The nonrenewable fossil fuels are abundant, easily accessible and inexpensive. They provide a lot of concentrated energy at relatively low cost e.g. gas is very energy efficient. Crude oil and refined oil can easily be transported from where it is extracted or to where it is needed using pipes. The main disadvantage of fossil fuels is pollution(DeGunther, 2009). The pollution is experienced through global warming (greenhouse effect), oil spills, odor and acid rain. Mining of fossil fuel also leads to land destruction.
The multi-step process of nuclear power stations improves energy efficiency while suppressing the many negative byproducts of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is more reliable than other forms of energy, with a capacity to run for 540 uninterrupted days(DeGunther, 2009). Compared to fossil fuels, this energy is less expensive to get and transport and its plants does not emit greenhouse gases. However, uranium is a naturally unstable element that must be carefully handled to avoid radiation. The radioactive nuclear byproducts can also lead to contamination and pollution, with heated water from nuclear plants adversely affecting the ecosystem. Abandoned nuclear reactors also pose a huge challenge since they cannot be removed yet take up valuable space.
Solar energy is a silent, renewable, clean energy until when the sun runs out in several billion years’ time as predicted(DeGunther, 2009). This makes its use get good tax credits from the federal government. Solar panels also require little maintenance with largely reliable mechanical parts. Nonetheless, installation of solar panels can be expensive albeit the free energy. Yet, conversion of sun rays to energy is quite inefficient although new technology is improving this. A major disadvantage is the reduced performance of solar panels during cloudy days and at night though new technology is gradually improving the capacity to store solar energy.
Wind is free and is energy efficient. This renewable energy does not cause pollution, although manufacture of wind turbines does cause some pollution. Wind turbines also do not take up a lot of land, but rather seemingly make the landscape interesting (though this is debatable with some arguing that the turbines are unsightly) coexisting with other activities e.g. farming(DeGunther, 2009). Just like solar panels, the turbines are in different sizes to fit different requirements and budgets and can be installed independently of the power grid to serve remote areas. Usually, the bigger the turbine, the noisier it is. Wind strength is also inconsistent and the turbine may not produce power in certain instances. The increased frequency of hurricanes and cyclones has also raised a safety concern of wind energy.
Hydropower is a clean, renewable energy that does not pollute the environment. Unlike wind power, hydropower is available when needed. Apart from providing energy, the water reservoirs are important for supplying water (e.g. for irrigation) and controlling flooding. They can also be used for recreational purposes such as fishing, swimming and sightseeing. However, hydropower plants can easily be impacted by droughts. They also affect the riparian communities by affecting water quality, water flow and land use. Fish populations may also be affected to the impact on fish migration. Construction of hydropower plants is also relatively expensive and can lead to environmental damage e.g. earthquakes caused by Hoover Dam.
Biofuels are a renewable energy with less greenhouse gases compared to fossil fuels, with some estimating a 65% reduction. This energy is easily available being got from plants, crop waste or manure(DeGunther, 2009). Biofuels enhance a country’s economic security because of less dependence on imported oil. However, producing biofuels is costly and fertilizers lead to water pollution. It may also lead to monoculture and consequent soil degradation.
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