25 Disadvantages of Renewable Energy (Pros and Cons Renewable Resources)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | January 9, 2024

Woman looking at windmills, a waterfall and solar panels wonders if there are disadvantages of renewable energy and what are the pros and cons of renewable resources that include solar energy, renewable energy and alternative energy facts.

As the world searches for renewable energy options, have you ever wondered what are the disadvantages of renewable energy?

The obvious advantage of having a source of energy that is constantly renewed, unlike fossil fuels that are limited, makes these emerging technologies very attractive. However, it’s important to examine both the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy resources.

By investigating the pros and cons logically, individuals and governments around the world can make the best decisions for meeting the needs of communities, while preserving the environment.

But, are there any real disadvantages of renewable energy options?

This complete guide outlines 25 of the most common drawbacks of various renewable energy sources, and how to mitigate them to establish truly clean energy.

Types of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is classed as any source of energy derived from nature that can be used again and again and replenishes itself no matter how often it is used.

Those infinite resources are typically defined as solar, wind, sea, hydroelectricity, biomass, geothermal, and hydrogen.

Graphics of types of renewable energy showing Solar energy, Wind energy, Hydroelectric energy, Biomass energy, Geothermal energy, and Hydrogen energy cartoon images in circle frames.

There are some disadvantages of renewable energy associated with each of these resources, but first, let’s find out a bit more about each one.

Solar: Probably the easiest renewable energy source for homeowners. Affordable technologies have made it easier to harness solar radiation from the sun and convert it seamlessly into usable electricity.

Both the photovoltaic systems and the battery storage capacity have steadily improved over the years to increase efficiencies.

Wind: Although not as readily accessible for homeowners to install on their property, wind farms have become a mainstream method of supplementing the electricity grid’s energy requirements by installing wind turbines in rural zones or open sea areas. Savings are then passed on to households in the region.

Hydroelectric: The use of dams and underwater turbines to create electricity has been around for years. The mechanics behind it is to use the force of fast-flowing water to turn the blades of a turbine.

Connected to those turbines are generators that convert that power into electricity.

Biomass: This method involves burning renewable organic materials to create electricity by direct combustion.1 High-pressure steam from burning these materials causes the blades of a turbine to rotate.

Geothermal: Mainly of use in the western states, underground steaming reservoirs are tapped by drilling underground to release scalding steam or water. This is then converted into electricity.

Hydrogen: Electricity from hydrogen power is never-ending, is one of the most plentiful resources on the planet, and can be produced under different methods including steam from natural gas, from electrolysis, and from breaking down biomass to create biological reactions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy Resources (Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy)

The renewable energy industry is booming.

Imagine never having to worry about paying a utility bill again and being able to power your entire house while at the same contributing towards reversing climate change.

An image capturing the Douglas hydroelectric dam on a cloudy day.

Everyone always extols the virtues of renewable energies but never mentions the disadvantages of renewable energy.

There are pros and cons for all renewable energy resources so let’s have a look to see if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Here is the list of the advantages of renewable energy:

  1. Renewable energies are inexhaustible
  2. Reduces the utility bills for homeowners
  3. Low maintenance
  4. Do not produce any carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels
  5. Can increase the property value
  6. No harmful pollutants are created to exacerbate any health issues
  7. Very efficient at energy conversion
  8. Biomass as an energy source reduces the amount of organic waste deposited in landfills, cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions
  9. Geothermal energy harvesting is silent
  10. Several of the sources are nonstop and continuous in their production of electricity
  11. After the manufacturing or installation of the plant or product, they last for decades
  12. The longer the installation is in use or operation, the cleaner and more environmentally friendly becomes the energy produced
  13. The versatility to power homes, car engines, and, in regards to hydrogen power,2 to be a clean, renewable fuel source for spaceships
  14. Hydrogen can be converted into drinking water
  15. Tidal energy is an obvious choice as it is unstoppable and reliable

Here is the list of the disadvantages of renewable energy:

Graphics of disadvantages of renewable energy sources showing Wind Energy, Biomass Energy, Hydrogen Energy, Hydroelectric Energy, Solar Energy, Geothermal Energy, and Tidal Energy cartoon images and a list of disadvantages for each source.

Energy ResourceDisadvantages
Solar Energy1. Solar farms require a lot of land space and have negative environmental impacts to wildlife and plants.

2.The manufacture and materials acquisition of photovoltaic systems is carbon-intensive and can take between 7-10 years to become carbon neutral.

3. Solar panels are expensive and the payback period can take more than 10 years of continuous use.

4. Solar panels require daily peak sunlight hours to operate at maximum efficiency.

Wind Energy5. Wind turbines are expensive.

6. Every year birds unintentionally fly into the rotating blades and are killed.

7. Manufacturing the turbines is expensive.

8. Some turbines can be noisy.

9. If there is no wind, or it is not strong enough, no electricity can be produced.

Hydroelectric Energy10. Can be responsible for displacing communities and wildlife.

11. Very expensive and labor-intensive to manufacture the dam installations.

12. There are limited locations for dam construction.

Biomass Energy13. The burning of waste materials can create harmful gases.

14. Not very efficient at energy conversion compared to other renewable sources.

Geothermal Energy15. There are high investment costs to start up a project.

16. This system is not ideal for homeowners as a significant amount of land needs to be utilized for drilling.

17. Is not available everywhere.

Hydrogen Energy18. The process of separating the hydrogen atoms from other gaseous elements, called electrolysis, is expensive.

19. The process requires a lot of energy.

20. It also generates greenhouse gases at this stage.

21. Transportation is difficult as it needs to be stored under high-pressure.

22. Hydrogen is highly flammable and odorless so can be dangerous if leaks go undetected.

Tidal Energy23. To be effective the waves need to be at least 16 feet high.

24. A large investment is required for tidal energy installations.3

25. Can be detrimental to local wildlife.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy Resources

To reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, governments, and entire countries are investing in renewable clean energy sources in a drive to clean up the planet.

Wide shot of biomass heating power plant with blue sky in the background.

(Image: WikimediaImages10)

In the United States, the Colorado solar tax credit is just one of many programs across the country being run to incentivize homeowners to adopt solar panels.

States such as Colorado have realized that one of the determining factors preventing residents from installing solar panels is price, and have started projects such as this one to help with the upfront initial expenses.

It is also in the interest of the state as installing solar systems will relieve some of the pressure on the local energy grids.

Even though the cost of photovoltaic systems has plummeted over the last 10 years, one of the main disadvantages of renewable energy is that they are unaffordable for millions.

An unlimited supply of clean energy appeals to everyone, but without state assistance the benefits cannot be appreciated, whether that renewable source comes from wind energy or solar farms.4

Types of Alternative Energy (Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy)

Nuclear power doesn’t have any disadvantages of renewable energy because it isn’t one.

It is not classed as a renewable energy source because the uranium that is its primary ingredient is finite.

Wide shot of nuclear power plant cooling towers releasing water vapor.

(Image: JamesQube11)

No one knows when exactly it will be depleted, but it will one day run out. Renewable energies are powered by natural earth elements that are inexhaustible, whereas alternative energies are ones that do not rely on fossil fuels but their source of generating power has a use-by date on it.

Even though nuclear power is not renewable, it is, however, a source of clean energy. It actually has one of the lowest footprints of all energy types, when the production and disposal is factored in.

The construction of the power plant itself over a 5-7 year time frame is where vast amounts of the carbon footprint of nuclear power are generated.

Once installation is complete, the process of generating electricity starts in the core of the reactor. In there, nuclear fission boils water and the steam spins the turbines on a generator that makes electricity.

Excess steam is then cooled back into water and the process starts again. The initial construction generates a high carbon footprint but that is offset a few years after the plant is in operation.

Another downside is that the radioactive materials either need to be stored or disposed of safely, which can be dangerous if mishandled.

If there is any serious accident in any of the plants, nuclear fallout can be catastrophic for local inhabitants.

Solar Energy Pros and Cons: Solar Panel Recycling

One of the unforeseen consequences and disadvantages of renewable energy relating to solar panels was how to recycle them once their useful electricity-producing life came to an end.

This is starting to occur as many systems have been in place for over 20 years and the electricity that they are now producing is just a shadow of what they were once capable of.

These old solar panels are starting to clog up landfills up and down the country.

The cost and effort needed to implement solar panel recycling does not justify the cost nor the time required to salvage whatever parts are easily accessible.

Large solar panel system installed on top of a flat-roofed structure.

(Image: Photo by Amer Awwad, U.S. Department of Energy12)

Fortunately, several innovative companies are starting to take an interest in this ignored section of the industry. By investing in machinery and new methods to extract as many of the still useful components and metals as possible, they are able to these discarded photovoltaic parts and use them in new and refurbished solar panels.

Recycling the useful components from these end-of-life panels is reducing the impact on landfills and making them even more affordable for homeowners and businesses alike.5

Renewable Energy Facts and Solar Energy Facts

There are many advantages and some disadvantages of renewable energy that help in the buying decision process.

There are also some solar energy facts about photovoltaic systems and other forms of renewable energy that are interesting and worth knowing for education purposes.

Solar Park showing solar panels and wind turbines with the sky in the background.

(Image: Erich Westendarp9)

The first one is one of the most important:

  • Sources of renewables are getting cheaper.
  • New technologies are improving the efficiencies of renewable energies like solar power virtually every year.
  • Solar and wind power are the fastest-growing forms of renewables being adopted.
  • Iceland and Norway’s energy requirements are generated nearly 100% from renewable resources.
  • One 3MW wind turbine can provide enough electricity for 1,500 homes.
  • Solar energy has been around for over 200 years. The photovoltaic effect was first discovered in 1839, but the first solar cell wasn’t invented until 1941 by Russel Shoemaker Ohl, an American semiconductor researcher.
  • Rather than solar power being the global leader in renewable energy, that title goes to hydropower. But that could change by 2050.
  • Three Gorges Dam in China is the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world.
  • In July 2021, a 74-meter-long, 680-tonne turbine became the world’s most powerful tidal turbine in Scotland.
  • The largest solar PV power installation in the world is the 2,200 MW mega plant in China and occupies 5,000 hectares.
  • The United States of America has the 4th largest in the world called the Copper Mountain Solar Facility with 816 MW.
  • Of all the states in America, California is the leader in adopting photovoltaic systems, with 32% of the electricity consumed coming from solar power.

Climate Change Volunteering

Climate change volunteering is a method of giving back without expecting anything in return. There are many conservation projects around the globe that welcome volunteers who want to contribute to the fight against climate change, as well as help local communities to improve their way of life.

A few of these programs have been started to hold back the tide of deforestation that is sweeping through countries such as Peru,6 while other programs are concerned with reforestation, of planting trees in countries that once hand acres and acres of trees that have been lost over the years for one reason or another.

Here are a few worthy causes accepting volunteers.

  • Peru

The Amazon Rainforest is constantly under threat from loggers whose practices are displacing vulnerable species, decimating acres of land, and adversely affecting the lives of indigenous communities.

Conservation projects like the Peruvian Amazon Ranger, the Amazon Restoration Program, and the Reforestation and Conservation projects in Cusco are monitoring and protecting the endangered wildlife, and actively planting seedlings. With the assistance of volunteers, the programs aim to restore the millions of trees and plants that have been destroyed.

  • Ecuador and Greece

Volunteers in Ecuador are restoring degraded land through reforestation and regeneration, planting seeds and seedlings in an effort to restore nutrients back into the soil and help fight global warming at the same time.

Volunteers in Greece are taking their fight against climate change underwater. Their focus is targeted at the conservation of endangered sea turtles and maintaining their fragile ecosystem.

On the island of Kefalonia, the mission is to monitor the turtle’s incubation and hatching periods and repair the damage being done to their natural habitat. Seagrass conservation along the coast is also under the purview of the volunteers in an effort to protect these vulnerable mammals from ending up on the endangered species list.

  • Iceland and New Zealand

Unsustainable farming and other practices have robbed Iceland over the centuries of over 90% of its forestry, while climate change has similarly affected New Zealand. With the aid of volunteers, both countries have initiated projects to reverse that trend by planting new trees, removing invasive weeds, and restoring the health of the trees that are still standing.

  • California

In an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change, volunteers assist biologists, ecologists, and nurseries in revegetation efforts to repair the aftereffects of wildfires. They also monitor new invasive plant species that threaten local plant life and degrade the quality of the soil.

Without volunteers, none of these programs would be achievable. In other countries, these volunteers are teaching locals about the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy, about recycling, and how to live sustainably on the land.

Regardless of the program’s goals or its location, the reward for volunteers is knowing that their efforts are making a difference on a small scale but are having an impact on climate change on a global level.7

The Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy

Wind energy, solar power, hydroelectricity. They all have their pros and cons.

Still, they are all better alternatives than continuing to rely on fossil fuels. Many countries have started the changeover to renewable energies, investing heavily to adopt these clean energy resources, while others are still struggling to catch up.

Geothermal energy plant in Iceland situated next to a body of water.

(Image: falco13)

It will only be a matter of time, maybe decades, before 100% of the electricity is produced from renewable sources in 100% of the countries in the world.

In the drive to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, finding effective renewable energy sources is a key.

When this finally happens the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy resources (pros and cons of solar energy) can have a major global impact.

Frequently Asked Questions About Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

What Is the Difference Between Renewable Energy vs Non Renewable Energy?

With nonrenewable energy sources, one day they will be permanently gone. There are disadvantages of renewable energy, but the fact that they can continually replenish themselves and keep on doing so infinitely makes them a natural choice for supplying tomorrow’s energy needs for future generations.

Is Oil Renewable?

Oil is not classed as a renewable source of energy.

Is Natural Gas Renewable or Nonrenewable?

Natural gas is nonrenewable, not because it has taken millions of years to form fossil fuels, but because its use is limited and one day it will be depleted.

What Are the Disadvantages of Wind Energy?

A fair amount of space is required to install a wind turbine, and it can be quite noisy as the turbines spin. An effect called shadow flicker is sporadically cast on nearby houses as the turbines turn from the force of the wind,8 and some local residents find it disturbing.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

The lifespan of a solar panel is between 25-30 years. Knowing how long do solar panels last will help solar panel owners to estimate when it’s best to replace them.


1Bioenergy Technologies Office. (2023). Biopower Basics. Office of ENERGY EFFICIENCY & RENEWABLE ENERGY. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/biopower-basics>

2U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2022, January 20). Hydrogen explained. EIA. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/hydrogen/use-of-hydrogen.php>

3Pacific Northwest NATIONAL LABORATORY. (2023). Tidal Energy. Pacific Northwest. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.pnnl.gov/explainer-articles/tidal-energy>

4Wind Energy Technologies Office. (2023). Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Office of ENERGY EFFICIENCY & RENEWABLE ENERGY. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy>

5United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, March 22). Solar Panel Recycling. EPA. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.epa.gov/hw/solar-panel-recycling>

6RAINFOREST ECOLOGY. (2023). Deforestation. RAINFOREST ECOLOGY. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/twentytwenty-one/research/deforestation/>

7U.S. Department of Energy. (2023). Climate Change. Energy.gov. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.energy.gov/climate-change>

8NREL. (2023). Wind Energy Basics. NREL Transforming Energy. Retrieved April 23, 2023, from <https://www.nrel.gov/research/re-wind.html>

9Erich Westendarp. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-1288842/>

10WikimediaImages. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-910240/>

11JamesQube. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-6798207/>

12Photo by Amer Awwad, U.S. Department of Energy. Flickr. Retrieved from <https://flic.kr/p/Y2VmUb>

13falco. Pixabay. Retrieved from <https://pixabay.com/images/id-1611854/>