THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NONRENEWABLE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
A WWII era decision creating a nonrenewable nuclear energy industry repressed the renewable solar energy industry. Definitions, qualifiers, pros/cons in battle between renewable/nonrenewable energy is like Armageddon’s battle between good/evil before Judgement Day. The deadline to save the planet looms. We must do better.
Decades ago, the question was asked:
Should we go with nuclear or solar energy?
Around the time of WWII, the US stood at a crossroads. Should the country pursue and support solar energy, or should it stay with the hydropower and existing coal and gas-powered electric plants as well as move in the direction of nuclear power? At that time, the decision was made to stay with traditional power sources and to develop a nuclear power industry. This decision was made perhaps partly to justify continued work on the nuclear weapons program, perhaps partly because nuclear power had the allure of a new and modern technology, and, perhaps partly because of the difficulty created for established utilities to charge for solar power when sunlight shines everywhere for free.
In any event -- and hindsight is 20/20 -- the country took a wrong turn for long-term energy security and long-term environmental health. We opted for the path of status quo hydropower, existing nonrenewable energy power plants and added nuclear power. With America’s leader status in the world, this decision basically put humankind on a path of depleting our limited natural resources and polluting the planet, both through continued destructive mining for these natural resource-power sources and by the relentless releasing of hazardous substances and polluting emissions into our atmosphere, water, and natural environment.
This decision to stay with mainly nonrenewable energy sources and to pursue nuclear power also resulted in the repression of solar energy technology. Now we must play catch up. Now we have less than a decade to try to correct the damage these previous decisions --made decades in the past-- have caused. Scientific studies now show that we will reach a tipping point where it will be extremely difficult to restore a natural balance if we do not expedite the transition to cleaner renewable energy.
To successfully address the climate crisis we now face, we must start by educating ourselves and our children on what the difference is between nonrenewable and renewable energy sources. We have no time to waste, so let’s begin. First, we will look at definitions for nonrenewable energy and why it is a bad choice for the US and the world. Next, we will look at renewable energy and why it is the right choice. Lastly, we will discuss the need to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources which may allow the world to survive and thrive.
What is nonrenewable energy?
Nonrenewable energy includes fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas as well as nuclear power. The first thing that qualifies these energy sources as nonrenewable energy is that they are fueled by finite, natural resources that over time will deplete and run out. The second qualifier that identifies these energy sources as nonrenewable is when we use them, they create toxic byproducts that pollute our world and its ecosystems.
What are fossil fuels?
Fossil Fuels (hydrocarbons) are organic matter (think dead dinosaurs, animals, and plant matter) that decayed in the Earth (sometimes for millions of years) to produce “fossil fuels” like oil, coal, and natural gas.
What are the disadvantages of fossil fuels?
A big disadvantage of fossil fuels is that to release their energy they must be burned. When these fuels are burned unhealthful byproducts that impact humans, animals, plant life, oceans and basically the planet are released into the environment -- like the toxic greenhouse gases we’ve been discussing that contribute to global warming.
Another disadvantage is that often the fossil fuel extraction processes themselves (fracking, drilling, strip mining...) also pollute or otherwise significantly damage ecosystems. To look at a couple of examples:
- Oil drilling is plagued by inevitable leaks and spills into the surrounding environment both on land and at sea. Additionally, the chemicals used in drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing threaten our air and water with toxic pollution. Further, fracking or drilling for oil could endanger underground water storage aquifers, or cause land subsidence, or erosion.
- Coal mining creates “acid mine drainage” which allows heavy metals to dissolve and seep into surface water (creeks and rivers) as well as groundwater aquifers – all are sources that we use to supply drinking water.
Another disadvantage to fossil fuels is that because they are finite, there is not enough of these natural resources available to provide energy on an ongoing basis for our world’s growing population.
Additionally, it would be an oversight not to mention the political disadvantage of fossil fuels – that they provide money and power to some world regimes that do not have mankind’s best interests in their hearts.
Why are fossil fuels nonrenewable energy?
Fossil fuels are considered nonrenewable energy because the Earth’s supply of these fuels is finite and will eventually be depleted. Additionally fossil fuels are categorized as nonrenewable energy because when used, they pollute, emitting toxic substances into the environment and C02 and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases get their name from the “greenhouse effect” because in effect they wrap the Earth’s atmosphere like a blanket and trap some solar radiation heat that would otherwise “bounce off” the Earth’s surfaces to reflect harmlessly back into space. These gases are the predominant cause of the current global-warming crisis. They can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. It’s imperative we change our energy production methods immediately.
The US Environmental Protection Agency website about “Climate Change Indicators” give these facts:
- “Climate forcing refers to a change in the Earth’s energy balance, leading to either a warming or cooling effect over time. An increase in the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases produces a positive climate forcing, or warming effect.”
- “Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 150 years”
- “The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.”
“Historical measurements show that the current global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are unprecedented compared with the past 800,000 years, even after accounting for natural fluctuations.”
Why is nuclear energy nonrenewable energy?
Nuclear energy is a nonrenewable energy source because the fuel rods used in the nuclear power plant are created with uranium which is a finite limited resource; and, because nuclear power creates radioactive waste that can take thousands of years to decay. Plutonium-239, for example, has a half-life of 24,100 years -- meaning that half of its radioactivity will decay in 24,100 years! High-level nuclear wastes emit fatal radiation during even short periods of direct exposure. We run the risk of irrevocably damaging our world by continuing to introduce hazardous waste into the environment with that kind of extended half-life. Additionally, the long-term storage of these highly contaminated nuclear wastes, once spent, have always created problems.
How many nuclear accidents have happened?
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported more than 150 incidents occurred from 2001 to 2006 where nuclear plants were not performing within acceptable safety guidelines. According to a 2010 survey of energy accidents, there have been at least 56 accidents at nuclear reactors in the U.S. Additionally, US government sources have recorded over 150 significant nuclear accidents worldwide since the first plant was built and commenced operations in 1954. Below is a very abbreviated list of some of these accidents that you may remember. (The first one listed is just 30 miles away and 63 years removed from our current office)
Santa Susana Field Lab - 1959 California USA- a partial nuclear meltdown caused by wildfires and human error.
Three Mile Island -1979 Middletown Pennsylvania – An equipment failure coupled with human error caused a core meltdown.
Chernobyl -1986 Ukraine – A major meltdown occurred which resulted in the creation of a 1600 square mile “exclusion zone” where humans are prohibited but (because the area wildlife cannot read the "keep-out" signs) studies have determined that the animals in the area are radioactive.
Fukushima - 2011 Japan – This is currently the world’s number one radioactive area after a tsunami led to a meltdown in its reactors. Radioactive material spilled for over a year uncontained into the Pacific and the effects still plague the area, ocean, and wildlife today.
Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station -2002 Ohio USA—According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission this plant has been the source of “two of five of the most dangerous nuclear incidents in the U.S. since 1979, with the most severe occurring in March of 2022, when maintenance workers discovered corrosion had eaten a football-sized hole into the reactor vessel head.”
Now we are watching a potential nuclear disaster unfolding in real time at:
Zaporizhzhia - 2022 Ukraine --The nuclear power plant is a pawn in Putin’s war, and it seems he is willing to sacrifice this pawn. To make matters worse as bombs fall around this nuclear plant, there are also silos with nuclear waste on the site -- and further, if disturbed, the area’s soil could release radiation. The world community has been warned that the contamination would likely impact not only Ukraine, but Russia and Europe as well. Let’s not kid ourselves, nuclear power disasters do not respect our human drawn boundary lines. Winds blow across borderlines like they don’t exist, rain washes contaminants into creeks and rivers that can cross through different lands to eventually empty into our shared world oceans. When a country has a meltdown at a nuclear site, the world community shares in the consequences of that meltdown.
The choice to pursue nuclear power and the repercussions of that fateful decision will haunt us and generations of our issue well into the future because -- even without accidents caused by wildfires, human error, equipment failure, wars, or natural disasters (like wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis) -- the truth is that the radioactive waste from nuclear power plants must be stored for several millennia before it stops radiating. How can this be a well thought-out, long-term energy policy?
Is nuclear waste being dumped/stored in our oceans?
The Russian navy regularly disposed its radioactive wastes at sea. Portions of the Barents, Kola and the Sea of Japan are known to be contaminated. In 1993 Russia dumped 900 tons of nuclear waste. Japan plans for 1.2 million tons of waste to be mixed with seawater and, over a 30-year period, it will be discharged through a sub-seabed pipe into the Pacific. This is not good stewardship of nuclear waste materials. Our oceans’ ecosystems, although vast, are fragile. We must do better.
Why is nonrenewable energy bad?
Nonrenewable energy is bad because it is not sustainable. The fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) and the uranium needed for nuclear fission to sustain a nuclear reaction are limited resources that are finite. Nonrenewable energy’s release of greenhouse gases and other environmentally damaging wastes is poisoning the planet and forcing climate change. Add to this the fact that a large portion of the world’s oil is controlled by strongman dictators who can hold the world hostage to their whims in times of energy emergencies. This illustrates that for long term energy security, as well as environmental protection, we need to move away from these diminishing resources and move toward the infinite and inexhaustible renewable energy sources like sunlight, wind, and water.
Tipping point for climate change just 10 years
“Tipping point” is defined as the critical balance point beyond which a significant, sometimes unstoppable effect takes place. A 2021 NPR report on Climate Change stated: “The current rate of greenhouse gas pollution is so high that Earth has about 11 years to rein in emissions if countries want to avoid the worst damage from climate change in the future.” In no uncertain terms, the world has been put on notice that we have less than a decade to stop the wholesale polluting and destruction of our world to avoid the worst damage (things like ecosystem die-offs, major floods, extended droughts, with climate and weather cycles that become unlivable). We have just under ten years to completely change historic energy use -- to make better sustainable choices -- to reverse a world-wide environmental Armageddon that was put in motion decades ago.
Is recovery possible after decades of past use of polluting nonrenewable energy?
A small bright spot showed during the Covid 19 pandemic, when people worldwide were sequestered in their homes and the repetitive traveling to and from work or other places was greatly reduced. The good news was that in this period of reduced activity (fewer cars on the roads, fewer planes in the air, fewer people in airconditioned workspaces...) the environment started to unstress -- that is, there were signs of environmental recovery because we were not burning so many fossil fuels and pumping so many pollutants into the atmosphere and environment. This demonstrates that if we drastically change our energy sources to clean, green, renewable energy -- there is hope.
On that note we will move to explore renewable energy solutions.
What is renewable energy?
You can think of renewable energy as any source that is naturally replenished daily, such as solar power or wind power. At Nature’s Generator we understand that sunlight is an inexhaustible source of energy we like to say — it's been shining for billions of years and will continue to shine for billions more. Wind is also a renewable resource -- it regenerates itself by blowing across land and water surfaces, essentially refilling its own tank every day.
So, now, imagine that every home, condo, apartment, garage, carport, RV, boat, ship, commercial office building, school, warehouse, church, temple, synagogue, mosque, fitness center, government center, retail mall, car dealership, grocery store... around the world had solar panels on their roof -- now realize that the sun (the energy source behind solar power) would not be the least bit exhausted or depleted by this image being realized.
That is a prime example of clean renewable energy. The criteria include first that it is inexhaustible, it cannot be depleted, and second that it does not create or emit toxic pollutants that are dumped into the environment.
A list of current renewable energy sources include wind, solar, geothermal energy (which use heat from underground), hydroelectric power (hydropower), wave and tidal generators.
Because renewable energy is plentiful – there is enough sunlight, wind, geothermal, hydropower and ocean motion available to provide power to the world’s growing population. Through renewable energy sources like these we can cleanly correct the social injustices that have long plagued world energy markets and provide access to electricity for everyone.
How do 4 popular renewable energy sources work?
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. When you combine Nature’s Generator’s new, technologically advanced solar panels with our generator’s storage batteries, which are modular and specifically designed to expand to meet the needs of different homes or situations, then you will be prepared for any emergency power outage, for avoiding peak hour utility charges, or for living off-the-grid. Then you will truly understand the power of freedom -- when you can control and harness the free energy of the sun.
Another form of free energy is wind energy which is a clean, renewable source of electrical power that's generated from the wind. Wind turbines are rotated by the force of the wind and are used to generate electricity. People often are not aware that the speed at which the wind turbine turns is important. Because Nature’s Generator’s wind turbines can generate more energy at lower wind speeds than other competitor’s turbines, they are a sought-after tool to recharge our modular power generators.
Moreover, because wind power is a resource that is always available -- unlike the sun that sets each evening -- it is the perfect alternate power source to augment the solar panels in the Nature’s Generator systems. In addition to the ability for the Nature’s Generators wind turbines to create more power at lower wind speeds, it is also notable that our turbines are made of very durable cast metal alloys that withstand the wear and tear of normal natural weather conditions -- so they are longer lasting with less need to be taken offline for replacement.
Hydropower is a renewable energy source because it harnesses forces, such as rain or river flow, which are natural resources that will continue to replenish themselves over time. Hydroelectricity generation (hydro power) does not produce any greenhouse gases or air pollutants during operation. However, unless you live in an old, converted mill next to a river or creek it is a much more difficult source of power for you to adapt for individual home use.
Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source that uses the Earth's natural heat to produce electricity and heat homes (also called direct use). The process of using geothermal energy to produce clean electricity involves drilling deep into the ground, tapping into hot water or steam reservoirs, and then generating electricity with turbines and generators. And, if you live in Greenland or Iceland or some of the far Northern European countries you might very well be utilizing geothermal energy in your home for power. However, this power source is like hydropower in that it is probably only available at a utility company level. It is not an energy source that an individual homeowner can easily harness.
Is Renewable Energy same as Green Energy?
“Green energy” and “renewable energy” are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. Renewable energy sources are theoretically infinite and inexhaustible in the amount of energy they can provide. The term green energy, like renewable, is often used to describe sources of power that emit little to no pollution and have zero emissions. Now it has also become common to use the term green energy to refer to electricity generated by environmentally friendly processes or organizations. Whether you call it green or renewable energy the key take away is that it does not harm the environment by releasing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. As these gases are the biggest contributing factor in the climate change crisis, it is imperative that we must look to green, renewable energy in the future -- if we want a livable, sustainable future.
Will renewable energy cause a net job loss to economies?
On the contrary, renewable energy can be a great investment for our country and for countries around the world, because it keeps the environment clean while also saving people money and creating jobs. The green industry sector is becoming one of the fastest growing areas in our own economy, so the transition to newer cleaner renewable energy will not only be good for our environment, but it will also be a catalyst for our economic future.
An article by Karin Kimbrough, LinkedIn’s Chief Economist, reporting on the Sustainable Development Impact Summit 9/23/21 in Geneva Switzerland states:
“The last few months of extreme weather events have been a devastating reminder of the damage the climate change crisis is inflicting on communities around the world. As world leaders discuss options at gatherings like the UN General Assembly, the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Impact Development... a lot of discussion will focus on accelerating the shift to a green economy.”
Continuing the LinkedIn Chief Economist states:
“One of the most notable industry changes we’ve tracked in LinkedIn jobs data is the shift away from oil and gas jobs and the surge in renewables and environment roles. In 2015, the ratio of US oil and gas jobs to renewables and environment jobs was 5:1, but by 2020 this ratio had closed to 2:1. At this rate, we expect that renewables and environment could actually outnumber oil and gas in total jobs on our platform by 2023, a major pendulum shift towards green jobs in a relatively short period.”
Green and renewable energy conclusions
To review, the term renewable energy sources means the power comes from sources that don’t run out or pollute our planet and, in the case of wind and solar, are free to be harnessed by individual homeowners through solar panels or durable wind turbines. Below are some important benefits to remember about using renewables:
- Renewable energy sources produce no greenhouse gases or air pollution meaning they don't contribute to climate change, and they do not create problems for human health or the planet’s health.
- Renewable energy doesn't harm wildlife or ecosystems like fossil fuels or nuclear energy do.
- Renewables can be used in many ways – from powering electric vehicles to heating or cooling homes with solar panels on roofs or wind turbines in a yard. Because renewable energy is clean and abundant it can help us provide affordable electric power to everyone while also helping solve the global warming climate crisis we are now facing.
So, after exploring the differences between nonrenewable energy and renewable energy sources, you probably understand that there’s a lot at stake in the decisions we make today – we need to ensure we do not repeat or compound past mistakes.
Which renewable energy sources would be available to me?
You want to do your part to save the planet. You understand that renewable energy sources are clean and sustainable which means they won't impact our environment negatively.
You want to know which of these renewable technologies could be used at your home so that you can start being part of the solution we need. Of these renewable energy sources, both solar and wind power lend themselves to being harnessed by individual homeowners. We want you to know that it is the Nature’s Generator company’s stated mission to help provide affordable energy to everyone.
Generating clean, green, affordable energy is one of the main reasons Nature’s Generator was founded and one of the major reasons the owners fight so hard not to raise the price of their products. Maybe our company motto should be:
Our products are well made and durable -- but our prices are cheap!
Go to Naturesgenerator.com to see the many recent innovations we have brought to the home solar and wind turbine markets; we think you will be impressed.
How is historic drought threatening renewable energy hydropower generation?
The CNN Digital Report: The West's historic drought is threatening hydropower at Hoover Dam by Climate Writer Rachel Ramirez -- 11/21 updated 8/16/22 -- provided these illuminating quotes about hydropower from Kristen Averyst the Senior Climate Advisor for Nevada Gov. Sisolak: "If people don't think that climate change is impacting them here and now, just go to Lake Mead and have a look around, because that paints a pretty clear picture of what we're up against when it comes to climate change." However, she also noted that hydrologists knew this coming (they just didn't predict the timing): "The surprise was when it came, not that it came." "When both Lake Mead and Lake Powell were filled, it was about making sure that there was water for the Western US, but it was also about ensuring that there was power available to the West. So, what the federal government is up against right now is ensuring that we continue to have water where we need it to go, but also that we're able to have enough water in each of the reservoirs to generate power." Although renewable energy is theoretically infinite -- hydropower energy sources could be jeopardized by climate-change-created prolonged drought periods causing low river and lake water levels. The CNN report shows hydropower production at Hoover Dam has decreased over the past 10 years. As of June 2022, the dam's power generation was about 1,076 megawatts -- approaching a 50% reduction in capacity. It is now more important than ever that we all have backup home-based solar and wind power systems so that we can not only help change the climate-warming trajectory, but also so we can survive the potential power shortages and brownouts caused by climate change.
Which renewable energy sources would be available for home use?
You want to do your part to save the planet. You understand that renewable energy sources are clean and sustainable, meaning that they won't impact our planet’s environment negatively. You want to know which of these renewable technologies could be used at your home so that you can start being part of the solution we need. Of these renewable energy sources, both solar and wind power lend themselves to being harnessed by individual homeowners. We want you to know that it is the Nature’s Generator’s stated mission to help provide affordable energy to everyone. We understand that if the climate change solution exists, but people can’t afford it, then it benefits no one. We would be remiss not to mention here the important environmental and human health difference between using gas-powered generators verses solar-powered generators. Gas-powered generators use nonrenewable energy because gasoline is made from fossil fuels. Solar or wind-powered generators use the renewable clean energy from the sun or wind to provide power to your home. Where toxic emissions from gas-generators of course pollute our atmosphere, these emissions have also been known to have tragically overcome gas-generator users (sometimes in their sleep) when such generators are not properly used in well ventilated areas. This is the reason that carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer.” If you invest in a Nature’s Generator solar or wind powered generator, you will not only get a quality affordable product -- you will also get peace-of-mind knowing that your home and family is safe while using this renewable energy generator. Generating clean, green, affordable energy is one of the main reasons Nature’s Generator was founded and one of the major reasons the owners fight so hard not to raise the price of their products. Maybe our company motto should be: Our products are well-made and durable -- but our prices are cheap! Go to Naturesgenerator.com to see the many innovations we have brought to the home solar and wind turbine markets; we think you will be impressed.
Our choices now, affect future generations
There are many positive impacts on our environment and our wallets because of the advances in green energy home solutions like solar panels, wind turbines, as well as adequate storage batteries that can store and save the electricity generated by solar or wind to be used at a future time. These technical advances have helped make electricity more reliable and more affordable to individual consumers.
As we transition from fossil fuels to the clean, green, renewable energy of the future we can all take comfort in knowing that we are making the right choices for our children and grandchildren.
For too long we have forgotten to ask if the decisions we make today will be good for future generations. Now there is a worldwide push, from citizens and governments alike, to invest in renewable energy. We could say there is new energy in pursuing new energy. We have had big technological advances in the green and renewable energy sectors. We need to keep pursuing this cleaner direction then -- instead of poisoning the planet -- we can help it heal.
We must be always mindful of the oft quoted axiom, “We do not inherit this planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” We need to be able to look our kids squarely in the eyes and know that we are doing our part to correct the situation for them and for all future generations.
Here at Nature’s Generator, we know we are doing the right thing and making the right choices to give people access to affordable, renewable, green energy. We take great pride in keeping the quality of or products high but the prices low, so that the sun and wind’s free energy can be accessed and harnessed by everyone.
Working together, we can counteract the consequences of past decisions and save the planet and all its inhabitants.
We want to thank you for taking the time to read our blog, we hope you found it informative. We also want to thank you in advance for considering our products if you are in the market for solar or wind powered energy systems. We appreciate this consideration of our products and, moreover, appreciate your efforts to do the right thing for the world and its environment.
* We want to give credit where credit is due. Professional writer, Lorena E. Credo, worked with author Diane Underhill and contributed research and content to this blog titled: The Difference Between Nonrenewable and Renewable Energy. Thank you, Lorena, for your contributions!