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Energy of the Future: Conservation + Renewable Energy

Energy of the Future: Conservation + Renewable Energy

Green house emission has been the headlines for several years. In the heart of the news-lines lies the main catalyst for this alarming topic of global climate change, fossil fuel. Seemingly, our voracious demand for energy is spurring prices to new heights and CO2 even beyond accepted ecological parameters.

Global energy consumption is currently approximately 12 TW (terawatts) per annum. In other words, this is tantamount to 12,000,000,000,000 watts. This almost limitless demand of energy is consumed as follows:

1. Built Environment 52% ( 12 percent materials and 40 percent operation)
2. Industry 24 %
3. Transport 15 %
4. Passenger cars 9 %

Energy Sources:

Renewable energy is the silver-bullet solution to supersede fossil fuel. The most prevalent clean energy sources are wind, solar, biomass, hydropower and geothermal energy. Currently, one could consider that an ostensible 30 percent of energy needs come from renewable energy. This is regrettably not the case. The actual energy sources are as follows:

1. Oil 35 percent
2. Coal 27 percent
3. Natural gas 20 percent
4. Hydropower 6 percent
5. Biomass 6 percent
6. Nuclear Energy 5 percent
7. Geothermal energy 1 percent
8. Wind and Solar roughly 1 percent

The most dominant source of global energy is fossil fuel (oil, coal and natural gas).

Energy of the future

Energy demands keep on increasing at an accumulating rate. Taking into account the current rate of the increase, it is expected that world energy demand will reach 30 TW within three decades. This would thus represent an increase of 150 percent; an increase from 12 TW to 30 TW. The response to handle the expansive growth in energy needs have to be sustainable, meaning no or less-green house gases. The forerunners for clean energy are ostensibly solar, bio-fuel and nuclear energy.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power is a clean source of energy it does not produce CO2. Heat is generated from a regulated nuclear reactor that boils water into steam and thereby propels a turbine. In America, “three nuclear power stations” are expected to be built soon. On a worldwide agenda, there are also roughly eight nuclear power stations requesting licenses.

Let’s say that per year 45 new licenses are issued, and this trend steadily continues at 45 per year over three decades. It should also be assumed that these nuclear stations are constructed within ten years. This would provide an additional one terawatt within 30 years from nuclear power, which is still less than the required 18 terawatts.

Bio-Fuel energy

This innovative way of generating fuel from harvesting crops raises controversy to food supply, poverty and efficiency. There are some experts who argue that the cost of generating bio-fuel is more than what it gives back; considering fuel required to harvest, plant and so on. However, these arguments can be put aside if bio-fuel could be harnessed at 100 percent efficiency. Let’s put all this to perspective, even if all the land on the earth would be used to grow crops (e.g. corn ethanol) it would only be enough to generate an equivalent of 3 terawatts of bio-fuel energy.

Solar Cells

In the last years “photovoltaic technology” has evolved tremendously. There has been a twofold benefit: costs have fallen, and efficiency has enhanced. The law of increasing return is progressively promulgating as more power plants are harnessing energy from solar energy. A typical solar power plant can produce one gigawatt of energy per annum. This would mean that one thousand solar plants of the same size would be required to produce one terawatt. We could practically take 20,000 square miles of land and set up highly effective solar cells on earth’s sunniest areas. This would generate around 2 TW.

Read more on the DESERTEC Project: Part 1 and Part 2

Summing Up

Eventually, based on forecasted potential, we will only be able to reach a maximum upgrading capacity of 6 TW and not 30 TW. Additionally, wind, wave, solar thermal and henceforth, will only add a few terawatt more. It is being concluded that renewable energy alone might not be enough to match future energy requirements.

Saving Strategy: Conservation

The most promising solution to tackle climate change and global energy demand is conservation. Assuming that renewable energy will only be able to provide around 6 to 9 terawatts, roughly 21 terawatts will have to be met by another means. As abovementioned, building environment accounts for 52 percent of global carbon emissions. The only way to address built environment is to focus on the materials, including cements, metal processing, building operation (cooling and heating) and henceforth.

There are companies such as Serious materials and CalStar, which are re-engineering building processes to assure that energy consumption is reduced by up to a 75 percent or even more.

One can easily rectify the operation efficiency at home by assuring that thermostats are installed and that households are properly insulated. One way is to make sure that high R value windows are used. This could help to reduce heat loss by up to 50 percent. The field of smart building technology is constantly emerging, heating, and cooling system are amidst the main areas of rapid development.

Read more on passive solar energy: Link 1, Link 2 and Link 3

Final Outcome

Enhancing built environment can reduce energy consumption by roughly 75 percent. This would save a total of 12 terawatt of energy in 30 years. This means that the remaining six Terawatt could practically be accommodated with renewable energy. In other words, challenges such as energy expansion and CO2 emission would be tackled simultaneously as an extension in coal power plants would not be necessary to meet future energy demands.

Jimmy Eriksson is a content writer for Online PhD Programs, which has the latest information on obtaining an online PhD, research and higher studies. In his free time he enjoys researching on renewable energy, healthy living, management and leisure’s such as fishing and swimming.

Source: Go Green

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RPN's contributed to this report.

Professional freelancer in Green Technology and Scientific Development. Educational background in the field of Human Resources Management.

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