Renewable and Non Renewable Energy
The requirement of energy has increased considerably with the increase in population and advances in technology. Globalization and increase in industries also adds to the energy requirements with an adverse affect on the environment. The fear of depleting natural resources triggers comprehensive research in the field of alternative energy sources. This research should be aimed at the analysis of cost and benefit of the alternate sources with the impact on environment and practical feasibility and application of these sources. This paper discusses various alternative energy sources and the technological developments in recent years. The description of specific technologies and standards including green buildings, solar buildings, energy management systems, wind turbines, geothermal heat pumps, and hybrid or air cars are discussed. The current status of research with reference to these technologies is discussed to highlight the research being carried out. The comparison of various alternate energy sources are compared in terms of cost, efficiency and environmental impact.
The research study shows the need for extensive research and large scale implementation of these technologies on a large scale. The most viable option for coping with the higher need of energy is to obtain energy not from one source but a mix of various alternative sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and tidal energy. The energy requirements cannot be met with an individual source in a specific area as it would only cover a part of the total requirement. Energy production should be allocated to different sources while gradually decreasing the dependence on fossil fuel based energy such as energy from oil, natural gas and coal. The alternative sources should be chosen depending on the geological and natural conditions in an area such as wind, tidal patterns and ground temperatures.
Table of Contents
Explanation of Technologies. 6
Status of Technologies. 9
Comparison of Technologies. 11
Works Cited. 14
The demand for energy has increased in tremendous proportions in the last few decades and it is expected to increase at a much higher rate in coming years. The primary sources of energy available in the world come from fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal while other sources available come from hydro and nuclear power. The sources of energy can be classified into two broad categories of renewable and non-renewable sources. Non-renewable energy is produced from sources which cannot be renewed or in other words have a finite life and diminish with the course of time. These include coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear energy. As the energy demand increases these sources are consumed at a much higher rate and will eventually be exhausted. Renewable sources of energy on the other hand include natural resources such as wind, sunlight, rain, geothermal heat and tides of rivers and oceans. These sources are more of a limitless nature and the energy from these sources is renewable. The argument about renewable and non-renewable energy sources is not new. Individuals, organizations and governments have been stressing the need for newer energy sources for some time now. The debate about the scarcity of the current energy sources and their effects on the environment of our planet is not new and increasing in magnitude as people fear that the limited energy sources such as fossil fuel will diminish from the reserves of various countries. These debates had sparked research and exploration of newer energy sources around the globe some time ago giving way to developments and changes in these sources of energy. Many people argue that the scarcity of these resources is the cause of wars being fought in various parts of the world. The dominance of some oil producing nations and the monopolistic conditions in this regard increases the need for alternate energy sources in the current era. The human race is consuming the energy extracted from fossil fuels and nuclear means quite rapidly which affects the environment in an adverse manner. The two most negative aspects of the current energy sources which gave way to the research in alternate energy sources are the deficiency of these resources and the affect they have on the environment.
Alternate energy sources are much healthier for the environment and the energy from renewable sources can be consumed without the fear of scarcity or deficiency. Individuals and organizations are extensively researching newer sources of energy to meet the increasing demand of energy throughout the world. Alternate energy sources can also free up a substantial amount of individual and government funds which can be utilized in other areas of public service and development. There have been various significant developments in the area of alternate energy sources including green buildings in US and Europe, heating and cooling loads, air conditioning system designs, energy management systems, solar buildings and small-scale wind turbines for homes, geothermal heat pumps, breeder reactors, air cars and underwater power production. All these developments in the sources of energy and energy management have contributed to efficient use of energy and the awareness of energy conservation. Many experts are of the view that the next boom will be in the field of alternate energy sources as oil prices surge and the demand experiences an increase. Countries are trying to cut back on the usual energy sources and generate more electricity through alternative sources to decrease the level of pollution and benefit from the cost savings (The Economist). The details of the recent developments and changes in energy sources are explained in the next section covering the details of these technologies.
Explanation of Technologies
The extensive research done in the field of alternate energy sources has produced many effective results which are crucial in shaping the future of energy. Green Design is the process of designing products and buildings keeping in mind the efficient use of resources and eliminating waste during the process. The design is implemented with a view to conserve energy and other natural resources such as water and renders the products or buildings to be environment friendly. The LEED certification process entails a confirmation by an independent third-party that a building or product meets highest standards of green design and performance. The verification is done when buildings confirm to the standards such as conservation of water and energy, safety and health of occupants and reduction in waste (U.S. Green Building Council). The number of green buildings is much higher in Europe but the trend is catching on in the United States. The green buildings in both of these regions usually have provisions for use of daylight, plants and bushes for sustainable environment, green roofs, living walls, natural ventilation, water conservation and energy conservation by various means. Some famous green buildings in U.S and Europe include the Four Times Square in New York, CommerzBank in Frankfurt, Energy Resource Center in Downey, ING Bank in Amsterdam and Verifone in Irvine.
The impact usual energy sources have on the environment is one of the main causes of research on alternate energy sources. The carbon emissions from the fossil fuel based energy mechanism affect the environment adversely and cause the levels of Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide to increase significantly which not only impacts human health but is also hazardous for other natural organisms such as plants and animals. Although the use of these fuels is quite common, organizations and countries stress the need for reducing the use of these fuels and opting for more environment friendly and alternate sources of energy based on wind, geothermal heat and sunlight. Energy Management Systems are used to control the consumption of energy in an organization or home by checking and controlling the consumption at various levels and areas. The systems automatically shut down and restart various appliances according to consumption requirements at different time frames. Energy Management Control Systems are used to control energy consumption in industrial processes and environmental conditions in a business (Turner and Heffington). Heating and cooling loads of buildings are calculated to allocate energy resources to specific areas of the building and conserve electricity rather than distributing heating and cooling channels without load calculation. If the heating and cooling of a building is distributed continuously without checking for loads it will result in significant energy and power loss. Air Conditioning System Design is used for climate control purposes in large buildings and is part of the planning stage of the construction process. The design is implemented through HVAC which stands for Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning. The design is used to control the levels of temperature and humidity and the system is implemented according to the needs of the internal environment to conserve energy (Grondzik). Solar Buildings also referred to as passive solar buildings utilize sunlight to produce energy and use natural ventilating system to allocate cooling mechanism especially during summer without any mechanical appliances which require energy like active solar panels which helps conserve energy through efficient energy utilization. Building designs based on passive solar energy have photovoltaic systems embedded into the design. The largest numbers of solar buildings are in the United States of America.
Small-scale wind turbines for homes use the same technology as large scale commercial wind turbines but on a smaller scale. These turbines are installed on the roofs of houses or buildings to produce energy by harnessing the natural power of wind. The wind turbines can produce almost 35 percent of the total energy requirement of a standard household. Geothermal heat pumps are used to exchange heat from the ground to decrease the level of cooling and heat required for a residential or commercial building. The geothermal heat pumps use the heat from the earth in the winter season while transfer heat to the ground in the summer season. Material efficiency is concerned with the efficient use of materials in the designing and construction of buildings. This saves both operational costs for the building and material which can be utilized in other projects to conserve resources and indirectly conserve energy. Lighting is used to allocate the illumination and lighting requirements in a project. During the planning and design of a building the lighting requirements are calculated and distributed where some of the lighting requirement is acquired from sunlight by using glass ceilings and roofs. Energy efficient appliances are mostly governed by energy star standards and can conserve between 20-30 percent of energy. The energy star standards were first introduced in the U.S. while European countries later implemented the same technique for energy efficiency. Indoor Air Quality refers to quality of air in buildings with reference to different environmentally hazardous gases and elements. Ventilation systems are used to decrease the level of such contaminants to make it easier for the inhabitants. Pebble bed reactors are very high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactors based on graphite. The technology though developed in Germany is being extensively researched in South Africa and China. The only active and operational prototype of a pebble bed reactor is in China.
Breeder reactors are based on efficient breeding of fuel used for energy generation. Although all reactors can breed fuel but these reactors breed fuel at a higher rate, hence the name breeder reactors. Thermo photovoltaic systems convert heat energy into electrical energy through photons. The system utilizes thermal emitters and the heat emitted is converted into electricity through photovoltaic diode cells. Spherical solar cells are shaped in spheres which are lined with mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity more efficiently. These spherical cells can be used in various devices, homes and buildings to produce electricity more efficiently. Plug-in hybrid electrical devices and cars usually have two sources of power and one of these sources is electrical power with a battery installed in the device or car which can be recharged by plugging in the device or car to an electrical source. Air cars are based on the technology of compressed air and utilize compressed air to power cars like hybrid cars. These cars can also be operated with petroleum with compressed air as an additional option. Underwater power is produced by harnessing the kinetic energy of waves and currents of oceans. Turbines are installed under water similar to wind turbines and the blades of these turbines spin with the movement in the oceans. The system of solar power satellites collects the light from the sun through solar panels fixed on satellites in orbit rather than panels fixed on the Earth’s surface. The major problem in these systems is the transmission of the collected energy to Earth from these satellites.
Status of Technologies
The various developments and changes in the sources of energy mentioned in the previous section are completely operational and installed in various countries throughout the world while some technologies are still undergoing extensive research. The standards of green designs and green buildings have already been implemented in various countries in Europe and in the U.S. and numerous new buildings are being deigned on the basis of these standards. Broad research s being carried out to minimize the environmental effects of the typical fossil fuel energy sources with heavy emphasis on environment friendly alternate energy sources. Energy management systems and heating and cooling loads are used to increase the efficiency of energy conservation in households and buildings through proper allocation of energy, electricity, heating and cooling. Air conditioning system designs are already being implemented in various buildings to enhance the efficiency of climate control and control the energy consumption attached to cooling and heating. Solar buildings are present in U.S and Europe while designs of various solar buildings throughout Asia have been proposed. Small-scale wind turbines for homes are being manufactured and marketed commercially in the United States and Europe with research work being carried out to increase the efficiency of these turbines. Geothermal heat pumps are also installed at various locations in areas with severe weather conditions to exchange heat from the Earth in the United States. Some geothermal heat projects have also been setup for research purposes. Material efficiency, lighting, energy efficient appliances and indoor air quality are concerned with saving of energy rather than an alternative source for it.
There have been significant changes in the last five years especially in energy-efficient appliances as large number of appliance manufacturers now comply with the energy-star standard. The technologies of pebble bed and breeder reactors, thermo photovoltaic energy, spherical solar cells, plug-in hybrids are still under the phase of development and research and mass production and use has not yet started. The concept of underwater power production and solar power satellites are theoretically proven and many projects have yet to be started on these technologies. A complication with solar power satellites though remains involving the transfer of energy to Earth from these satellites. The research has come a long way in all of the technologies mentioned and there is still a great deal of work to be done to perfectly implement and benefit from the alternative energy sources available to humanity.
Comparison of Technologies
The various alternate energy sources are somewhat similar and different in many ways. The main ideology behind all alternate energy sources is the same which is to decrease the level of Carbon Dioxide emissions into the environment and at the same time provide energy which can be renewed without the fear of exhausting resources. The current need in alternate energy source is the one which has the lowest cost and least impact on the environment. Each type of source has to be weighed according to its cost, impact on environment, size, quality and amount of energy produced. Some of the technologies discussed include standards which can be applied to make buildings and appliances more energy efficient and safer for the environment. The green design and LEED certification, green buildings, material efficiency and lighting are some of the standards applied to conserve energy and decrease the emissions of green house gases. Green design and green buildings provide a much broader scale than energy efficient appliances as these apply to whole buildings and the components contained in the buildings with a strong emphasis on lower impact on internal and external environment and sustainability. Energy management systems, lighting, heating and cooling loads and air conditioning system design have similar characteristics with only slight changes in the planning process. The lighting process as compared to others provides the basis for planning of light and illumination requirement while heating and cooling loads determine the heating and cooling requirements in a building based on which air conditioning systems are designed. Energy management systems as compared to these technologies provide comprehensive planning on all energy requirements and provisions for energy conservation.
The most popular alternative energy sources include solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, energy produced from tides, hybrid and air cars. All these sources have one common characteristic of low scale energy production. The energy obtained cannot be used as the primary source as energy requirements exceed the amount of energy produced from these sources. Solar energy is obtained from the sun which never runs out and there is no impact on the environment whereas it has a low efficiency rate of 15 percent and requires large areas for deployment if higher capacity is required. A considerable quantity of heat is generated with energy which is wasted. The equipment installation cost for solar energy is quite high while the energy produced has a cost of around 20-25 cents per KWH. The energy produced from wind turbines can only be produced in areas with consistent wind conditions and cannot be produced on a very large scale but the cost is quite low ranging between 4.5 – 6.5 cents per KWH. The efficiency of this power is better than solar energy at around 30 percent but migratory birds are affected by the installation of wind turbines. Tidal energy or the energy produced from waves in oceans has a consistent output but is affected due to the changes in the tides and current of the ocean. The cost of energy production is quite high as the tides are irregular and the ecological system of oceans is affected with an adverse affect on marine life. Geothermal energy source has lower initial cost as compared to other sources with a high efficiency rate but is specific to some areas and cannot be implemented everywhere (The Electronic Universe).
The alternate energy sources are quite cost efficient and safer for the environment than the usual sources of energy and comprehensive research has been done in recent years on the various options available to produce energy from alternative sources. The environmental impact, power generation efficiency and the cost effectiveness of these sources have to compared and weighed to select the most suitable and sustainable source of energy. It is concluded that the sources have to be renewable to provide for constant generation of electricity without the concern of depleting resources. The comparison of these sources has shown that different sources are viable for different areas and these sources cannot yet cater to the complete energy requirements of our era. The best option for energy production is to implement two or three alternative energy plans to account for at least 50 to 60 percent of the total energy requirement. Another factor to be considered is the conservation of energy as the rapid consumption rate in recent times has considerably increased and if the consumption continues to grow without any consideration for energy saving there will not be enough energy left in the end. The signs of mismanagement of energy and extraordinary consumption are already prominent in various countries especially in the third world where countries consume energy without any proper planning and provision for alternative energy sources. To cope with the increase in energy demand substantial amount of research and a global effort for conservation of energy is required. Conservation demands that people start using alternative modes of transportation such as hybrid and air cars while implementing alternate energy plans in homes and buildings. This effort not only includes individuals but organizations and governments of different countries also need to take initiative on this issue.
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