For some reason, people have always been leery of new technology. Something new and novel will come along, and soon rumors and fear begin to swirl and spread like wildfire. Take our phones, for example. By now, everyone carries around a smartphone, yet both the original telephone and the wireless technology that accompanied it were feared for their effects on health and wellbeing. However, despite fears surrounding mobile devices, everyone uses them — even craves them! We all know that person who camped outside Apple for the latest iPhone.
The renewable energy revolution is the same. While no one’s camping outside solar projects to open, renewable energy has had its fair share of myths and rumors surrounding its benefits — just like any other new technology would. But as history reveals, many of these myths have no merit, and people go ahead with it anyway — especially when benefits outweigh possible drawbacks.
Once we push renewable energy myths aside, we can enjoy the benefits of it — just like we do every day with our phones!
Myth #1: Renewable Energy Isn’t Actually Good for the Environment
Renewable energy — including the likes of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass — has proven environmental benefits, but skeptics still try to test its validity. The argument is if we’re going to put stock into an alternative energy source, we want to make sure it’s worth our while.
Myth: Wind power contributes to global warming.
A 2011 study by Max Planck Research Group suggested warming effects from wind energy outweighed its clean energy benefits.¹
Fact: The heat generation of wind power has no significant impact as long as the turbines are spaced out.2
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute concluded that:
“If wind turbines generate 5.75 terawatts, such power ultimately returns to the air as heat following electricity use. This heat does not depend on the electricity source, thus it is also released when coal, nuclear, and natural gas produce electricity. Such generators, though, produce additional heat due to combustion or nuclear reaction, and [fossil fuels] emit global warming pollutants. As such, wind turbines reduce direct heat and pollutant emissions compared with conventional generators.”
Myth: Solar panels are wasteful.
Critics claim that solar panels need more energy to manufacture than they will ultimately produce, and that they aren’t recyclable.
Fact: Solar panels have a decades-long lifespan that makes up for the energy needed to make them, and they are recyclable.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (part of the Department of Energy) finds that the energy payback with solar systems is years beyond what energy was spent to produce it (1-4 energy consumption years for solar panels built to produce pollution-free energy for up to 30 years).3
As for recycling, while some material waste of solar panels can be harmful to the environment (for example, heavy metals like cadmium), most of a panel’s mass can be recycled. The International Renewable Agency found that 85% of the panel produces recyclable materials such as glass, aluminum, and copper.4
For more information, visit our blog on “How Environmentally Friendly is Solar Power?” In short: It’s very eco-friendly.
Myth #2: Renewables Are Insignificant Compared to Fossil Fuels
This question surprisingly comes up a lot: Why even bother with renewable energy when fossil fuel production still holds the majority of electricity generation in the U.S.?5
While the fossil fuel industry and renewable energy innovation may be rivals, our country needs both at the present time, and we benefit with the right balance of each. So, even though it isn’t yet feasible nor cost-effective for our energy supply to become sourced from 100% renewable energy, there are still benefits to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. International conflict and global warming are two areas where we stand to gain by reducing our dependence on traditional sources of electricity.
Myth #3: Renewable Energy is More Expensive
While renewable energy can have a costly startup, its output has dropped in price since 2009.6
The Levelized Cost of Energy among power plants has become increasingly competitive between non-renewable (including nuclear power) and renewable power sources.
Solar: 7-11 cents per 1,000 kWh7
Wind: 2 cents per 1,000 kWh8
One criticism against solar energy is that it would not be affordable without government subsidies, but many industries, including the fossil fuels and petroleum industries, also receive subsidies. Another concern is the startup costs of installing solar panels on your roof. With Chariot, you get the benefit of solar-sourced energy without having to install a single solar panel.
Myth #4: Renewable Energy isn’t Reliable
And now we come to the “what-ifs” that come from renewable energy myths.
What if we don’t have enough wind?
Oceana, the largest international advocacy organization dedicated to ocean conservation, states that while wind is not a perfect energy source, it is reliable. Where winds die down one place, they pick up elsewhere when there is large scale distribution.
“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.”- Oceana.9
What if the weather is bad?
Sunlight will still be harvested during the winter months, and with overcast skies from rainy weather, trickles of sunlight are still captured by solar panels. Solar panels are also sturdy enough to withstand strong winds from severe storms — even a hurricane.
What happens at night?
While it’s true that solar-powered equipment works only when sunlight is present, energy demands continue to be met with surplus energy stored in batteries. Currently, battery storage systems are still a developing technology, so storage can be pretty pricey. Thankfully, like any new technology, we’re confident costs will come down and the technology will become more widely available.
Currently, the industry uses the REC system to verify your nighttime energy usage. These are certificates created by renewable energy generators like us at Chariot that verify your energy is legitimately from renewable energy sources like solar and wind — even when the wind’s not blowing or the sun’s not shining at the time you need power!
Renewable sources are hands-down more abundant than fossil fuels; it’s just a question of accessibility and what is the smartest, most energy efficient and cost-effective means for harvesting and using their power.
Myth #5: Renewable Energy Kill Tons of Birds
The majority of people are naturally concerned about the welfare of animals. One of the complaints about wind farms is the number of bird deaths the turbines cause each year. The Department of Fish and Wildlife finds that wind turbines kill between 140,438 to 327,586 birds per year. However, measures are actively taken to reduce bird deaths, including:
- Deterrence using sound
- Artificial intelligence
- Radio/GPS tracking
Even then, it’s a truth universally known among scientists and researchers that climate change is the number one cause of bird deaths. According to the National Audubon Society, if climate change continues apace, hundreds of North American bird species’ ranges will shrink by at least half by 2100.12
It’s Time We Leave the Myths Behind
As with any new innovation, there are fears and concerns about how well it works or what the drawbacks are. While solar energy has its critics, we still maintain that the move to solar is a wise one. Sustainability matters, and we make great strides when each person does their part.
We invite you to join the clean energy revolution and go solar with us at Chariot Energy! You won’t regret it.
- “High Wind with Low Energy.” Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. December 2011
- “New Models Suggest Wind Power Won’t Cause Global Warming.” CarbonBrief. September 11, 2012.
- “Energy Payback: Clean Energy from PV: National Center for Photovoltaics PV FAQs (Fact sheet)” U.S. Department of Energy – National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Publication date unknown.
- Study: End of Life Management: Solar Photovotaic Panels. International Renewable Energy Agency. 2016
- FAQ: “What Is U.S. Electricity Generation By Energy Source?” U.S. Energy Information Administration. February 27, 2020
- “Levelized Cost of Energy and Levelized Cost of Storage 2018.” Lazard. November 8, 2018.
- “Report Confirms Wind Technology Advancements Continue to Drive Down the Cost of Wind Energy” Berkeley Lab. August 26, 2019.
- “Renewable Energy: Myth vs. Fact.” Oceana. Publication date unknown.
- “Migratory Bird Mortality.” U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. September 14, 2018.
- “How New Technology Is Making Wind Farms Safer for Birds” Audubon, Spring 2018.
- “Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink” Audubon. Publication date unknown.