Is solar energy a nonrenewable source?
Solar energy has been gaining traction around the world for many years, and it’s fast becoming one of the most important sources of energy available. Over time, this importance will only increase, as the world shifts away from fossil fuels and concerns about carbon emissions and climate change continue to grow.
But, understandably, some people question whether solar energy, and the solar panels used to harness it, are as environmentally friendly as proponents think. You may have even asked yourself the question: ‘is solar energy a nonrenewable resource?’. Well, the short answer is no, it is a renewable energy source, but the explanation is also a bit more nuanced than that.
In this post, we explore what makes solar energy renewable, the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources, and how making a switch to solar power can benefit the environment.
What is a nonrenewable resource?
A nonrenewable energy source is anything we can harness energy from that is finite in nature i.e. can run out. The most obvious examples of this are the fossil fuels that the world has relied on for hundreds of years, but anything that is finite in nature is classed as nonrenewable. The main nonrenewables are:
- Natural gas
- Nuclear power
While there’s no doubt that nonrenewable energy sources can be helpful (and sometimes even necessary), there are also a lot of downsides to using them. The main downside is that once they’re gone, they’re gone, not to mention the environmental impacts. Because of this, it is imperative that renewables become a larger part of global energy strategy in the coming years.
What is the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources?
The key difference between nonrenewable and renewable energy is:
- Nonrenewable energy can run out
- Renewable energy cannot run out
Once we use all the oil (a nonrenewable energy source) in the world, for example, there won’t be any more for potentially millions of years. Estimates vary, but this will almost certainly happen within 50 years or so, but possibly significantly sooner than that.
In contrast, the wind isn’t going to stop blowing, so wind energy is classed as a renewable energy source that we can continuously harness for as long as we need.
Is solar energy renewable or nonrenewable?
Is solar energy renewable? Yes, it is, but it’s understandable that there can be some confusion surrounding the topic.
The main reason for this is that the production of the equipment used to harness solar energy, such as solar panels, batteries, and microinverters , requires energy, and this can often come from nonrenewable sources. This means that, when you consider the entire process of solar power production, there are some nonrenewable elements and a carbon footprint to take into account.
However, using the sun’s light for energy is an inherently renewable process, as the sun is an (essentially) limitless resource. For this reason, the actual day-to-day energy production from solar panels is renewable. Also, using solar panels helps us to avoid using nonrenewable energy sources; Therefore, the process of using solar power offsets any impact caused by the production of the equipment, usually within just a few months of operation.
How is solar energy renewable?
Solar energy is renewable because the source of the energy — the sun — is not classed as a finite resource. As long as the sun is shining, we can harness the light continuously without depleting it. In other words, the energy source renews itself, hence the term 'renewable energy’.
Another similar example would be hydroelectric power. As this uses the natural movement of water to drive turbines and produce electricity, it is classed as renewable. In general, the water will keep flowing indefinitely, naturally renewing the energy source.
This contrasts with nonrenewables like oil which cannot renew themselves, at least not within a viable time frame. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form, so we will deplete them at a far greater rate than they will renew themselves.
How does solar power help the environment?
Most of the world historically relied almost exclusively on nonrenewable energy sources. These resources, such as oil, coal, and natural gas are extremely useful in some ways, as they are relatively easy to source and transport, and they store a large amount of energy that can be released through combustion.
However, they also have a significant impact on the planet, releasing large quantities of carbon and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, damaging the environment and contributing to climate change. Additionally, the way they are sourced can be harmful to the environment.
Solar energy provides an alternative to this. So when you use solar energy, you are most likely eliminating the need to burn fossil fuels to get that same energy, benefiting the environment.
Does solar energy harm the environment?
The process of harnessing solar energy does not harm the environment, as once you have a solar system installed, and for its lifetime, it is a renewable energy source.
While there are some energy costs and a carbon footprint associated with producing and transporting the equipment, this is negligible compared to nonrenewable energy sources. This impact is also entirely offset by the environmental harm avoided by using an alternative to nonrenewables.
Hoymiles - Clean, open energy for all
Solar is already a hugely important component of global energy production. As concerns about the environment grow and as solar technology becomes even more accessible, people are increasingly turning to solar to meet their energy needs.
Hoymiles offers high-quality and cost-effective solar technology solutions for both household and commercial use. With our range of products, including microinverters, rapid shutdown devices, and energy storage solutions, we can help you utilize renewable solar energy to reduce your environmental impact, cut your bills, and develop energy independence.
Get in touch to learn more about our solar solutions.