Is solar energy renewable or nonrenewable? When we think of power that can be renewed, most of us think about power that comes from an infinite source. But the concept cannot be simply answered in a single sentence. Here we will dig more deeply into the concept and have a better idea of solar power as a viable energy source.
First off, let’s answer this question: what is a nonrenewable resource?
What is a Nonrenewable Resource?
The concept of a renewable energy source can be broken down in a simple way. If the energy you’re using today will still be available in the future, then it’s renewable. However, there’s a bit of a gray area there. Why? Because it depends on how much you use and how quickly you use it. So thinking of it this way may lead us to a fuzzy idea of the concept.
A nonrenewable resource is a resource that cannot be easily replaced by natural means. If nature cannot keep up in replacing how much and how fast we consume that resource, then it is nonrenewable.
What is a nonrenewable resource? Fossil fuels are perfect examples. Oil, natural gas, and coal are treated as such, because it takes billions of years to make them. These products are made from countless years of geo-movements and chemical processes. If we are only using a few drops of oil per year, then it will be a renewable resource.
But in fact, we use more than 89 million barrels of oil a day. Looking at how much and how fast we use them, fossil fuels will run out and cannot be renewed.
The Global Impact of a Nonrenewable Resource
What is a nonrenewable resource in terms of its impact on our world? Now, this is a deeper, more serious question. These types of power sources do have a big impact on us and the world we live in. There is enough proof that the burning of fossil fuels has harmful effects to the environment and to our health.
Many studies also prove that it has an impact on global warming and climate change. These issues have been at the forefront of talks among countries in recent years. And most nations agree that there should be less pollution and emissions to slow down these changes.
Fossil fuels also impact the world economy. As these resources become scarce, the demand for them rises. And the supply for many of these fuels is in danger of running out completely.
Our only solution is to switch to energy sources that can be renewed.
That is why we are developing solar power, as experts say that it will make a smooth transition to a resource that can be renewed and sustained. But is solar energy renewable or nonrenewable? We need to explore this in more detail.
Is Solar Energy Renewable or Nonrenewable?
Solar energy is harnessed from the radiant light and heat of the sun. As long as the sun keeps shining and continues to give light and heat to the Earth, it is a basic power source that can be renewed. And the sun will do this for at least 5 to 6 billion years. So, is solar energy renewable or nonrenewable? In this sense, it is energy that can be renewed.
In our present time, the supply of sunlight is limitless. Energy is produced through nuclear fusion of hydrogen atoms, and this energy is radiated away in the form of light. Today, we have the means of getting and storing solar power through photo-voltaic cells, solar heating, concentrated solar power and solar power dishes. Solar panels then receive the sun’s light energy and convert it to electric power.
However, there’s a downside to this power source. We can only avail it if the sun is out. And the amount of sunlight we get also depends on weather conditions. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be renewed. It only means that we can’t depend on solar power round the clock, like the way we can on the wind, water, and heat from the Earth.
This is not a big issue though. In recent years, we have developed adequate ways to store solar power and put it to work through periods of no sunlight.
Some say that solar power cannot be renewed because the sun will die out in the future. Sure, this is true, but the sun isn’t going to burn out anytime soon. So in a practical sense, is solar energy renewable or nonrenewable? The answer is yes, and we can consider it an infinite source of power in terms of how much and how quickly we use energy today.
Can Solar Power Be Sustained?
This may seem like splitting hairs, but we need to distinguish between energy that can be renewed and energy that can be sustained.
Sustainable energy takes a more holistic approach. We need to look at the source of energy, how the materials for harnessing this energy are produced, a number of emissions, and the way it’s disposed of. Sustainable power is the power that can be used long-term without any harmful effects to us and Mother Earth.
This is a more complex question, and some argue that solar power cannot be sustained at the present time. Why? Because manufacturing solar systems uses some toxic chemicals. Accidents at solar cell plants have also raised an alarm over the dangers of chemical spills and toxic wastes.
While solar power has zero carbon emissions, the process of making solar systems and the disposal of wastes should benefit the environment. The energy that can be renewed must also be sustained, and care must also be taken in harnessing solar power.