sunny climates as solar PV needs only daylight, not sunlight.
And even if you are a high energy consumer, renewable energy will meet some of your energy needs and drive down consumption from fossil fuels.
Myth 3: Renewables can’t provide electricity 24/7
Nobody is claiming that the sun shines at night, but different types of renewable energy sources working together can ensure continuity of supply.
For example, technologies such as biomass and hydropower, combined with battery storage, can work together to help meet energy demand when wind and solar are generating less.
As the sun goes down, wind production generally increases – and as the winds drop in one region they pick up in another. During peak times, biogas and natural gas can add to the energy supply, and can also be used to meet sudden peaks in electricity demand.
It’s clear that no single technology will deliver all energy needs – yet – so a balanced mix of technologies is needed.
And if you doubt this is possible, have a read of this statement from experts at Stanford University to the US House of Representatives.
They have developed roadmaps to transition the energy infrastructures of “139 countries and the 50 United States to 100% clean, renewable infrastructures running on existing-technology wind, water, and solar (WWS) power for all purposes by 2050, with 80% conversion by 2030”.
That’s some of the world’s biggest energy consumers, and a way has been developed a way to reduce consumption.
So what do these experts see as the biggest barrier?
“The main barriers to a conversion are neither technical nor economic; rather, they are social and political.”
Myth 4: Renewable Energy can be bad for animals and the environment
The best ideas and intentions can be bad if they are coupled with bad planning and execution.
And unfortunately this did happen somewhat with early windfarms which were poorly designed and not well placed.
However, strict environmental impact assessments are now part of the planning process. If migratory patterns are assessed and taken into account before construction, this impact is greatly reduced.
Myth 5: We’re wasting land putting solar farms in fields
Why start with fields when there are thousands of hectares of rooftop to look at first?
But solar farms can also help meet energy needs and depending on their location and the typical local land use, they should often be given serious consideration.
Barren desert areas are ideal for solar farms, not least because they typically receive lots of sun, but even farmland can be suitable. Often these fields serve dual purposes – providing a grazing area for sheep or goats as well as generating renewable energy.
And poor land which serves no agricultural purpose can become an energy generator if converted to a solar farm.
Myth 6: Climate Change isn’t real
Some people may choose to ignore data and evidence and they’re not even worth arguing with. Experts in the field, including NASA, have agreed that climate change is very real and that this change is down to human behaviour.
And if you doubt it, you only have to look at worldwide weather patterns for the past year – abnormally cold and wet winters, increased storms, and record highs in the summer. Something is happening to our weather patterns globally, and we are causing it.
Energy optimization is the first step and we have a collective responsibility to reduce our energy consumption. When you have reduced consumption as much as you can under your roof, it then makes sense to look at renewables to further reduce your impact on the environment.
The science of climate change is clear. It’s how the world reacts that remains uncertain.