Energy Source Comparison

Energy Source Pros Cons
Solar Energy
  • Non-polluting
  • Most abundant energy source available
  • Systems last 15-30 years
  • High initial investment
  • Dependent on sunny weather
  • Supplemental energy may be needed in low sunlight areas
  • Requires large physical space for PV cell panels
  • Limited availability of polysilicon for panels
Wind Energy
  • No emissions
  • Affordable
  • Little disruption of ecosystems
  • Relatively high output
  • Output is proportional to wind speed
  • Not feasible for all geographic locations
  • High initial investment/ongoing maintenance costs
  • Extensive land use
  • No emissions
  • Reliable
  • Capable of generating large amounts of power
  • Output can be regulated to meet demand
  • Environmental impacts by changing the environment in the dam area
  • Hydroelectric dams are expensive to build
  • Dams may be affected by drought
Natural Gas
  • Widely available
  • Cleanest-burning fossil fuel
  • Often used in combination with other fuels to decrease pollution in electricity generation
  • Made safe by adding artificial odor so that people can easily smell the gas in case of a leak
  • Transportation costs are high
  • Lack of infrastructure makes gas resources unavailable from some areas
  • Burns cleanly, but still has emissions
  • Pipelines impact ecosystems
  • Efficient transportation fuel for the world
  • Basis of many products, from prescription drugs to plastics
  • Economical to produce
  • Easy to transport
  • High CO2 emissions
  • Found in limited areas
  • Supply may be exhausted before natural gas/coal resources
  • Possible environmental impact from drilling/transporting
  • Abundant supply
  • Fewer emissions than fossil fuel sources
  • Can be used in diesel engines
  • Auto engines easily convert to run on biomass fuel
  • Source must be near usage to cut transportation costs
  • Emits some pollution as gas/liquid waste
  • Increases emissions of nitrogen oxides, an air pollutant
  • Uses some fossil fuels in conversion
  • Abundant supply
  • Currently inexpensive to extract
  • Reliable and capable of generating large amounts of power
  • Emits major greenhouse gases/acid rain
  • High environmental impact from mining and burning, although cleaner coal-burning technology is being developed
  • Mining can be dangerous for miners
  • No greenhouse gases or CO2 emissions
  • Efficient at transforming energy into electricity
  • Uranium reserves are abundant
  • Refueled yearly (unlike coal plants that need trainloads of coal every day)
  • Higher capital costs due to safety, emergency, containment, radioactive waste, and storage systems
  • Problem of long-term storage of radioactive waste
  • Heated waste water from nuclear plants harms aquatic life
  • Potential nuclear proliferation issue
  • Minimal environmental impact
  • Efficient
  • Power plants have low emissions
  • Low cost after the initial investment
  • Geothermal fields found in few areas around the world
  • Expensive start-up costs
  • Wells could eventually be depleted