What Is The Feasibility Of Renewable Resources?

What is the feasibility of renewable resources?

Renewable resources are energy sources that are continuously replenished by nature. Some examples include solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. Assessing the feasibility of renewable resources involves evaluating how practical and viable it is to utilize them for energy generation on a meaningful scale.

Conducting feasibility studies for renewable energy projects is crucial to determine if they are technically and economically practical before major investments are made. Key questions that need to be addressed include: What are the costs involved? How much energy can realistically be produced? What are the land requirements? How reliable and consistent is energy generation? What are the environmental impacts? How supportive are public policies and regulations? What is public opinion on these technologies? The goal is to provide a comprehensive assessment of whether renewable resources can reliably meet energy demands now and in the future.

This analysis aims to explore the overall feasibility and potential of renewable energy by examining the opportunities and limitations across different technologies. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses can help guide sensible investments and policies to make the best use of renewable resources.

Types of Renewable Resources

There are several main types of renewable energy resources including solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, tidal, wave, and biomass. Solar energy converts the sun’s rays into usable heat and electricity. Solar photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors are two common technologies. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power or electricity. Geothermal energy taps into the natural heat inside the earth to provide heating, cooling, and electricity generation. Hydroelectric power harnesses the energy of flowing water – usually dams – to generate electricity. Tidal power captures the energy of the tides, while wave power uses the energy in ocean surface waves. Finally, biomass utilizes organic plant and animal waste as a fuel source, commonly in the form of wood, manure, or crops grown specifically for energy production.[1]


The upfront and ongoing costs associated with developing and maintaining renewable energy projects vary significantly across resource types. According to a report by Lazard, the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) ranges from $37-81 per MWh for onshore wind, $29-56 per MWh for utility-scale solar PV, $58-140 per MWh for concentrated solar power (CSP), and $44-182 per MWh for biomass technologies. This compares to $65-159 per MWh for coal, $46-143 per MWh for gas combined cycle, and $118-192 per MWh for nuclear power. The wide range indicates regional differences as well as technology-specific factors.

Upfront capital costs for wind and solar PV have fallen dramatically in the past decade, contributing to their increasing cost-competitiveness. However, they require essentially no fuel costs once built. Technologies like CSP and biomass often have lower upfront costs but higher operating expenses. Maintenance costs also vary – solar PV and wind turbines have fewer moving parts and require less labor than conventional generators. Overall, renewables are capital-intensive, while fossil fuel plants have higher ongoing fuel costs.

Government incentives like tax credits and feed-in tariffs can offset some upfront expenses for renewable projects. However, integrating high levels of renewables requires investments in supporting infrastructure like transmission lines and energy storage. Policy and regulatory decisions around how these costs are allocated will impact the economic viability of large-scale renewable deployment.

Energy Production Potential

Renewable energy sources have significant potential to expand energy production globally. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy could supply up to 40% of the world’s electricity by 2040 under current policies, and over 50% with more aggressive policies and investments.

Some countries already produce a high percentage of their electricity from renewables. For example, in 2019 China produced 31% of its electricity from renewables, the United States produced 17%, and Brazil produced 83%. However, in terms of total renewable energy production, China leads globally with over 778 GW installed capacity, followed by the US with 226 GW and Brazil with 150 GW as of 2019.

The technical potential for renewable energy differs by region based on resource availability. For example, solar energy has the highest potential in sunny regions like the southwestern United States and Northern Africa. Regions with more wind resources, hydro resources, geothermal activity, and biomass availability also have greater potential from those sources. Overall, most experts estimate renewable energy could feasibly supply over 50% of global energy demand by 2050, with some proposing as high as 90-100% by 2050 with sufficient grid modernization and storage technology.

Land Use Requirements

Generating electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar requires significantly more land area compared to conventional sources like fossil fuels. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), obtaining 50% of U.S. electricity from wind would require land area totalling 0.43% of the contiguous U.S. land area. For utility-scale solar, 50% electricity would need 0.41% of land area. In contrast, natural gas needs only 0.01% of land area for the same electricity production (Clemmer, 2023).

The large renewable land footprint has tradeoffs. On one hand, it raises concerns about land use conflicts with agriculture, conservation, and communities. Solar and wind projects are often viewed as infringing on productive farmland or natural habitats. On the other hand, renewable projects allow for dual use of land. With proper siting, grazing, farming, and natural habitats can coexist beside wind and solar facilities. Overall, obtaining a high share of renewable electricity will require careful planning and policies to balance energy goals with land use priorities.

Reliability and Storage

Renewable energy has intermittency issues since the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. This can impact the reliability of renewable sources for baseload power generation, but there are solutions to overcome these challenges.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (source), renewable energy contributes to reliability because wind, solar, water and geothermal power have unlimited natural potential. However, integrating large amounts of renewables requires upgrades like advanced forecasting, system operations, and ‘grid-forming’ inverters.

Grid-forming inverters allow renewable sources to provide essential grid services and withstand disturbances, improving reliability (source). Manufacturers like SMA, ABB, and General Electric offer advanced inverter technologies.

Energy storage is another solution to balance renewable intermittency. Batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors can store excess renewable generation when supply exceeds demand (source). With further cost reductions and technology advances, storage can enable very high renewable energy penetration.

Environmental Impacts

Renewable energy sources generally have positive environmental benefits compared to fossil fuels. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, renewable technologies produce little to no global warming emissions and avoid air pollution caused by fossil fuels that harms public health (UCSUSA, 2022). The Wilderness Society notes that renewable energy emits no greenhouse gases during operation and helps mitigate climate change (Wilderness Society, 2023).

However, renewable energy can have some negative wildlife and habitat impacts. Large solar and wind farms can displace wildlife habitats and disrupt migrations and behaviors. Dams for hydropower can obstruct fish passage and change downstream water flows. Geothermal plants release trace gases. Careful siting, design modifications, and mitigation strategies can help minimize ecological harm. Overall, renewable energy has far lower environmental impacts than fossil fuel energy.

Regulations and Policy

Government policies and regulations play a crucial role in shaping the renewable energy industry. These policies help create a favorable environment for renewable energy development by providing financial incentives, regulatory mandates, and access to markets. According to a report by NREL, the interconnection policies that regulate transmission access and pricing have a major influence on electricity markets and renewable energy growth (https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/66724.pdf).

Some key policies and regulations that impact the feasibility of renewable energy projects include renewable portfolio standards, feed-in tariffs, tax credits, accelerated depreciation, net metering, and interconnection standards. Many states have enacted renewable portfolio standards which require utilities to source a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Feed-in tariffs provide guaranteed pricing and access for renewable generators to sell power to the grid. Investment tax credits, production tax credits and accelerated depreciation provide valuable financial incentives for renewable energy. Net metering allows excess renewable energy to be sold back to the grid. Interconnection standards facilitate grid access for renewable projects.

According to a Regulation Body of Knowledge report, energy regulators play an important role in determining the financial feasibility of renewable projects through their authority over grid access, rate-setting, and cost recovery (https://regulationbodyofknowledge.org/quality-social-environmental/regulation-renewable-energy-and-energy-efficiency/). Navigating the complex regulations and policies is critical for the viability of renewable energy projects.

Public Opinion

Public support for renewable energy in the U.S. is strong and growing, according to polls. A Pew Research study from 2022 found that 69% of Americans say developing renewable energy should be a higher priority than expanding fossil fuel sources (Pew Research). Another 2023 Pew poll showed broad support for expanding solar and wind power specifically, with 82% in favor of more solar farms and 75% supporting more wind turbines (Pew Research). At the local level, support also seems strong, with many communities embracing renewable projects as long as residents feel involved in the process and impacts on the environment or community character are minimized.


In summary, renewable energy sources show promise for meeting rising energy demand in an environmentally sustainable manner. However, scaling up renewables to replace significant portions of fossil fuel use faces obstacles around high costs, variable energy output, and system integration. While costs are declining for some renewables like wind and solar, upfront capital costs remain higher than conventional generation. Intermittency of wind and solar requires storage solutions or backup generation to ensure reliability. Deploying large amounts of wind and solar can also strain transmission grids not designed for distributed bi-directional power flows. Still, with thoughtful policy and regulatory frameworks, steady technological improvements, and public engagement, renewable penetration can be increased significantly. With global urgency around climate change, the feasibility of renewable solutions will continue improving. The energy transition will take time, but renewables undoubtedly will play a major role in building a carbon-neutral energy system this century.

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