Series 1, Post 2: Myths About Renewable Energy – featuring reliability

Cost has always been one of the biggest hurdles for those promoting renewable energy to overcome. When it comes to saving money, most people want the bottom line and costs affecting them today, not the costs built up over time. Another obstacle that those promoting renewable energy go up against is the common myth that Renewable energy is unreliable.

The main argument for those under the misconception about renewable energy is that the technologies for renewable energy are intermittent and therefore need backup power provided by fossil fuel plants. While this statement is true to a point, as renewable energy is indeed intermittent, there are numerous ways to compensate for this. One big way that renewable energy is able to compensate for each other is that both wind and solar power support each other. One example is that wind speeds tend to be greater in the evening and at night when solar energy is most ineffective. Energy storage is also compensating for intermittency and is able to store energy for use when it’s most needed, creating a source of backup power.

It’s easy to see where this myth comes from though. Granted, there are forms of renewable energy that almost always generate power, for example- geothermal plants and hydroelectric facilities. But since the majority of development in renewable energy in the U.S. comes from wind and solar power, their variability is a crossroads for critics. Since CEA works directly with solar power, we’ll take a closer look at that in the myth of unreliability.

The fact is that solar panels used in solar farms have no moving parts that can wear out. This ensures consistency and reliability. Additionally, most of the leading solar panels can produce electricity for as long as 40 years without replacement. In fact, many of the first solar systems connected over 40 years ago are still active today. This is a huge reason that the solar industry in Canada is and has been growing substantially in recent years. For example, in 2013 there was $2.5 billion investment in the solar industry in Canada – a 50% increase on 2012 statistics.

Additionally, using solar power expands our energy sources, making the entire grid more reliable. More tools are continuously becoming available to make solar and other renewable technologies more dependable than ever.

In the next 30 years, it is a sheer fact that aging fossil fuel infrastructures like outdated coal-fired power plants will need to be replaced. If we make the shift and rely on renewable foundations of energy like the sun, billions of dollars could be saved by avoiding the costs of replacing these old plants, but also from the progressively more expensive costs associated with climate change in areas like healthcare and damage from extreme weather.

Yet despite these facts, many of the world’s decision-makers have yet to grasp how competitive renewables have become to their counterparts in many areas. It’s simply a case where change has come so fast, and so unexpectedly, that public information has yet to catch up.

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