It is evident that solar and wind power is the best solution for getting off fossil fuels for energy use and thus preserving the climate, and we can work on more truly sustainable solutions in the longer term.
Of existing proven solar technology, Amorphous Silicon solar panels seem to be the closest to a 100% sustainable and safe solution - they only present some occupational hazards to workers from some toxic substances such as Silane Gas that is produced during the production of these panels. Although Silicon is the most abundant element on the surface of the planet, one must also consider the energy use of bulldozers to extract the Silicon. The bulldozers could be made as Electric vehicles once the technology becomes perfected.
The recycling of solar panels and electronics in general is a problem but does not detract from the fact that solar power will save us from the immediate ravages of pollution of our water and our land and of climate change. The U.S. is one of only three countries that actually exports its hazardous wastes, since it has not yet ratified the Basel Convention, which all other countries but three have ratified and vowed not to export their hazardous waste. I guess we can stockpile the solar panels until the time comes when we learn how to properly recycle them. Those vendors with an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program where the provider would be responsible for the total life cycle of the solar panel, or a more socially grounded government that had more responsbility and resources to handle society's needs, are where we eventually want to end up, but this could also require more of a socialist or social democracy type government where the government takes on more responsibility for the safeguarding of the planet.
Other emerging technologies such as dye-based and organic solar panels are also being worked on and have promise to be 100% sustainable.
Other uses of solar energy provide much more direct energy savings with lower up-front cost. These uses include solar batch water heaters, solar air heating, and solar cooking. These are great ways to reduce dependance on combustion of natural resources and will become more important as those natural resouces become scarce or we transition to a more sustainable and responsible life-style.
Wind Energy: Wind power can be made without toxic chemicals but it still requires extraction of metals. A truly sustainable solution would include re-using these metals over and over again and reducing our overall energy use, more efficient energy use, and not letting energy go to waste. New technology in Wind Power will seek to eliminate the use of rare earth metals (such as magnets) altogether such as Wind Belts. However, wind turbines don't use that much rare earth materials. Using existing wind turbines, as long as we keep re-using the rare earth metals already extracted, we can keep this renewable energy source going indefinitely.
Wind Energy can also be obtained with a mind to conservation of species that fly. For example, the RSPB, the equivalent of America's Audobon Society, has a wind turbine that shuts off during periods when avian species are about.
It is important to get off of coal, oil, gasoline, natural gas, and nuclear because these solutions are far worse (coal, oil, and gasoline are making the global warming problem quite bad, natural gas also contributes to global warming since it releases a lot of methane, and nuclear creates extremely toxic waste that stays around for hundreds of thousands of years that must be constantly guarded and also the constant risk of meltdown from nuclear reactors). We must arrive at a more sustainable lifestyle but existing methods of renewable energy may buy us time so that Global Warming will be lessened while we learn more sustainable behavior patterns.
As an individual, we each might be able to make a difference by switching to a 100% clean electricity provider or installing solar panels on our homes. In Illinois, you can go to Plug in Illinois to choose an electricity provider that provides 100% renewable energy, typically through renewable energy credits, which is a valid way to ensure more renewable energy is used and less fossil fuels or dirty energy are used.
In Illinois, we all have the option of choosing our electricity provider and the freedom to choose a 100% green renewable energy provider (go to the link https://pluginillinois.org to review your options and potentially change your provider). In fact, some of these providers are even honest enough to provide this electricity at below the regular rate that is provided for non-green energies (such as coal, nuclear, natural gas, etc.) In particular, please make note of the following electricity providers that can offer rates below or equivalent to current rates provided by non-green suppliers:
1. Verde Energy USA (cheaper than market rate when you take into account rebate)
2. Oasis Energy (only spending about $1.50 more per month than current market rate for 100% renewable energy guaranteed for 18 months)
3. Clearview Energy (used to be the best deal but their prices are going up)
4. National Gas and Electric (flat out cheaper than ComEd for 3-6 months guaranteed)