Relying on the burning of fossil fuels and nuclear materials is a practice that must be stopped as soon as possible. Supplies are not unlimited and we must be prepared for a time when they will be depleted. Furthermore, using these materials releases harmful materials into the atmosphere which is attributed to global warming. If left unchecked global warming could increase our planets temperature by up to 6oC, an increase that would lead to the expansion of deserts, the rise of the sea, a loss of crops and a higher susceptibility to cancer and sun stroke. The only option we have at our disposal is to switch our reliance over to renewable sources. Currently only 10% of our total energy comes from renewable sources, so we have a long way to go – read on to find out where more of our energy should be coming from.
Solar Energy: over 170petawatts (one hundred and seventy thousand, billion watts) of energy reach the earth per second, this is enough energy to power the entire world for an entire year. Currently we harness little more than a ten millionth of a percent of this energy. Solar power can be generated anywhere that a sun ray touches. This means that solar generating technology can be placed on roofs, in deserts or on sea platforms. The only limiting factor in the generation of solar power is the availability of silicone – a major component of a solar power cell.
Hydropower: The majority of the earth’s surface is water, so there is no excuse for not making the most of it. Due to the high density of water compared to air, even slow streams of water can yield a high energy output. Dams are used to generate hydropower, as the difference in water pressure created can be converted into electrical energy, through the driving of turbines. The kinetic energy of rivers can also be harvested without the need of a reservoir.
Biomass: The combustion of biological waste products such as; wood, food and faecal matter, produces energy and a carbon based ash that can be used as high grade fertiliser. The energy output isn’t huge and there is a negative smell associated with the process, but it is cheap and easy to operate.
Wind Power: The turning of turbines cause by airflow generates energy. Offshore and high altitudes are the preferred locations for wind farms as the wind is stronger (up to 90% stronger) and more consistent there. It is estimated that wind could be used to harness up to 40 times more than our current electrical demand. Furthermore, wind farms are low maintenance and not staff intensive.
Geothermal Energy: Heat from magma lying below the earth’s crust can be used to generate electricity. Energy generated is through using the heat to convert water into steam, the steam then turns turbines as it rises. Geothermal energy can only be generated at locations where magma flows run suitably close to the earth’s currents.
This article was written by Jacob Catt on behalf of Gregor Heating – who offer advice on and installation of renewable energy sources for homes.