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The advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy

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renewable energy pros and cons essay

As we move toward a zero-carbon future, wind power, geothermal energy, solar energy, hydropower, tidal energy, hydrogen, and other renewable technologies are becoming widely popular energy sources worldwide. Countries, corporations, and individuals are adopting clean energy for several great benefits, from reduced air pollution to financial savings. In this article, we’ll dive into some of the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy .

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Here are some of the most important pros and cons of using clean, renewable energy:

Advantages of renewable energy

Renewable energy has multiple advantages over fossil fuels. Here are some of the top benefits of using an alternative energy source:

Renewable energy won’t run out.

Renewable energy has lower maintenance requirements.

Renewables save money.

Renewable energy has numerous environmental benefits.

Renewables lower reliance on foreign energy sources.

Renewable energy leads to cleaner water and air.

Renewable energy creates jobs.

Renewable energy can cut down on waste.

1. Renewable energy won’t run out

Renewable energy technologies use resources straight from the environment to generate power. These energy sources include sunshine, wind, tides, and biomass. Renewable resources won’t run out, which cannot be said for many types of fossil fuels – as we use fossil fuel resources, they will be increasingly difficult to obtain, likely driving up both the cost and environmental impact of extraction.

2. Maintenance requirements are lower for renewable energy

Renewable energy systems usually require less overall maintenance than generators that use traditional fuel sources. This is because generating technology like solar panels and wind turbines either have few or no moving parts and don’t rely on flammable, combustible fuel sources to operate. Fewer maintenance requirements translate to more time and money saved.

3. Renewables save money

Using renewable energy can help you save money long term. Not only will you save on maintenance costs but also on operating costs. You don't have to pay to refuel when you’re using a technology that generates power from the sun, wind, steam, or natural processes. The amount of money you will save using renewable energy can vary depending on several factors, including the technology itself. In most cases, transitioning to renewable energy means anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars in savings—find out how much you can save by switching to solar energy .

4. Renewable energy has numerous environmental benefits

Renewable energy generation sources lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fuel sources like natural gas. This means a smaller carbon footprint and an overall positive impact on the natural environment . During the combustion process, fossil fuels emit high amounts of greenhouse gases, which have been proven to exacerbate climate change, which in turn causes rising global temperatures and higher frequencies of extreme weather events.

The use of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants that lead to respiratory and cardiac health issues . With renewable energy, you’re helping decrease these pollutants' prevalence and contributing to a healthier atmosphere.

5. Renewables lower reliance on foreign energy sources

With renewable energy technologies, you can produce energy locally. The higher the amount of our energy use is renewable, the less we’ll rely on imported energy, and the more we’ll contribute to U.S. energy independence. Renewable energy sources can help us minimize the geo-political risks associated with fossil fuels, from trade disputes to political instability to pricing wars, which are often rooted in access to oil.

6. Renewable energy leads to cleaner water and air

When you burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, it contaminates the air and water we use. For example, coal power stations release high volumes of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and harmful toxins like mercury, lead, and sulfur dioxide. Health problems from ingesting these elements can be dangerous and even fatal. Investing in renewable energy is a great way to work against these risks, as renewables have a far lower negative impact on our air and water. 

The use of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants that lead to respiratory and cardiac health issues . With renewable energy, you’re helping decrease these pollutants' prevalence and contributing to a healthier environment.

7. Renewable energy creates new jobs 

While the U.S. shifts its focus to combat global warming, we’re setting ambitious carbon-reduction goals that require labor to get the job done. Today, the renewable energy sector employs three times as many people as fossil fuels in the U.S. That number is expected to rise over the next few years—and as a plus, these jobs tend to pay above average wages, making it a desirable career option and an overall economic boom. 

8. Renewable energy can help solve our waste problem

Specifically, biomass energy can offer a significant benefit in this way. Biomass generators consume used organic products like vegetable oil, corn and soybean byproducts, and even algae to generate energy. Because of this, using biomass as an energy source can reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills, which helps cut down on carbon emissions and environmental contamination.

Disadvantages of renewable energy

Renewable energy has many benefits, but it’s not always sunny when it comes to renewable energy. Here are some cons of renewable energy when compared to traditional fuel sources:

Renewable energy has high upfront costs.

Renewable energy is intermittent.

Renewables have storage capabilities.

Renewable energy sources have geographic limitations.

Renewables aren’t always 100% carbon-free.

1. Higher upfront cost

While you can save money using renewable energy, the technologies are typically more expensive upfront than traditional energy generators. To combat this, financial incentives such as tax credits and rebates are available to help alleviate your initial costs of renewable technology.

2. Intermittency

Though renewable energy resources are available around the world, many of these resources aren’t available 24/7, year-round. Some days may be windier than others, the sun doesn’t shine at night, and droughts may occur for periods. Unpredictable weather events can disrupt these technologies, and the amount of energy we can get from renewable power sources can be inconsistent. Fossil fuels are not intermittent, and power plants can be turned on or off at any time to provide an energy supply. Wondering if you should make the switch to renewables? Find out if an energy source like solar power is a good fit for you . 

3. Storage capabilities

Because of the intermittency of some renewable energy sources, there’s a high need for energy storage. Storage technologies are available but can be expensive, especially for large-scale renewable energy plants. It’s worth noting that energy storage capacity is growing as the technology progresses, and batteries are becoming more affordable as time passes.

4. Geographic limitations

The United States has a diverse geography with varying climates, topographies, vegetation, etc. This creates a beautiful melting pot of landscapes but also means that some geographies are more suitable for renewable technologies than others. For example, a large property in a rural area with open space may be an excellent place for a residential wind farm or a large-scale solar farm. At the same time, a townhome in a city covered in shade from taller buildings wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits of either technology. There are other options if your property isn’t suitable for a personal renewable energy technology. If you’re interested in solar but don’t have a sunny property, you can often still benefit from renewable energy by purchasing green power or enrolling in a community solar option .

5. Not 100% carbon-free

Although solar panels and other forms of renewable energy drastically reduce carbon emissions, these resources aren’t always completely clean. The manufacturing, transportation, and installation of renewable energy, like wind turbines, can create a carbon footprint since they’re usually produced in factories powered by fossil fuels —not to mention the diesel and gasoline needed to fuel the transport trucks. As the U.S. becomes more and more electrified – from solar panels on factories to electric transport trucks – carbon emissions associated with solar will continue to decrease.

6. Supply chain constraints

Renewables must have an effective distribution network created to transfer the energy where it’s needed on a large scale. These networks need non-renewable fuels to be generated, which offsets the benefits of renewable energy for a bit until it’s paid back. Additionally, politics can play a factor in installing renewable energy if it’s not a priority among local governments.

Types of renewable energy sources

There are a few types of renewable sources we can use for energy production: 

Wind energy leverages the power of wind motion to generate electricity created by the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface. 

Solar power uses energy from the sun to generate electricity and heat.

Hydropower utilizes fast-moving water to spin turbines and generate electricity. This is also known as hydroelectric power or hydroelectricity.

Biomass generates electricity from organic plant matter.

Geothermal energy leverages heat from inside the earth to generate electricity.

Tidal produces electricity with special generators that leverage the surges of the ocean created during rising and falling tides. Hydrogen: utilized as fuel and electricity when separated from other elements like oxygen.

Nuclear energy , while not technically renewable, is often lumped in with the abovementioned sources. Nuclear power has the potential to provide electricity generation on a massive scale with zero emissions, making it an intriguing part of our energy future.

Renewable energy has more benefits than drawbacks

When it comes to renewable energy, the positives outweigh the negatives. Transitioning to renewables on a personal, corporate, or governmental level will help you save money and promote a cleaner, healthier environment for the future.

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Renewable Energy

Renewable energy comes from sources that will not be used up in our lifetimes, such as the sun and wind.

Earth Science, Experiential Learning, Engineering, Geology

Wind Turbines in a Sheep Pasture

Wind turbines use the power of wind to generate energy. This is just one source of renewable energy.

Photograph by Jesus Keller/ Shutterstock

Wind turbines use the power of wind to generate energy. This is just one source of renewable energy.

The wind, the sun, and Earth are sources of  renewable energy . These energy sources naturally renew, or replenish themselves.

Wind, sunlight, and the planet have energy that transforms in ways we can see and feel. We can see and feel evidence of the transfer of energy from the sun to Earth in the sunlight shining on the ground and the warmth we feel when sunlight shines on our skin. We can see and feel evidence of the transfer of energy in wind’s ability to pull kites higher into the sky and shake the leaves on trees. We can see and feel evidence of the transfer of energy in the geothermal energy of steam vents and geysers .

People have created different ways to capture the energy from these renewable sources.

Solar Energy

Solar energy can be captured “actively” or “passively.”

Active solar energy uses special technology to capture the sun’s rays. The two main types of equipment are photovoltaic cells (also called PV cells or solar cells) and mirrors that focus sunlight in a specific spot. These active solar technologies use sunlight to generate electricity , which we use to power lights, heating systems, computers, and televisions.

Passive solar energy does not use any equipment. Instead, it gets energy from the way sunlight naturally changes throughout the day. For example, people can build houses so their windows face the path of the sun. This means the house will get more heat from the sun. It will take less energy from other sources to heat the house.

Other examples of passive solar technology are green roofs , cool roofs, and radiant barriers . Green roofs are completely covered with plants. Plants can get rid of pollutants in rainwater and air. They help make the local environment cleaner.

Cool roofs are painted white to better reflect sunlight. Radiant barriers are made of a reflective covering, such as aluminum. They both reflect the sun’s heat instead of absorbing it. All these types of roofs help lower the amount of energy needed to cool the building.

Advantages and Disadvantages There are many advantages to using solar energy. PV cells last for a long time, about 20 years.

However, there are reasons why solar power cannot be used as the only power source in a community. It can be expensive to install PV cells or build a building using passive solar technology.

Sunshine can also be hard to predict. It can be blocked by clouds, and the sun doesn’t shine at night. Different parts of Earth receive different amounts of sunlight based on location, the time of year, and the time of day.

Wind Energy

People have been harnessing the wind’s energy for a long, long time. Five-thousand years ago, ancient Egyptians made boats powered by the wind. In 200 B.C.E., people used windmills to grind grain in the Middle East and pump water in China.

Today, we capture the wind’s energy with wind turbines . A turbine is similar to a windmill; it has a very tall tower with two or three propeller-like blades at the top. These blades are turned by the wind. The blades turn a generator (located inside the tower), which creates electricity.

Groups of wind turbines are known as wind farms . Wind farms can be found near farmland, in narrow mountain passes, and even in the ocean, where there are steadier and stronger winds. Wind turbines anchored in the ocean are called “ offshore wind farms.”

Wind farms create electricity for nearby homes, schools, and other buildings.

Advantages and Disadvantages Wind energy can be very efficient . In places like the Midwest in the United States and along coasts, steady winds can provide cheap, reliable electricity.

Another great advantage of wind power is that it is a “clean” form of energy. Wind turbines do not burn fuel or emit any pollutants into the air.

Wind is not always a steady source of energy, however. Wind speed changes constantly, depending on the time of day, weather , and geographic location. Currently, it cannot be used to provide electricity for all our power needs.

Wind turbines can also be dangerous for bats and birds. These animals cannot always judge how fast the blades are moving and crash into them.

Geothermal Energy

Deep beneath the surface is Earth’s core . The center of Earth is extremely hot—thought to be over 6,000 °C (about 10,800 °F). The heat is constantly moving toward the surface.

We can see some of Earth’s heat when it bubbles to the surface. Geothermal energy can melt underground rocks into magma and cause the magma to bubble to the surface as lava . Geothermal energy can also heat underground sources of water and force it to spew out from the surface. This stream of water is called a geyser.

However, most of Earth’s heat stays underground and makes its way out very, very slowly.

We can access underground geothermal heat in different ways. One way of using geothermal energy is with “geothermal heat pumps.” A pipe of water loops between a building and holes dug deep underground. The water is warmed by the geothermal energy underground and brings the warmth aboveground to the building. Geothermal heat pumps can be used to heat houses, sidewalks, and even parking lots.

Another way to use geothermal energy is with steam. In some areas of the world, there is underground steam that naturally rises to the surface. The steam can be piped straight to a power plant. However, in other parts of the world, the ground is dry. Water must be injected underground to create steam. When the steam comes to the surface, it is used to turn a generator and create electricity.

In Iceland, there are large reservoirs of underground water. Almost 90 percent of people in Iceland use geothermal as an energy source to heat their homes and businesses.

Advantages and Disadvantages An advantage of geothermal energy is that it is clean. It does not require any fuel or emit any harmful pollutants into the air.

Geothermal energy is only avaiable in certain parts of the world. Another disadvantage of using geothermal energy is that in areas of the world where there is only dry heat underground, large quantities of freshwater are used to make steam. There may not be a lot of freshwater. People need water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Biomass Energy

Biomass is any material that comes from plants or microorganisms that were recently living. Plants create energy from the sun through photosynthesis . This energy is stored in the plants even after they die.

Trees, branches, scraps of bark, and recycled paper are common sources of biomass energy. Manure, garbage, and crops , such as corn, soy, and sugar cane, can also be used as biomass feedstocks .

We get energy from biomass by burning it. Wood chips, manure, and garbage are dried out and compressed into squares called “briquettes.” These briquettes are so dry that they do not absorb water. They can be stored and burned to create heat or generate electricity.

Biomass can also be converted into biofuel . Biofuels are mixed with regular gasoline and can be used to power cars and trucks. Biofuels release less harmful pollutants than pure gasoline.

Advantages and Disadvantages A major advantage of biomass is that it can be stored and then used when it is needed.

Growing crops for biofuels, however, requires large amounts of land and pesticides . Land could be used for food instead of biofuels. Some pesticides could pollute the air and water.

Biomass energy can also be a nonrenewable energy source. Biomass energy relies on biomass feedstocks—plants that are processed and burned to create electricity. Biomass feedstocks can include crops, such as corn or soy, as well as wood. If people do not replant biomass feedstocks as fast as they use them, biomass energy becomes a non-renewable energy source.

Hydroelectric Energy

Hydroelectric energy is made by flowing water. Most hydroelectric power plants are located on large dams , which control the flow of a river.

Dams block the river and create an artificial lake, or reservoir. A controlled amount of water is forced through tunnels in the dam. As water flows through the tunnels, it turns huge turbines and generates electricity.

Advantages and Disadvantages Hydroelectric energy is fairly inexpensive to harness. Dams do not need to be complex, and the resources to build them are not difficult to obtain. Rivers flow all over the world, so the energy source is available to millions of people.

Hydroelectric energy is also fairly reliable. Engineers control the flow of water through the dam, so the flow does not depend on the weather (the way solar and wind energies do).

However, hydroelectric power plants are damaging to the environment. When a river is dammed, it creates a large lake behind the dam. This lake (sometimes called a reservoir) drowns the original river habitat deep underwater. Sometimes, people build dams that can drown entire towns underwater. The people who live in the town or village must move to a new area.

Hydroelectric power plants don’t work for a very long time: Some can only supply power for 20 or 30 years. Silt , or dirt from a riverbed, builds up behind the dam and slows the flow of water.

Other Renewable Energy Sources

Scientists and engineers are constantly working to harness other renewable energy sources. Three of the most promising are tidal energy , wave energy , and algal (or algae) fuel.

Tidal energy harnesses the power of ocean tides to generate electricity. Some tidal energy projects use the moving tides to turn the blades of a turbine. Other projects use small dams to continually fill reservoirs at high tide and slowly release the water (and turn turbines) at low tide.

Wave energy harnesses waves from the ocean, lakes, or rivers. Some wave energy projects use the same equipment that tidal energy projects do—dams and standing turbines. Other wave energy projects float directly on waves. The water’s constant movement over and through these floating pieces of equipment turns turbines and creates electricity.

Algal fuel is a type of biomass energy that uses the unique chemicals in seaweed to create a clean and renewable biofuel. Algal fuel does not need the acres of cropland that other biofuel feedstocks do.

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Wind energy offers many advantages, which explains why it's one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world. To further expand wind energy’s capabilities and community benefits, researchers are working to address technical and socio-economic challenges in support of a decarbonized electricity future.

Illustration of a wind farm.

Learn more about ongoing research to take advantage of these benefits and tackle wind energy challenges.

Advantages of Wind Power

  • Wind power creates good-paying jobs.  There are over 120,000 people working in the U.S. wind industry across all 50 states, and that number continues to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , wind turbine service technicians are the second fastest growing U.S. job of the decade. Offering career opportunities ranging from blade fabricator to asset manager, the wind industry has the potential to support hundreds of thousands of more jobs by 2050.
  • Wind power is a domestic resource that enables U.S. economic growth. In 2022, wind turbines operating in all 50 states generated more than 10% of the net total of the country’s energy . That same year, investments in new wind projects added $20 billion to the U.S. economy.
  • Wind power is a clean and renewable energy source. Wind turbines harness energy from the wind using mechanical power to spin a generator and create electricity. Not only is wind an abundant and inexhaustible resource, but it also provides electricity without burning any fuel or polluting the air. Wind continues to be the largest source of renewable power in the United States , which helps reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Wind energy helps avoid 329 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – equivalent to 71 million cars worth of emissions that along with other atmospheric emissions cause acid rain, smog, and greenhouse gases.
  • Wind power benefits local communities. Wind projects deliver an estimated $1.9 billion in state and local tax payments and land-lease payments each year. Communities that develop wind energy can use the extra revenue to put towards school budgets, reduce the tax burden on homeowners, and address local infrastructure projects.
  • Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based, utility-scale wind turbines provide one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today. Furthermore, wind energy’s cost competitiveness continues to improve with advances in the science and technology of wind energy.
  • Wind turbines work in different settings. Wind energy generation fits well in agricultural and multi-use working landscapes. Wind energy is easily integrated in rural or remote areas, such as farms and ranches or coastal and island communities, where high-quality wind resources are often found.

Challenges of Wind Power

  • Wind power must compete with other low-cost energy sources. When comparing the cost of energy associated with new power plants , wind and solar projects are now more economically competitive than gas, geothermal, coal, or nuclear facilities. However, wind projects may not be cost-competitive in some locations that are not windy enough. Next-generation technology , manufacturing improvements , and a better understanding of wind plant physics can help bring costs down even more.
  • Ideal wind sites are often in remote locations. Installation challenges must be overcome to bring electricity from wind farms to urban areas, where it is needed to meet demand. Upgrading the nation’s transmission network to connect areas with abundant wind resources to population centers could significantly reduce the costs of expanding land-based wind energy. In addition, offshore wind energy transmission and grid interconnection capabilities are improving.
  • Turbines produce noise and alter visual aesthetics. Wind farms have different impacts on the environment compared to conventional power plants, but similar concerns exist over both the noise produced by the turbine blades and the  visual impacts on the landscape .
  • Wind plants can impact local wildlife. Although wind projects rank lower than other energy developments in terms of wildlife impacts, research is still needed to minimize wind-wildlife interactions . Advancements in technologies,  properly siting wind plants, and ongoing environmental research are working to reduce the impact of wind turbines on wildlife.

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What Is the Future of Wind Energy?

This article was reviewed by a member of Caltech's Faculty .

Humans have used windmills to capture the force of the wind as mechanical energy for more than 1,300 years . Unlike early windmills, however, modern wind turbines use generators and other components to convert energy from the spinning blades into a smooth flow of AC electricity.

In the video below, Resnick Sustainability Institute researcher John Dabiri discusses the future of wind energy technology.

How much of global electricity demand is met by wind energy?

Wind energy is a small but fast-growing fraction of electricity production. It accounts for 5 percent of global electricity production and 8 percent of the U.S. electricity supply.

Globally, wind energy capacity surpasses 743 gigawatts , which is more than is available from grid-connected solar energy and about half as much as hydropower can provide. Nearly three-quarters of that 651 gigawatts comes from wind farms in five countries: China, the U.S., Germany, India, and Spain. Wind energy capacity in the Americas has tripled over the past decade.

In the U.S., wind is now a dominant renewable energy source , with enough wind turbines to generate more than 100 million watts, or megawatts, of electricity, equivalent to the consumption of about 29 million average homes.

The cost of wind energy has plummeted over the past decade. In the U.S., it is cost-competitive with natural gas and solar power.

Wind energy and solar energy complement each other, because wind is often strongest after the sun has heated the ground for a time. Warm air rises from the most heated areas, leaving a void where other air can rush in, which produces horizontal wind currents . We can draw on solar energy during the earlier parts of the day and turn to wind energy in the evening and night. Wind energy has added value in areas that are too cloudy or dark for strong solar energy production, especially at higher latitudes.

How big are wind turbines and how much electricity can they generate?

Typical utility-scale land-based wind turbines are about 250 feet tall and have an average capacity of 2.55 megawatts, each producing enough electricity for hundreds of homes. While land-based wind farms may be remote, most are easy to access and connect to existing power grids.

Smaller turbines, often used in distributed systems that generate power for local use rather than for sale, average about 100 feet tall and produce between 5 and 100 kilowatts.

One type of offshore wind turbine currently in development stands 853 feet tall, four-fifths the height of the Eiffel Tower, and can produce 13 megawatts of power. Adjusted for variations in wind, that is enough to consistently power thousands of homes. While tall offshore turbines lack some of the advantages of land-based wind farms, use of them is burgeoning because they can capture the energy of powerful, reliable winds high in the air near coastlines, where most of the largest cities in the world are located.

What are some potential future wind technologies other than turbines?

Engineers are in the early stages of creating airborne wind turbines , in which the components are either floated by a gas like helium or use their own aerodynamics to stay high in the air, where wind is stronger. These systems are being considered for offshore use, where it is expensive and difficult to install conventional wind turbines on tall towers.

Trees, which can withstand gale forces and yet move in response to breezes from any direction, also are inspiring new ideas for wind energy technology. Engineers speculate about making artificial wind-harvesting trees . That would require new materials and devices that could convert energy from a tree's complex movements into the steady rotation that traditional generators need. The prize is wind energy harvested closer to the ground with smaller, less obtrusive technologies and in places with complex airflows, such as cities.

What are the challenges of using wind energy?

Extreme winds challenge turbine designers. Engineers have to create systems that will start generating energy at relatively low wind speeds and also can survive extremely strong winds. A strong gale contains 1,000 times more power than a light breeze, and engineers don't yet know how to design electrical generators or turbine blades that can efficiently capture such a broad range of input wind power. To be safe, turbines may be overbuilt to withstand winds they will not experience at many sites, driving up costs and material use. One potential solution is the use of long-term weather forecasting and AI to better predict the wind resources at individual locations and inform designs for turbines that suit those sites.

Climate change will bring more incidents of unusual weather, including potential changes in wind patterns . Wind farms may help mitigate some of the harmful effects of climate change. For example, turbines in cold regions are routinely winterized to keep working in icy weather when other systems may fail, and studies have demonstrated that offshore wind farms may reduce the damage caused by hurricanes . A more challenging situation will arise if wind patterns shift significantly. The financing for wind energy projects depends critically on the ability to predict wind resources at specific sites decades into the future. One potential way to mitigate unexpected, climate-change-related losses or gains of wind is to flexibly add and remove groups of smaller turbines, such as vertical-axis wind turbines , within existing large-scale wind farms.

Wind farms do have environmental impacts . The most well-known is harm to wildlife, including birds and bats . Studies are informing wind farm siting and management practices that minimize harm to wildlife , and Audubon, a bird conservation group, now supports well-planned wind farms. The construction and maintenance of wind farms involves energy-intensive activities such as trucking, road-building, concrete production, and steel construction. Also, while towers can be recycled, turbine blades are not easily recyclable. In hopes of developing low-to-zero-waste wind farms, scientists aim to design new reuse and disposal strategies , and recyclable plastic turbine blades. Studies show that wind energy's carbon footprint is quickly offset by the electricity it generates and is among the lowest of any energy source .

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Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy

We talk a lot about how renewable energy is awesome, but it’s important to look at its potential flaws as well. Considering some of the drawbacks to renewable energy, will it still become the future of our nation’s energy production? We definitely think so! Here’s a look at some pros and cons:

  • Renewable energy offers stable prices and a clean, continual source of energy. Renewable energy is dependable.
  • Since these renewable energy sources produce very small amounts of carbon emissions, they are much better for the environment than traditional fossil fuels.
  • To create a large enough industry to support an entire nation would require the creation of many jobs, which would stimulate the economy. This can be seen on a much smaller scale today .
  • Renewable energy systems have a low cost of operations.
  • Micro-station options are a possibility with renewable energy. This means that particularly in areas where the grid isn’t as reliable, it’s possible to generate energy off of the conventional energy grid, thanks to renewable energy technology.
  • Since renewable technology is new (compared to energy technology that is commonly used at present), there are a fair number of costs associated with making renewable energy systems accessible to the masses.
  • Most renewable energy depends on weather conditions to be most effective. For example, solar and wind energy, the two most common forms of renewable energy, depend on sufficient wind and sunlight to generate electricity.
  • The underdevelopment of the industry at present precludes the idea of leaning heavily on renewable energy as an entire nation–for now.
  • Given the weather concerns with renewable energy, it may not be possible to create enough energy in some regions of the country to make it worth the investment in renewable energy systems.
  • To capture large amounts of renewable energy, a great deal of land is required to install solar panels, wind turbines, etc.

Many of the road blocks that are in the way of embracing the renewable energy industry as a unified nation can be solved with the advancement of renewable energy technology—both advancements that reduce the space it requires to generate energy and the cost of creating and distributing that energy. In fact, the possible creation of a smart energy grid would make renewable energy a very attractive option for our nation’s energy future.

What do you think about renewable energy? Do you think it will be the future of energy production? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Solar vs wind power: The ultimate showdown

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Which renewable energy is best to switch to? Image:  Zbynek Burival/Unsplash

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Renewable Energy 101

In any discussion about climate change , renewable energy usually tops the list of changes the world can implement to stave off the worst effects of rising temperatures. That's because renewable energy sources such as solar and wind don't emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming .

Clean energy has far more to recommend it than just being "green." The growing sector creates jobs , makes electric grids more resilient, expands energy access in developing countries, and helps lower energy bills. All of those factors have contributed to a renewable energy renaissance in recent years, with wind and solar setting new records for electricity generation .

For the past 150 years or so, humans have relied heavily on coal, oil, and other fossil fuels to power everything from light bulbs to cars to factories. Fossil fuels are embedded in nearly everything we do, and as a result, the greenhouse gases released from the burning of those fuels have reached historically high levels .

As greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere that would otherwise escape into space, average temperatures on the surface are rising . Global warming is one symptom of climate change, the term scientists now prefer to describe the complex shifts affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems. Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas , and a range of other impacts .

Of course, renewables—like any source of energy—have their own trade-offs and associated debates. One of them centers on the definition of renewable energy. Strictly speaking, renewable energy is just what you might think: perpetually available, or as the U.S. Energy Information Administration puts it, " virtually inexhaustible ." But "renewable" doesn't necessarily mean sustainable, as opponents of corn-based ethanol or large hydropower dams often argue. It also doesn't encompass other low- or zero-emissions resources that have their own advocates, including energy efficiency and nuclear power.

Types of renewable energy sources

Hydropower: For centuries, people have harnessed the energy of river currents, using dams to control water flow. Hydropower is the world's biggest source of renewable energy by far, with China, Brazil, Canada, the U.S., and Russia the leading hydropower producers . While hydropower is theoretically a clean energy source replenished by rain and snow, it also has several drawbacks.

Large dams can disrupt river ecosystems and surrounding communities , harming wildlife and displacing residents. Hydropower generation is vulnerable to silt buildup, which can compromise capacity and harm equipment. Drought can also cause problems. In the western U.S., carbon dioxide emissions over a 15-year period were 100 megatons higher than they normally would have been, according to a 2018 study , as utilities turned to coal and gas to replace hydropower lost to drought. Even hydropower at full capacity bears its own emissions problems, as decaying organic material in reservoirs releases methane.

Dams aren't the only way to use water for power: Tidal and wave energy projects around the world aim to capture the ocean's natural rhythms. Marine energy projects currently generate an estimated 500 megawatts of power —less than one percent of all renewables—but the potential is far greater. Programs like Scotland’s Saltire Prize have encouraged innovation in this area.

Wind: Harnessing the wind as a source of energy started more than 7,000 years ago . Now, electricity-generating wind turbines are proliferating around the globe, and China, the U.S., and Germany are the leading wind energy producers. From 2001 to 2017 , cumulative wind capacity around the world increased to more than 539,000 megawatts from 23,900 mw—more than 22 fold.

Some people may object to how wind turbines look on the horizon and to how they sound, but wind energy, whose prices are declining , is proving too valuable a resource to deny. While most wind power comes from onshore turbines, offshore projects are appearing too, with the most in the U.K. and Germany. The first U.S. offshore wind farm opened in 2016 in Rhode Island, and other offshore projects are gaining momentum . Another problem with wind turbines is that they’re a danger for birds and bats, killing hundreds of thousands annually , not as many as from glass collisions and other threats like habitat loss and invasive species, but enough that engineers are working on solutions to make them safer for flying wildlife.

Solar: From home rooftops to utility-scale farms, solar power is reshaping energy markets around the world. In the decade from 2007 and 2017 the world's total installed energy capacity from photovoltaic panels increased a whopping 4,300 percent .

In addition to solar panels, which convert the sun's light to electricity, concentrating solar power (CSP) plants use mirrors to concentrate the sun's heat, deriving thermal energy instead. China, Japan, and the U.S. are leading the solar transformation, but solar still has a long way to go, accounting for around two percent of the total electricity generated in the U.S. in 2017. Solar thermal energy is also being used worldwide for hot water, heating, and cooling.

Biomass: Biomass energy includes biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel , wood and wood waste, biogas from landfills, and municipal solid waste. Like solar power, biomass is a flexible energy source, able to fuel vehicles, heat buildings, and produce electricity. But biomass can raise thorny issues.

Critics of corn-based ethanol , for example, say it competes with the food market for corn and supports the same harmful agricultural practices that have led to toxic algae blooms and other environmental hazards. Similarly, debates have erupted over whether it's a good idea to ship wood pellets from U.S. forests over to Europe so that it can be burned for electricity. Meanwhile, scientists and companies are working on ways to more efficiently convert corn stover , wastewater sludge , and other biomass sources into energy, aiming to extract value from material that would otherwise go to waste.

Geothermal: Used for thousands of years in some countries for cooking and heating, geothermal energy is derived from the Earth’s internal heat . On a large scale, underground reservoirs of steam and hot water can be tapped through wells that can go a mile deep or more to generate electricity. On a smaller scale, some buildings have geothermal heat pumps that use temperature differences several feet below ground for heating and cooling. Unlike solar and wind energy, geothermal energy is always available, but it has side effects that need to be managed, such as the rotten egg smell that can accompany released hydrogen sulfide.

Ways to boost renewable energy

Cities, states, and federal governments around the world are instituting policies aimed at increasing renewable energy. At least 29 U.S. states have set renewable portfolio standards —policies that mandate a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources, More than 100 cities worldwide now boast at least 70 percent renewable energy, and still others are making commitments to reach 100 percent . Other policies that could encourage renewable energy growth include carbon pricing, fuel economy standards, and building efficiency standards. Corporations are making a difference too, purchasing record amounts of renewable power in 2018.

Wonder whether your state could ever be powered by 100 percent renewables? No matter where you live, scientist Mark Jacobson believes it's possible. That vision is laid out here , and while his analysis is not without critics , it punctuates a reality with which the world must now reckon. Even without climate change, fossil fuels are a finite resource, and if we want our lease on the planet to be renewed, our energy will have to be renewable.

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What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished. Renewable energy sources are plentiful and all around us.

Fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - on the other hand, are non-renewable resources that take hundreds of millions of years to form. Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.

Generating renewable energy creates far lower emissions than burning fossil fuels. Transitioning from fossil fuels, which currently account for the lion’s share of emissions, to renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis.

Renewables are now cheaper in most countries, and generate three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

Here are a few common sources of renewable energy:



Solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources and can even be harnessed in cloudy weather. The rate at which solar energy is intercepted by the Earth is about 10,000 times greater than the rate at which humankind consumes energy.

Solar technologies can deliver heat, cooling, natural lighting, electricity, and fuels for a host of applications. Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation.

Although not all countries are equally endowed with solar energy, a significant contribution to the energy mix from direct solar energy is possible for every country.

The cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted dramatically in the last decade, making them not only affordable but often the cheapest form of electricity. Solar panels have a lifespan of roughly 30 years , and come in variety of shades depending on the type of material used in manufacturing.



Wind energy harnesses the kinetic energy of moving air by using large wind turbines located on land (onshore) or in sea- or freshwater (offshore). Wind energy has been used for millennia, but onshore and offshore wind energy technologies have evolved over the last few years to maximize the electricity produced - with taller turbines and larger rotor diameters.

Though average wind speeds vary considerably by location, the world’s technical potential for wind energy exceeds global electricity production, and ample potential exists in most regions of the world to enable significant wind energy deployment.

Many parts of the world have strong wind speeds, but the best locations for generating wind power are sometimes remote ones. Offshore wind power offers t remendous potential .



Geothermal energy utilizes the accessible thermal energy from the Earth’s interior. Heat is extracted from geothermal reservoirs using wells or other means.

Reservoirs that are naturally sufficiently hot and permeable are called hydrothermal reservoirs, whereas reservoirs that are sufficiently hot but that are improved with hydraulic stimulation are called enhanced geothermal systems.

Once at the surface, fluids of various temperatures can be used to generate electricity. The technology for electricity generation from hydrothermal reservoirs is mature and reliable, and has been operating for more than 100 years .


Hydropower harnesses the energy of water moving from higher to lower elevations. It can be generated from reservoirs and rivers. Reservoir hydropower plants rely on stored water in a reservoir, while run-of-river hydropower plants harness energy from the available flow of the river.

Hydropower reservoirs often have multiple uses - providing drinking water, water for irrigation, flood and drought control, navigation services, as well as energy supply.

Hydropower currently is the largest source of renewable energy in the electricity sector. It relies on generally stable rainfall patterns, and can be negatively impacted by climate-induced droughts or changes to ecosystems which impact rainfall patterns.

The infrastructure needed to create hydropower can also impact on ecosystems in adverse ways. For this reason, many consider small-scale hydro a more environmentally-friendly option , and especially suitable for communities in remote locations.



Ocean energy derives from technologies that use the kinetic and thermal energy of seawater - waves or currents for instance -  to produce electricity or heat.

Ocean energy systems are still at an early stage of development, with a number of prototype wave and tidal current devices being explored. The theoretical potential for ocean energy easily exceeds present human energy requirements.


Bioenergy is produced from a variety of organic materials, called biomass, such as wood, charcoal, dung and other manures for heat and power production, and agricultural crops for liquid biofuels. Most biomass is used in rural areas for cooking, lighting and space heating, generally by poorer populations in developing countries.

Modern biomass systems include dedicated crops or trees, residues from agriculture and forestry, and various organic waste streams.

Energy created by burning biomass creates greenhouse gas emissions, but at lower levels than burning fossil fuels like coal, oil or gas. However, bioenergy should only be used in limited applications, given potential negative environmental impacts related to large-scale increases in forest and bioenergy plantations, and resulting deforestation and land-use change.

For more information on renewable sources of energy, please check out the following websites:

International Renewable Energy Agency | Renewables

International Energy Agency | Renewables

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change | Renewable Sources of Energy

UN Environment Programme | Roadmap to a Carbon-Free Future

Sustainable Energy for All | Renewable Energy

renewable energy pros and cons essay

Renewable energy – powering a safer future

What is renewable energy and why does it matter? Learn more about why the shift to renewables is our only hope for a brighter and safer world.

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Five ways to jump-start the renewable energy transition now

UN Secretary-General outlines five critical actions the world needs to prioritize now to speed up the global shift to renewable energy.

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Loyola University > Supply Chain and Sustainability Center > Insights > Articles and Publications

  • Articles and Publications

The pros and cons of investing in renewable energy supply chains.

The pros and cons of investing in renewable energy supply chains.

The winds are changing

Today, renewable energy generates 26% of the world’s electricity. By 2024, it is expected to generate 30%. This upward trend is one that businesses should pay attention to if they hope to remain competitive and successful, especially when it comes to investing in renewable energy supply chains.   Domestically, one of the fastest growing markets for renewable energy is wind. Wind energy involves numerous supply chain elements—ranging from wind turbine generator development to wind turbine transportation—that offer unique opportunities for both businesses and the economy. In the next decade, the offshore wind energy market is expected to grow into an industry worth nearly $60 billion in capital expenditures. Such growth, driven by the availability of natural resource lease opportunities and an increased demand for clean energy, will open the door for true economic and humanitarian potential. Experts predict that switching to renewable energy could save 4 to 7 million lives each year from air pollution, while simultaneously functioning to slow and reverse the effects of global warming, stabilizing the energy sector.

More than just altruism

We know what you’re thinking. Renewable energy supply chains are Earth-friendly and make for a good public image, but are they cost effective? The question is valid. Research and technology for renewables is often costly and can take time to develop. However, the U.S. Department of Energy continues to fund cutting-edge research to produce the next generation of renewable technology. The average installation cost of a wind project is down 40% from 2010 and is continuing to drop. Moreover, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) forecasts that the offshore wind industry alone will invest between $28 and $57 billion in the U.S. economy. As of 2018, the wind sector of renewable energy is responsible for employing over 100,000 people and generating over $1 billion in revenue. The money is there to be made, especially as costs continue to fall and environmental concerns continue to rise.   So how are inroads being made? According to AWEA: as of April 2020, the U.S. had a total offshore wind pipeline of over 26,000 MW. Project developers currently expect 13 offshore wind projects totaling 9,100 MW to be operational by 2026. Apple recently announced it is investing in the world’s largest onshore wind turbines as part of its commitment to becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2030. The company’s own operations achieved this back in 2018, but the expanded target incorporates Apple’s entire supply chain and product lifecycle. Walmart has also been in the news ; they are collaborating with Schneider Electric in an effort to help suppliers access renewable energy as part of Project Gigaton, which aims to avoid one gigaton (one billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide from Walmart’s global value chain by 2030.

Pros and cons

Renewable energy—specifically wind energy—isn’t going to be the right solution for every organization. The site Conserve Energy Future has a good list of pros and cons worth checking out. While operating costs are low and the production of wind energy is clean, windmills can be noisy and for some, unattractive.

5 steps toward renewable solutions

As the capacity for U.S. wind power continues to increase, opportunities for new businesses to enter the market is also on the rise. More than 500 domestic factories manufacture parts for wind turbines and many states require energy suppliers get at least 50% of their energy from renewable sources. This is all good news for those interested in entering the market, but practically speaking how do businesses begin to implement clean energy practices?   Renewable Energy World published an article that talks about five steps businesses can take to incorporate renewable solutions into the procurement process. We recommend you read the entire article, but in the meantime, here’s a snapshot of the five steps:

  • Know Your Business, Know Your Data Companies must know how much energy they use, where/when they are using it, and for how long? Answering these questions will help identify opportunities and pinpoint the best uses for alternative energy sources. 
  • Consider Stakeholder Priorities Your stakeholders’ priorities will be varied, and in some cases, even conflicting. But knowing what they are and who holds them will help inform a successful plan. 
  • Identify Barriers to Success You’re bound to encounter barriers (ie: capital expenditure, local regulations). Identifying potential hurdles, both internal and external, will mitigate crises and make the overall procurement process more efficient and cost-effective.
  • Run the Long Race, Not the Sprint Don’t rush into actions that may cause inefficiency later.
  • Incremental Diversification Rather Than Replacing Portfolio Procurement Strategies Start small and gather quick wins to build knowledge and support for bigger initiatives in the future.

Corporate renewable procurement is booming, growing by 60% over the past decade, however, there is still much to be done to reach the identified science-based climate targets. There are plenty of opportunities now in the domestic market for renewable energy supply chains. We’d love to hear how your business plans to invest in this growing movement.

We would like to thank Chris Gunsten , a graduate student at the Quinlan School of Business, for his contributions and research on the topic of wind energy opportunities in the supply chain.

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renewable energy pros and cons essay

Renewable Energy – Pros and Cons

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable electricity is growing at a faster rate in India than any other major economy, with new capacity additions on track to double by 2026.

Renewable Energy - Pros and Cons

Table of Contents

Context: According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Renewable electricity is growing at a faster rate in India than any other major economy, with new capacity additions on track to double by 2026.

About Renewable Energy

  • Renewable energy refers to energy sources that are naturally replenished and have a significantly lower impact on the environment compared to fossil fuels.
  • The most popular renewable energy sources currently are: Solar energy, Wind energy, Hydro energy, Tidal energy, Geothermal energy, Biomass energy.
  • When it comes to nuclear energy , the energy produced by nuclear power plants is considered renewable, but the fuel required for nuclear reactions is not renewable. Additionally, nuclear energy production does not release greenhouse gases, making it a low-carbon energy source.

India’s Renewable Energy Landscape

  • As of May 2023, India’s installed renewable energy (RE) capacity, including nuclear power, stands at 197 GW, which accounts for 43% of the total installed energy capacity.
  • India stands 4th globally in Renewable Energy Installed Capacity , 4th in Wind Power capacity & 4th in Solar Power capacity (as per REN21 Renewables 2022 Global Status Report).
  • Reach  500 GW Non-fossil energy capacity by 2030.
  • 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
  • Reduction of total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now to 2030.
  • Reduction of the carbon intensity of the economy by 45 per cent by 2030, over 2005 levels.
  • Achieving the target of net zero emissions by 2070.

Pros and Cons of Renewable Energies & India’s Potential and Efforts

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Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy

renewable energy pros and cons essay

September 24, 2020 //  by  Amit Kumar

Renewable energy these days comes from a source that will not deplete. Two main examples of this type of energy are solar energy and wind energy. Moreover, geothermal energy, biomass, hydropower, and tidal energy are additional forms of renewable energy that will produce power for our planet right now.

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Table of Contents

The Primary Benefit of Renewable Energy

One of the primary benefits is that very few harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere. No doubt that fossil fuels are used to create products that allow for this kind of power to be generated. It has been observed that most of the renewable energy can become carbon neutral in about five years.

Read More: Concrete Countertops:- Pros and Cons of Federalism

renewable energy pros and cons essay

The Disadvantage of Renewable Energy

The main disadvantage of renewable energy is that it is a bit costly. Wind power and solar power have become cost-competitive as compared to coal-fired power and nuclear power in some rich communities. Some forms of renewable energy are not cost-competitive generally as compared with the cost kilowatt per hour.

In about 2019, the lifetime cost of conventional coal per kilowatt-hour was 9.5 cents, and that cost of offshore wind was 15.8 cents.

Pros of Renewable Energy

Let’s have a look at some important pros of renewable energy.

Clean and Safe to Use

Even clean-burning natural gas is at a serious disadvantage to what renewable energy sources can provide. Almost every day enough sunlight comes down on our planet, and if we can harvest it with solar panels and other forms of collection, then we could power it for the whole year.

You know that wind is created by the warmth of the sun; it is also virtually limitless. Fossil fuels a finite resource because of how we created them.

Various Forms of Renewable Energy exist

We have seen that diversification within renewable energy has exploded since the 1970s. The dams that provide hydropower to solar strips are now enough to control the weight of a vehicle. We have different methods of creating power through the collection of renewable energy. There is also greater diversity in this sector in comparison with other modes of renewable energy.

Foundation for Energy Independence

Many nations rely on fossil fuels for their society to function under modern culture. These fuels come from a handful of countries that work to control the availability and prices. If we develop more resources for renewable energy, then we can work towards independence with a diversified portfolio of life to access.

Moreover, these energy resources need time to develop. One thing that should be kept in mind is that current fossil fuel infrastructure has more than a century of development behind it.

Creating Renewable Energy is Stable

When renewable are producing energy, the power generated is stable and usable, just like other forms of energy. It is a dependable resource, especially when infrastructure is available to support this. Jobs are created in this energy sector as well as creating stability within local economic sectors is difficult. No doubt that power generated can be distributed through existing grids which can limit installation costs for some of the communities around us.

Technology Instead of Fuel

Coal must be refined and mined to make it good for usage. On the other hand, it is strongly recommended to release and transport natural gas. So fossil fuel is created from natural resources, whereas renewable energy sources are created by the existence of technology.

Because of these reasons, the prices of renewable energy will go down as we continue to make improvements in technology. Fossil fuels can see price reduction through mining and refining efficiency improvements, but there will always be the maintaining labour cost which will affect pricing and availability.

renewable energy pros and cons essay

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Cons of Renewable Energy

Now it’s time to discuss some of the most cited cons of renewable energy, and here are some.

Nor Every Form is Commercially Viable

It is strongly recommended that many forms of renewable energy must be collected at specific locations. It means that we need to set up distribution networks to take advantage of the power generated. Such structures also require massive fuel investment that can take generations to neutralize with the use of renewable energy.

On the other hand, from tidal power to geothermal, the commercial viability of many renewable resources is not available nowadays.

Many Forms are Location-Specific

Solar energy has limited potential in some of our locations. Northern cities may encounter prolonged periods without any sunlight during the winter months. Because renewable energy is location-specific, and sometimes it might not be available for usage in some locations.

Require Storage Capabilities

With traditional power resources, home or business is connected to a local distribution grid so that we can access them all the time. When you are using renewable energy resources, then the backup and support related to storage must be included with the opportunity of power generation.

It is said that wind speeds are not always consistent and the sunlight is also not available at night. Moreover, you can also say that storage capability that can push the cost of a renewable energy system beyond what the average person or community can afford.

Chances of Pollution

Renewable sources of energy are clearer than other fossil fuels, but cleaner and clean refers to different meanings. Natural resources like biomass still burn waste products and put pollution into the atmosphere. These include carbon and methane, which are regarded as greenhouse gases. Technologies and facilities that build resources of renewable energy require fossil fuels as the same goes for transportation and distribution networks.

In many cases, fossil fuels don’t rely on renewable, while renewable energy depends on fossil fuels.

This comprehensive guide related to the pros and cons of renewable energy shows us that this new technology has great potential with it. A strong need is to realize the potential with which it comes and also needs to consider certain limitations that come with renewable. With more investments into renewable energy prices can be lowered. In this way, more jobs can be created, and transition towards the consumption of fossil fuels can occur.

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