There has been excitement and scrambling for the new source of energy in recent years and the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels. Over the years, the Fossil fuel have served the world for millions of years from the early man when he started striking stones to create fire and using firewood as his source of energy.
The industrial revolution however changed a lot of things globally. The global demand for fuel to power machines, industries and appliances grow. While machines requiring efficient fuels made, they are also releasing, in return, a massive proportion of carbon dioxide beyond what the atmosphere can absorb and recycle. This has given rise to many global searches for alternative energies.
Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Fossil fuels on other hand are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms.
What is wrong with fossil fuel?
The cost of increasing consumption of fossil fuel appears to be both obvious and hidden. The Union of Concerned scientists published in its Report “The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels” listed some cost fossil fuel as, “Human health problems cause by air pollution from burning coal and oil, damage to land from coal mining and miners lung disease, environmental degradation caused by global warming, acid rain, water pollution, national security cost such a protecting foreign sources of oil.” The Report however noted that such cost are indirect and difficult to determined since producers and the users of the energy do not pay for these costs, society as a whole must pay for them.
The Renewable Power:
This involves harnessing the sun’s power. The basic process is simple. Solar collectors concentrate the sunlight that falls on them and convert it to energy. The biggest hurdle for solar energy is the price of installation. Solar equipment costs significantly more than traditional energy equipment. It takes many years of use to see that investment pay off. Despite the expense, solar power is a feasible way to supplement power in cities. In rural areas, where the cost of running power lines increases, solar power becomes the best choice for electricity.
This involves harnessing the Wind for power generation. They have been around until the steam engines and, later, electricity replaced them. Interest in large wind turbines increased with the oil crises of the 1970s… Giant wind turbines generate power when the wind turns the large blades. The blades attach to a generator, making electricity. Large wind farms can meet a utility’s basic power needs. Smaller wind farms and single windmills can power homes, telecommunications dishes, and water pumps.
As with solar power, building a wind farm requires a large initial investment that does not necessarily pay off quickly.
Hydroelectric power uses the energy from falling water to turn turbines and generate electricity. Power generated this way relies on controlling flowing water—such as a river—often with a dam. Hydroelectric power has many advantages. It almost goes without saying that it is renewable. Water-powered generators do not produce emissions. Water flow—controlled within the hydroelectric plant—determines the amount of electricity produced, so power can be provided as needed. About 20% of the world’s electricity comes from this source.
“Biomass” describes almost any plant waste as well as certain crops used as a fuel. Even though it burns and produces carbon dioxide, biomass fuel is considered to be “carbon neutral.” CO2 released when biomass fuels burn is taken up by the plants grown to replace them. However, fossil fuels are still used in the production of biomass fuel, powering the farming equipment, fuelling the log trucks, and in other steps along the way. At this time biomass fuel is not truly carbon neutral. It does decrease overall CO2 emissions, though, which is a step in the right direction.
Geothermal energy takes natural features like hot springs and steam vents and uses them to produce electricity or supply a region with hot water. The United States, Iceland, the Philippines, El Salvador, Russia, Kenya, and Tibet are among the 24 countries that used the 8,900 megawatts of electricity generated by geothermal facilities in 2005. Direct geothermal heating utilizes hot water at the surface of the Earth—such as hot springs—to heat homes and other buildings. Over 16,000 megawatts of energy came from direct geothermal sources in 2005, in some 72 countries.
Nuclear power was pushed as an alternative to fossil fuels in the 1970s. Plants conducted nuclear fission in a controlled setting, producing power. Low fuel costs balanced the financial investment needed to build nuclear power plants, resulting in cheaper electricity. Despite the notable accidents at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania and at Chernobyl, Ukraine, nuclear power continues to be a viable source of power in many places. Nuclear power plants provide 16% of the world’s energy, in 70 countries. Plants now incorporate multiple safety systems to prevent core meltdowns and release of radioactive substances. Concerns remain about the disposal of spent fuel, which potentially could be used to make nuclear weapons.
A tidal power plant captures the energy from the flow of the tide in and out of a bay or estuary. A special dam called a barrage separates the tidal area into upper and lower basins. Turbines within the barrage turn as the water flows from one basin to the other, depending on the direction of the tide. The turbines power a generator, which then makes electricity.
Installing a tidal plant is expensive, so the plant must be able to generate enough energy to make it worth the investment. That happens only when there is a difference of at least 5 m (16 ft) between high and low tide. Any less does not generate enough power to make a tidal plant financially feasible
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
It is projected that the future is in hydrogen fuel cells. The advantages of hydrogen are numerous. The hydrogen reaction produces heat, electricity, and water, but no pollution. Hydrogen is readily available and can be produced from fossil fuels or, more important, from renewable fuels. Hydrogen is cheap and more efficient than any technology involving turbines and significantly more efficient than internal combustion. However, right now hydrogen technology costs more than existing power sources. The actual setup of the systems—to control temperatures and to make fuel cells at usable sizes—is not yet known. These issues must be resolved before hydrogen fuel cells begin to replace other power sources.
Renewable are coming
According to International energy agency, “In 2012, the world relied on renewable sources for around 13.2% of its total primary energy supply, and in 2013 renewables accounted for almost 22% of global electricity generation, a 5% increase from 2012.”
The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, REN21 in its 2014 report noted that, renewables contributed 19 percent to our global energy consumption and 22 percent to our electricity generation in 2012 and 2013, respectively. …Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$214 billion in 2013.
In its forward-looking report for the year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts renewable energy will be the fastest-growing power source through 2040.
From the foregoing, it is clear that with increasing research in cheaper technology as well as availability of same, it is clear that the future of Renewable energies are bright. However, we would continue to rely on Fossil Fuels to a large extent until our renewable energy sources become more viable and simplified.