The renewable energy industry is made up primarily of solar, wind and hydroelectric plants. These facilities convert free energy sources into electricity for public consumption, and provide the exact same product as the fossil fuel industry. The differences between the two are that the burning of fossil fuels in order to produce electricity produces particulate matter that is dispersed into the atmosphere and affects the air we breathe and the environment we live in, while renewable energy has no associated particulate matter to speak of. There are also costs associated with the fuel sources in fossil fuel energy production, as the materials that must be burned are finite and have a cost to purchase or mine them. There are no associated costs with renewable sources as the wind, sun and flowing water are free to harness. There is little debate as far as the environmental impact that fossil fuels have, and although there is disagreement as to the extent of that impact everyone agrees that comparatively renewable energy sources do not cause the same harm to the earth’s climate. So why then is there still a tendency for world governments to rely primarily on fossil fuels instead of expanding their access to renewable energy? The answer is cost.
Currently, its more expensive to produce electricity using renewable energy sources than the burning of fossil fuels. This cost is based in the equipment that is necessary to harness the free fuel sources and convert them to electricity, as well as the maintenance and replacement of that equipment. While there are also costs associated with the storage and transport of electricity, these are shared by the fossil fuel industry so they are not considered when comparing cost structure. The problem with regard to reducing equipment costs within the renewable sectors is nature, and the damage that nature can cause. Lightning strikes to windfarm equipment or solar panels produces damage at the strike point, as well as lightning surge damage to any equipment that is connected downstream of that strike point. While the damage at the strike point itself is difficult to avoid, there have been significant advances in the prevention of downstream damage as a result of power surges through the implementation of technologically advanced surge protection devices (SPDs). This new breed of industrial surge protection allows for not only the diversion of the surge away from the connected equipment, but additionally allows for the system to stay online after the incident has occurred. This means that renewable power facilities that rely on free energy sources can harness more of that source throughout a typical day by not being subjected to the downtimes that ultimately fails to produce enough power and requires the failsafe of another energy production source like fossils. If facilities can stay online and functioning for longer timeframes, there is a better chance for that power source to satisfy the needs of the consumer base, therefore driving costs of that energy down. Once the renewable sources are large enough to provide adequate capacity and the costs of maintenance are driven down through integration of advanced SPDs, consumers will find renewable energy to be less costly than fossil fuel energy. Surge protection for renewable facilities will help the planet benefit from a more sustainable future.