YHD Blogs – Is Clean Energy Really Clean?

This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs! 

By Grace L. 

As we strive for a future dependant on renewable energy sources, every method has its pros and cons. 


Solar energy has become increasingly popular, growing 35-fold since 2008. However, some argue that the production of solar panels requires fossil fuels and does more harm than good. This being said, cases show solar energy produces three or more times fewer emissions than fossil fuels while generating the same amount of energy. A 2017 study by Nature Energy also shows solar panels producing 26 times the energy required to build and install them. The same thing could be said for wind turbines. Although many have claimed that the production of wind farms is destructive to the environment, the same 2017 survey shows wind turbines producing 44 times the energy required to build and install them. It is true that renewable energy sources still have a carbon footprint, but it is an improvement from fossil fuels. 


Many people are concerned about the materials of wind turbines. It takes 800 pounds of copper and rare Earth materials to produce a wind turbine. However, after some research, it is found that the key materials, steel and copper, can be recycled. The fibreglass blades still pose a problem, but the majority of wind turbines are recyclable. 


Similarly, people argue about electric vehicles. They say the battery is damaging to the Earth. Valid points can be made from this. Yes, batteries are harmful and the main material, aluminum, requires more energy to produce than steel. However, research has shown that electric cars are better for the environment. Additionally, aluminum is considered one of the most environmentally-friendly metals, able to be recycled many times. 


Furthermore, biomass has proved to be a destructive energy source. Biomass burns plant/animal materials to produce energy. The most common material to burn is wood, the very thing we get our oxygen from. Not only that, it is expensive, requires lots of space, and releases fossil fuels while in the burning process. It also produces particle pollution (soot). This can cause asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks or death. Biomass can also release carbon monoxide, causing nausea, dizziness and sometimes, premature death. These effects can compare to the effects of wildfires. The problem is that many developing countries need it to provide cooking and heating. 


In the end, every energy source has its pros and cons. That being said, renewable energy sources have proven over and over again to be better for the environment, unless of course, it is biomass. It is hard to get people to transition away from fossil fuels after depending on them for a long time, but that is something we have to do to turn to cleaner options. Education is the first step in working together to better the future for all of us.