Is Alternative Energy Sources Good?

Is alternative energy sources good?

Alternative energy refers to energy derived from sources that are renewable, sustainable, and emit little to no greenhouse gases. Sources of alternative energy include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. There is growing interest in alternative energy as concerns mount over the environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. This article will examine the major types of alternative energy, the benefits and challenges, cost comparisons to traditional energy sources, growth trends, innovations, policies, and public opinion to evaluate whether alternative energy sources are advantageous overall.

Cited from: Alternative energy Definition & Meaning

Types of Alternative Energy

There are several major types of alternative energy sources that are considered renewable and environmentally friendly compared to traditional fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Some of the most common alternative energy sources include:


Solar power is generated by capturing heat and light from the sun and converting it into electricity. There are two main types of solar power technologies: photovoltaics (PV) that directly generate electricity from sunlight using solar panels, and concentrated solar power that focuses sunlight to heat liquid and produce steam for power generation (


Wind power utilizes large wind turbines that capture the kinetic energy from wind and convert it into mechanical power to run electric generators. Wind farms consisting of many turbines are increasingly being used to produce electricity for utilities and grid operators (


Geothermal energy taps into naturally occurring heat from the earth’s core to produce steam and hot water that can generate electricity. This heat can be extracted through geothermal reservoirs found in certain locations around the world (


Biomass energy utilizes organic plant and animal waste to produce electricity, heat, fuels and products. Sources include wood, crops, manure and landfill gas. The organic matter is burned directly or converted to liquid biofuels (


Hydropower generates electricity by utilizing the energy from flowing water to turn turbines connected to generators. Reservoirs behind dams provide a controlled water supply, or run-of-river systems use the natural flow of rivers (

Benefits of Alternative Energy

Alternative energy sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass offer several key benefits compared to fossil fuels. Renewable energy reduces dependence on finite fossil fuel resources like coal, oil and natural gas, which are nonrenewable and could eventually become too expensive or scarce (source). Renewables produce little to no global warming emissions, which is a major advantage over burning fossil fuels. Transitioning to low-carbon energy sources is essential for mitigating climate change (source).

Alternative energy can create employment opportunities through research, development, installation and maintenance of renewable power systems. The renewable energy sector employed over 11 million people globally in 2018, with the potential for continued job growth as governments pursue emissions reductions targets and clean energy policies (source). Solar and wind energy in particular have become competitive with conventional power plants, while also providing pollution-free, low-cost electricity generation.

Challenges of Alternative Energy

Many alternative energy sources face challenges due to their status as emerging technologies. According to RegenPower, the renewable energy industry faces political pressures, changing government policies, and influence from established energy companies. Other key challenges include:

High upfront costs – Constructing alternative energy systems like wind farms or solar fields requires major initial investments. These projects cost far more upfront compared to fossil fuel power plants.

Intermittent power supply – Solar and wind power depend on weather conditions, so their electrical output is highly variable. This intermittency causes reliability issues for energy grids.

New infrastructure needed – Alternative energy systems often require construction of expensive peripheral infrastructure like transmissions lines and roads.

Storage limitations – Most renewable energy sources cannot be stored at scale. Better storage is needed to capture excess energy for use when solar or wind conditions are poor.

According to the International Energy Agency, overcoming these challenges will be key for continued growth of renewables beyond 2021. Both technology improvements and policy incentives are needed to further increase adoption of alternative energy.

Cost Comparison

When considering the costs of renewable energy sources, it’s important to look at levelized costs compared to fossil fuels. Levelized costs represent the lifetime costs of building and operating energy projects divided by the total energy output over the project lifetime. According to the Inspire Clean Energy blog, the levelized costs for renewable energy sources stack up favorably against fossil fuels:

Hydroelectric power averages around $0.05/kWh, while onshore wind, solar voltaic, biomass and geothermal come in below $0.10/kWh. Offshore wind is a bit higher at around $0.20/kWh, but still competitive with fossil fuels like natural gas ($0.05-0.18/kWh) and coal ($0.095-0.15/kWh).

Government incentives and subsidies also help make renewable energy more cost-competitive. Tax credits, cash grants, and loan guarantees provided by federal and state governments help offset the higher upfront capital costs of building renewable energy projects.

Looking ahead, costs for renewables are projected to continue falling. Powerphase reports that the costs of solar and wind energy have fallen 89% and 70% over the last decade. Continued technological improvements and economies of scale should further drive down costs, making renewables even more affordable.

Alternative Energy Growth

The use of renewable energy is rapidly increasing worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), total renewable electricity capacity is set to reach 4,500 gigawatts (GW) in 2023, equal to the total installed current power capacity of China today (IEA). Renewables made up 19.8% of electricity generation globally in 2020, and that number is expected to rise to 35% by 2030 (C2ES).

Solar and wind power are seeing especially high growth rates. The IEA projects solar photovoltaic capacity to more than triple between 2020 to 2030. Onshore and offshore wind capacity is forecasted to nearly double in the same time frame. Hydropower will continue to provide the largest share of renewable electricity generation through 2030. However, growth is expected to be limited compared to solar and wind.

The regions adopting renewable energy the fastest are Asia Pacific, North America and Europe. China alone accounts for over 40% of global renewable capacity additions. The United States and India are also top adopters. However, Africa and parts of Latin America continue to rely predominantly on fossil fuels (IEA). With supportive policies and grid infrastructure improvements, these regions offer high potential for further renewable energy growth.

Innovations and Improvements

Several exciting developments are underway that will enable alternative energy to become more viable and widespread in the future. Battery storage technology is rapidly improving, with investments being made into batteries that can store larger amounts of energy for longer periods of time, which helps address the intermittency challenges of sources like solar and wind. For example, AES is developing battery storage plants, including a 400 megawatt facility in Southern California.1

Smart grid technology is also facilitating greater integration of renewable energy into the electricity system by balancing supply and demand in real-time. Microgrids enabled by smart grid tech allow communities and campuses to generate their own localized renewable energy. Spain is a leader in rolling out smart grids, with over 80% of the country’s population served by smart meters. 2

Offshore wind is rapidly expanding as turbine technology improves and installations are able to be sited further out to sea. The UK and Germany currently lead the world in offshore wind capacity and it’s projected to expand in Asia and North America in the coming decade. For example, the Biden Administration has set a goal for the US to reach 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.1

Hybrid renewable systems that combine sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass are gaining popularity as a way to address intermittency issues. These hybrid systems utilize complementary generation profiles, advanced forecasting, and storage solutions to provide consistent renewable power. For instance, ENGIE is operating hybrid solar-wind systems in Mexico and Australia.2

Policy and Regulations

Governments around the world have implemented various policies and regulations to encourage the growth of renewable energy. Some key policy mechanisms include:

Government targets and mandates: Many governments have set renewable energy targets and mandates to spur development. For example, the U.S. aims for 30% of its electricity generation to come from renewables by 2030.

Subsidies and tax incentives: Tax credits, feed-in tariffs, and other financial incentives make renewable energy more cost-competitive with conventional sources. The U.S. offers federal tax credits for wind and solar, while countries like Germany use feed-in tariffs.

Permitting and siting policies: Streamlining permitting and siting processes for renewable projects lowers development costs and speeds up construction. Some states have enacted “one-stop shop” permit approvals to reduce red tape.

Well-designed policies and regulations are critical for continued growth in renewable energy. They help make it affordable and accessible while also supporting innovation and infrastructure. Policy stability gives developers and investors confidence in the long-term viability of renewable projects.

Public Opinion

Public opinion polling shows broad support among Americans for expanding renewable energy production. According to Pew Research Center surveys in 2022 and 2023, around 70% of U.S. adults say developing renewable energy should be a top priority, even if it means higher costs (source). Around 80% favor more solar and wind farms specifically (source).

While overall support is high, some concerns have been raised about the aesthetics and land use of large-scale renewable projects. For example, a Brookings Institute study found some local opposition to large wind and solar farms based on objections to views being obstructed or land areas being restricted (source). Still, polling indicates most Americans ultimately favor increasing renewables production through wind and solar farms.


Overall, alternative energy sources provide both pros and cons compared to traditional fossil fuels. On the pro side, alternative energy can reduce air pollution, combat climate change, improve public health, create jobs, and provide energy security for nations that lack fossil fuel reserves. Alternative energy sources are also endlessly renewable, meaning we won’t run out like we might with oil, gas and coal.

However, alternative energy does come with some downsides as well. The upfront installation costs are usually higher than traditional power plants, reliability can be an issue for sources like solar and wind that depend on weather conditions, and it requires revamping energy infrastructure to handle decentralized power production.

Looking ahead, alternative energy will likely play an increasing role in the global energy mix. As technology improves and costs continue to fall, renewable sources are expected to account for up to 50% of the world’s electricity by 2050. Nations around the world are setting ambitious carbon reduction goals that can only be achieved by transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. While alternative energy on its own may not be the complete solution, it will be a critical component of creating a more sustainable energy future.

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