Is your energy free?
Renewable Energy from the sun arrives on earth for free. It costs nothing to stand in the sunlight harvesting free energy as warmth. However, harvesting energy for use or converting energy from sunlight comes at a cost. Using sunlight to heat water or converting it to the electricity needs a capital outlay. Solar-generated electricity must be transmitted to consumers.
Solar photovoltaic panels absorb sunlight that arrives free at the location. You can heat water or generate direct current electricity from the sun if you have the equipment in place. However, collecting solar energy for heating water or making electricity is not free. Consider the capital cost, permitting and installation. Some electrical generation systems may incur a connection cost, and there will be ongoing maintenance of the setup.
Energy from the utility
Large scale utility generators can provide low-cost base-load electricity. Sometimes the unit cost of utility power will be lower than the unit cost of off-grid supply from a small renewable self-installed system. People install residential solar and wind generators for a number of reasons. Many residents who install renewable energy generating systems consider the result helps reduce CO2 emissions to the environment. If we consider the energy from nuclear fission or the collection of water and conversion of dam water to hydroelectric power. The utility will need the input of capital to build the plant, money and people to operate it, and then do regular maintenance. Those plants emit low or no CO2 but the environmental carbon footprints of each solution are considerable.
The energy industry may look different if everyone who started harvesting their own energy using solar panels or wind also wanted to sell it. That would be kind of like having Uber electricity. It is already possible to have peer-to-peer electricity sales. People living in grouped housing developments could develop community power plants on their roofs and over parking spaces. The housing owner’s association of the property could provide discounted power to the community members. The problem comes with delivering nighttime power. There will need to be electricity storage or a grid connection.
Collecting free energy
Harvesting sunlight doesn’t mean standing in the sun getting warm. If that was harvesting energy it might be free. A lot of warm people may become sunburnt instead. So, harvesting energy doesn’t cost nothing. For a clean environment, renewables seem like a good option.
Generating clean electricity usually implies power from wind, water or sunlight. Building and using wind turbines or solar panels isn’t free of cost. However, the price of solar panels is getting lower and there might be the encouragement of solar panel envy. There are no carbon dioxide outputs from wind generators or solar panels, albeit they do incur some environmental debts during manufacturing and end of life.
The electricity of utilities generated from conventional fossil fuels power plants will eventually close. Most utility power stations will replace older generators with cleaner generators, such as nuclear and renewables. In the long term, the cost of energy and electricity will rise. People will again look to harvesting free energy to save the environment and some electricity expenses.