Renewable energy and non renewable energy

Overview of Renewable and Non-renewable Energy

Renewable and Non-renewable Energy

First off, it is important to note that there is a difference between renewable energies and renewable energy resources; and non-renewable energies and non-renewable energy resources. The resources are what produces the energy.

For example, the sun is a renewable energy resource that produces solar energy (an example of renewable energy), wind is a renewable energy resource that produces wind energy (an example of renewable energy), uranium is a non-renewable energy resource of nuclear energy (an example of non-renewable energy) and so on.


However, there ain’t any different name for most non-renewable energies. All examples of non-renewable energy resources are all same as that of non-renewable energy. For example, the energy from coal (a non renewable energy source) isn’t called coal energy or something. That doesn’t remove the fact that non-renewable energy and non-renewable energy resources aren’t the same.

What is Renewable Energy and Non-renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is the energy that comes from renewable resources which can easily be made or replaced as they are used. A common example is solar energy.

Non-renewable energy is the energy that comes from non-renewable resources which can’t be easily replaced or made after it has been exhausted. A common example is coal.

Examples/types of Renewable Energy and Renewable Energy

Renewable energyNon renewable energy
Solar energyCoal
Wind energyCrude oil
Biomass energyNatural gas
Hydro (water) energyNuclear energy
Geothermal energy
Tidal energy
waves energy
Examples of renewable and non renewable energy

Renewable energy examples:

Solar energy
  • Solar Energy: The sun produces the solar energy. It keeps producing it every day without stop. No matter how it is used, it get replenished. So, solar energy can be renewed as it is used. And there is no indication that it can be exhausted.
  • Wind energy: Wind energy is gotten from wind. Even though wind varies across the surface of the earth, it is always blowing every day.
  • Biomass energy: This is derived from biomass materials like plants and animals. Since, plants and animals can be regrown within a reasonable time, biomass is considered renewable. Thus, biomass energy is also renewable. Energy from biomass are mostly used for generating heat or electricity.
  • Hydro (water) energy: Water is available in abundance as it covers about 70% of the earth. When it is used, it recycles back for reuse. One major use of water is in hydro power station for generating electricity.
  • Geothermal energy: This energy is form of heat energy that is generated and stored within the earth crust. As long as the earth exists, such energy will keep existing. They can be used to generate electricity.
  • Tidal and waves energy: These energy are derived from the tides and waves created on oceans. Tides and waves are caused by the wind and movement of the planet. Since the ocean is a major part of the earth’s hydrosphere with no known possibility of it getting exhausted, tides and waves will continue to happen frequently. Tides and waves energy can be used to generate electricity.

Non-renewable energy examples

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  • Coal: Coal is one of the most used energy source in the world. It is solid form of fossil fuel that takes thousands of years to form. It is in limited supply and can’t easily be replenished if exhausted.
  • Crude oil: This is a liquid form of fossil fuel that is formed from plants and animal remains which are buried under the sea for millions of years. Since it takes millions of years to form crude oil, it is considered a non-renewable.
  • Natural gas: Just like the crude oil, natural gas is a fossil fuel that is derived from the remains of plants and animals which is buried and has decayed for millions of years. It majorly consists of methane, and a lesser amount other gases like ethane, propane, etc.
  • Nuclear energy: This is the energy that is contained in the nucleus of an atom. Every atom contains some amount energy stored in it. But, some contain so much energy that it can be used to generate heat or electricity. Examples are uranium and thorium. These sources of nuclear energy are generally considered non-renewable. But, it is still a debatable one.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

Wind Energy
Wind Energy

Advantages of Renewable Energy

  • Many renewable energy are inexhaustible: Some renewable energies like solar, wind and hydro energy can’t be exhausted. Well, at least there is no indication they can be exhausted.
  • They are a clean and environmentally friendly: Unlike non-renewable energy, renewable energy is clean and causes far less pollution to the environment and air. They emit far less of greenhouse gases.
  • Renewable energy power systems require less maintenance: Compared to non-renewable energy power systems (e.g. gas power stations), most renewable energy power systems requires lesser maintenance. For example, solar power systems require little or no maintenance. This is majorly due to lack of moving parts. Even the ones with moving parts like wind power system, require lesser maintenance.
  • It can save you money: Less maintenance translates to less maintenance cost. Thus, your money is saved. And most renewable energy-based power systems does not require you to pay for fuel. Solar, wind, etc. are all in abundance and free to use. So, more money is saved.
  • Serves as an alternative: With renewable energy, we don’t have to depend solely on non-renewable energy. We can now have a backup plan for when the non-renewable energy isn’t available. This is why it’s, many times, called alternative energy.
  • It improves energy reliability: Renewable energy gives us more options of energy sources. We don’t have to rely on just one source. There are more options to choose from. You can now make us of varieties of energy sources.
  • Creates more jobs: More alternative sources of energy, more jobs. The solar, wind, biomass and other renewable energies has helped create more jobs for the people. And it’s just getting started. According to Forbes, the renewable energy industry has become a major employer in the United States, while coal industry slumps.
  • It encourages the local usage of energy: The traditional power systems are centralised. But, with renewable energy, local communities can now have their own renewable energy – based power systems that can provide them with reliable electricity. They don’t have to rely on the centralised power systems. Fortunately, solar, wind, biomass, and hydro (water) are all present in almost all communities.

Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

  • High initial cost for renewable energy – based power systems: In as much as the running cost can be very low, the initial capital required to build a renewable energy – based power systems can be high. For example, hydro power stations requires building of dams, and installation of turbine and other heavy accessories. And that will require a lot of capital. The same goes for solar and wind power systems. They all require high initial capital
  • It varies across the earth’s surface: In some places, there can be more solar energy while in some other place there is less of it. Geothermal energy are only obvious in some parts of the world while wind are more present in coastal areas, open plains or hilly areas. So, renewable energies aren’t distributed evenly across the surface of the earth.
  • Not reliable: Renewable energy isn’t always available because it goes on and off. For example, solar energy is available at day time but not at night. And even during the day, solar energy comes at varying intensities. The wind, too, isn’t always blowing. So, renewable energy isn’t that reliable. To improve reliability, storage batteries are required.
  • It mostly requires storage capacities, which is costly: Since renewable energy aren’t always available, storage batteries are required. Unfortunately, batteries are quite costly. So, using batteries adds to the cost of getting a renewable energy – based power system.
  • Their power systems require large space: Take solar power system as an example: The solar panels aren’t that efficient. Most of the solar energy that falls on solar panels aren’t used to generate electricity. And most of those solar panels are quite large in size. A 200 MW solar power systems will require larger space than gas power station of same capacity. So, large spaces are required to contain the panels. On wind turbines: they require very large space to contain the wind turbines. This is unlike many non-renewable energy power systems that require lesser space.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Non-renewable Energy


Advantages of Non-renewable Energy

  • They are movable: Unlike the solar, wind and other renewable energies, the non-renewable energy resources can be moved around the globe. This is because they are come in solid or liquid forms. For example, coal, oil, uranium are all movable.
  • Contains high energy: Most of the non-renewable energy sources, contains huge amount energy. For example, a little amount uranium can emit enough nuclear energy to generate huge electricity. According to the nuclear energy institute, “a pellet of uranium contains as much energy as one ton of coal, 149 gallons of oil, or 17000 cubic feet of natural gas”. Also, coal, natural gas and crude oil contains high amount of energy.
  • More efficient power systems: Most of the non-renewable energy – based power systems are more efficient than the renewable ones. For example, gas power stations have been in use for long, and has being more efficient year after year. But, solar panels, which is still at their infant state, are very inefficient. They will, most probably in the future, improve in efficiency. The traditional power systems are majorly from non-renewable energy. And their machinery have been worked on for years, and are a lot more efficient than most of the renewable energy ones
  • Easily profitable: Even with the clamour for more investment in  renewable energy, there is still a lot more demand for non-renewable energy. Coals, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy are still very profitable to invest in. And the profit can be made in lesser time than that of renewable energy
  • Creation of jobs: Even though the renewable energy industry is creating jobs at a better rate in many countries, the non-renewable energy is still creating a lot of jobs too. These jobs varies from drilling, excavating, processing, to transporting the renewable energy sources. Most countries economy is dependent on the opportunities created by the non-renewable energy industry.

Disadvantages of Non-renewable Energy

  • Environmentally unfriendly: Uranium, for example, are toxic and can have a negative effect on the environment. And its waste is said to be radioactive. When coal, natural gas and oil are burnt, it leads to emission of carbon gases into the atmosphere. These carbon gases are what contributes to global warming.
  • They take time to extract: Coal can be extracted from the earth’s surface or underground. Either way, it requires time for the coal to be mined. The extraction of crude oil and natural gas also involve various processes that takes time. Same applies to nuclear energy sources like uranium and Thorium. They all take time to extract. This is unlike solar, wind and other renewable energy which does not involve any extraction.
  • They are unclean and can be dangerous: When most non-renewable energy sources like coal, natural gas and oil are burnt, they release soot, and other air pollutants. And those air pollutants can be a danger to the health of human beings.
  • Mostly not sustainable: Most non-renewable energy sources can’t be sustained for ever. They are limited in supply and can’t be easily replaced when exhausted. Many of them take millions of years to form. And at the rate at which they are being used, it might get to a point in time when they will run out.
  • Their power systems requires more maintenance: Gas powered systems have a lot of components (especially with moving parts) which requires lots of maintenance. The same goes for other thermal power systems. They require a lot more maintenance than most renewable energy-based power systems.

What are your thoughts?