Due to increasing concern about climate change, renewable energy has been growing in popularity, employment and capability to provide power to consumers.
However, renewable energy continues to face critical challenges, the primary ones being: energy transmission, energy storage and overhauling the current grid structure.
Energy transmission is a critical issue for renewable energy because often the places where it is convenient to produce electricity by renewable means are not heavily populated. While the desert is a great place for a solar farm, no one lives out there to consume the power. And electrical transmission is highly inefficient. The need for high-efficiency conducting materials to make a renewable energy grid possible is a key challenge.
Additionally, storing energy is a necessity as many renewable energy sources are not necessarily always available. While geothermal and hydroelectric are consistently controllable sources, wind power and solar are only available when the wind blows and sun is out respectively. This creates a need to store energy for use during night or whenever there is a lack of power delivery in the grid. While Tesla is now making home batteries, often batteries are made of toxic materials and pose other dangers in manufacturing. A solution to store sufficient amounts of electrical energy in the grid will be necessary to realize a renewable grid.
And finally, there are many modes in which society functions today which would need to be overhauled to curb usage of fossil fuels. A primary example of this would be switching cars from primarily gasoline to electric. Charging stations would need to be built at people’s work and along highways, and all old gas stations would be need to be closed or converted.
These challenges all make renewable energy a challenge and not incredibly efficient for implementation today. However, these challenges also create possibilities for job creation and economic advancement. Research is needed on all the technical challenges, and already many construction jobs are being created to install solar panels and even more technical jobs would be needed to convert America’s power grid.
Renewable energy poses some expensive problems to overcome before it can realize its theoretical full potential, the question that remains is how much our society is willing to spend on it to reduce carbon emissions.