It has always been a widely prevalent belief that renewable energy sources are clean and green in contrast to nonrenewable fossil fuels. The oil price shocks of 1973 and 1979, alongside increasing global awareness towards environmental pollution had stimulated great interest in the development of renewable energy sources during the early 1980s. But as the oil prices came down and few breakthroughs were achieved in that period for making the cost of renewable energy comparable or lesser to fossil fuel energy, the enthusiasm of the early 1980s began to wane. In more recent years the spectres of global warming and ocean acidification, which have been primarily attributed to fossil fuel burning, has caused a resurgence of interest in renewable energy sources. As illustrated in this article, scientists from all over the world are strongly advocating large-scale substitution of conventional energy sources with renewable alternatives on the premise that such a move would substantially reduce environmental degradation and global warming. These sentiments are being echoed by policy makers as well as environmental activists. The authors examine the scenarios when different renewable energy technologies may be pressed into service to either produce power in large-scale centralized systems or be used widely in small-scale and dispersed fashion (instead of the rarely large-scale and mostly sporadic manner of their use at present). They discuss that there are likely to be impacts as strongly adverse as global warming and others experienced with fossil fuel use. The purpose of this exercise is not to make a case against renewable resources, but rather to report on a much more realistic and elaborate assessment of the direct and indirect impacts of extensive utilization of renewable energy technologies than has been done hitherto, which will help the cause of renewable resources in the long run. It would help us in preventing most of the likely problems from taking root. In addition, it will spare the world from the type of disillusionment it faces vis a vis large hydel power projects, which were-before their widespread use-perceived as the epitome of virtue.
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