Today’s guest post is a thought provoking one, and something we should all consider for sake of our children.
In 2007, scientists estimated that around 7 per cent of the world’s energy requirements were satisfied by renewable energy sources. Nuclear power provided another 5 per cent or so, with the remaining 88 per cent from burning coal, gas and oil, all of which are, in the short term at least, non-renewable. These have, in fact, taken thousands of years to form within the earth’s crust, and discharge large quantities of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.
A recent report by the World Energy Council expects that global energy demand will double by 2050, largely due to overall population growth, economic growth in developing countries, and increasing urbanisation in many territories. Whilst the focus on renewable sources for the householder or business owner may well be on what they can do to secure cheap electricity prices, it’s clear that there are wider issues to be tackled within the energy industry and scientific community worldwide.
In the USA, at least, renewable energy production in the first half of 2013 stood at 14.20 per cent, which constitutes a slight increase when compared to the same period in 2012. These renewable sources include biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind power, and notable amongst these is that the non-hydro sources have tripled in output over the last decade.
Biomass energy generation relies on the burning of biological matter, including wood, straw, animal waste and other agricultural by-products and specific energy crops such as oilseed rape. Whilst biomass generation used to be standard practice in many households together with coal and wood fires, wood-burning stoves, and similar, gas-fired and electric central heating systems have now become the norm in the UK.
Geothermal energy on the large scale relies on energy created and stored within the earth itself. Perhaps the best illustration of geothermal energy use is that of hot springs, which have been used for bathing in many territories since prehistoric times. A number of countries worldwide are now using large-scale applications of this technology, but it is generally limited geographically to areas of tectonic plate activity. Limited use of this technology can be made at the domestic level with ground-installed heat pumps and similar systems.
Hydroelectric power has traditionally involved the generation of electricity from the force of water flowing downhill due to gravity, but can also include applications relying on generation from wave and tidal power. It has been estimated that the UK has around one half of Europe’s total tidal resource, and that wave and tidal stream energy could potentially meet up to 20 per cent of the UK’s energy demand. Potential development and project sites include the Severn, the Mersey, regions of the North Wales coast, and the Solway Firth.
Solar and wind power are perhaps the most obvious of these sources, as their use is becoming more and more common within domestic and small business properties.
Some of the less conventional techniques that have been identified, and which are at varying stages of development around the world, include advanced hydrogen technology, cold fusion, vacuum energy, and others. In advanced hydrogen technology, the manipulation of hydrogen plasma is used to induce electronic states with high energy outputs. Cold fusion induces non-radioactive nuclear reactions at low temperatures using electrochemical and other means. New and innovative chemistry techniques are being developed in order to recycle carbon dioxide and other pollutants at their source, and the nuclear industry and others continue to develop techniques for the remediation and re-use of radioactive nuclear waste.