Scientists are constantly researching newer and greener sources of energy that have limited impact on the environment and reduce their contribution to global warming, which is believed to be caused by the release of carbon dioxide while burning fossil fuels.
5 predictions for energy in 2030
Atomic energy, solar energy, and energy from wind and bio fuels are just a few of the promising alternatives for a cleaner and greener future. Other relatively new sources of energy such as fuel cells, geothermal energy, and ocean energy are also being explored. Fossil fuels primarily consist of hydrocarbons. They contain carbon and hydrogen in varying ratios, such as methane, that has a low carbon to hydrogen ratio, or anthracite coal, which is almost pure carbon. Of this, petroleum accounted for However, fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy. They take hundreds of millions of years to form and are depleted much faster than new reserves can be created.
It is estimated that In , the total amount of fossil fuel used was equivalent to plant matter that grew on the entire land and ocean surface of the earth over a period of years. Another disadvantage of our heavy dependence on fossil fuels is the amount of carbon dioxide produced during combustion, which is estimated at However, natural processes are capable of absorbing only about half of the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere, which means every year the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing by It is created by methanogenic organisms present in landfills, marshes and wetlands.
It naturally consists of methane and small amounts of other gases such as ethane, propane, butane, pentane, hydrocarbons of higher molecular weight, sulfur, helium and nitrogen. The constituents of natural gas other than methane need to be removed before natural gas can be used as a source of fuel.
Read Natural Gas Generators: An Alternative to Diesel , for one example showing existing technology using a natural resource, one that is better for the environment, as fuel. Although natural gas is considered to be cleaner than other fossil fuels, it has still been found to contribute to pollution and global warming. In , carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the use of natural gas stood at 5, million tons while coal and oil contributed to carbon dioxide emissions of 10, million tons and 10, million tons, respectively.
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However, this trend is expected to reverse by when natural gas is likely to emit 11, million tons of carbon dioxide as opposed to 8, million tons from coal and 17, tons from oil at that time. Also, when released directly into the atmosphere, natural gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but since this occurs in very small amounts, it is currently not a major cause of concern.
The earth receives about billion megawatts of power at the upper atmosphere as a result of solar radiation. The amount of solar energy that is available to us during an hour is more than the total amount of energy consumed worldwide in an entire year. But this is a diffused, rather than concentrated, form of energy and the greatest challenge lies in harnessing it. Heat and light radiation from the sun can be harnessed through the use of semiconductor solar panels. The energy solar radiation excites electrons on these panels and leads to the production of electrical energy.
One of the biggest hurdles in harnessing the energy from the sun is in building cost-effective solar panels. The cost of solar power is about US 8—15 cents per kilowatt-hour as compared to the cost of coal-based electric power at US 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Proper storage of energy is another major obstacle. Solar energy is not available at night but modern energy systems usually assume continuous availability of energy.
Thermal mass systems, thermal storage systems, phase change materials, off-grid photovoltaic systems, and pumped storage hydroelectricity systems are some of the ways in which solar energy can be stored for later use. Even with all of the technological advancements, solar energy technology is still in its infancy. Until we perfect the technology and are able to harness and store solar energy in a viable and cost-effective manner, fossil fuels will continue to be the most commonly used source of energy.
Nuclear Energy : As the worldwide demand for power continues to surge, nuclear energy is gaining increasing importance as a clean source of power that is expected to address the global issue of climate change. Volatility in the prices of fossil fuels and the increasing concern of nations to secure energy supplies are other drivers of nuclear energy. There are currently nuclear power reactors operational in 30 countries worldwide. However, for nuclear power to emerge as a reliable and clean source of energy, several challenges need to be addressed.
Not only that but research shows that these areas have significantly higher uptake of energy efficiency technologies, vastly reduced energy consumption, and much lower resistance to previously divisive technologies such as onshore wind. Politicians begin to see community energy ownership as the way to finally get citizens engaged in their energy future and to remove social and cultural barriers to the most affordable renewables. Europe became the centre of production for thin film solar PV, where reel-to-reel printing with in-process verification enables panels with near-silicon scale efficiency being produced at a fraction of the cost.
In , Europe finds itself at the heart of renewables production once again, with growing markets worldwide for the next generation technologies it is producing. Widespread electrification of transportation and heat, the move to a smart grid, and the vastly increased need for energy storage created huge opportunities throughout the s for new companies to get involved in the energy sector.
As expected, progressive incumbents and start-ups led the field initially, but in the market is dominated by companies previously strong in other sectors. Food retailers are using distributed cold storage assets to provide large scale and affordable energy storage, vehicle manufacturers are selling energy management as a service, and IT departments of major companies have moved from a cost centre to a profit centre by utilising their UPSs to provide half hourly grid-balancing.
These established companies know what market conditions they need for their new products to prosper, and how to get them. In , the energy lobby looks very different. Powerful voices once concerned with agricultural subsidies or air quality targets are now asking for cost-reflective energy pricing and the removal of fossil fuel subsidies. The vested interests of the past are finding that their grip on power is in decline. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
I accept. New Report: Are we saving enough for retirement? Read more. Most Popular. The fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas are also stored solar energy. The solar energy enabled plants and animals to grow.
As they died the plants and animals were buried under geological strata and under pressure over millions of years the carbon content has created the hydrocarbon that we are now able to mine and tap. We can calculate from our use rate of these resources and our estimates of the remaining reserves how long they are likely to last and, hence, how quickly we need to develop alternatives.
In addition, it is our burning of these fuels that is increasing the levels of carbon dioxide CO 2 and other gases in the atmosphere and generating global warming. This, of course, is the other key driver in encouraging the development of alternative sources of energy. The last big source of energy, and one that is also non-renewable, is nuclear energy.
The energy is released from the fission of the atomic nuclei of certain materials, such as uranium. As uranium ore is a mineral with finite levels of deposits, nuclear energy is also non-renewable. We usually consider it separately from fossil fuels because it does not have the global warming impact of fossil fuels. There are, of course, other issues with nuclear power, particularly how we dispose of the radioactive materials that result from the fission process.
Sketch out a spray diagram explaining how most renewable and non-renewable energy sources result from solar energy. An explanation of spray diagrams can be found here. The fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas are stored solar energy. Plants and animals grew using the heat and energy of the sun, died, were buried and over millions of years and under pressure formed the hydrocarbons that we utilise today.
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These sources of stored solar energy are clearly finite. The UK is heavily dependent on gas and oil for both heating our homes and offices and for industrial processes requiring heat. Our transport systems are almost totally dependent on oil. What has happened to our remaining reserves of oil and gas over the last 10 years graph page The answers should illustrate why the UK needs to find alternative energy sources.
The reduction in local reserves, the dependence on imported gas and oil and the consequent security of supply issues add to the concern we have explored in other steps of the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change. Hydrogen can be used as a fuel in a fuel cell to produce electricity and heat with high efficiency and no emissions. It can also be burnt as a fuel, again with relatively no harmful emissions apart from a small amount of nitrous oxide. However, hydrogen has to be produced, as it cannot be simply extracted from the ground like oil or natural gas.
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Hydrogen as an energy source is a secondary source like electricity. It has to be produced using other sources of energy; but when created it is a useful carrier of energy. One problem is generating the hydrogen. In an ideal hydrogen future we would use renewable energy to generate the hydrogen, which can then be used for space heating replacing natural gas or for transport replacing oil. Clearly, currently we do not have enough renewable energy to contemplate this.
One option might be to use fossil fuels like coal to generate the hydrogen, providing that carbon capture and sequestration techniques are used to minimise the atmospheric CO 2 emissions. Alternatively, nuclear energy could be used to generate the hydrogen. Once produced, the hydrogen needs to be transported and stored, and this requires new technologies to be developed.
The use in vehicles also needs new technologies that are not yet commercially available. The downside is that energy needs to be used to provide the hydrogen.
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We will not consider nuclear technologies here but focus on the arguments for and against nuclear power. What are the arguments provided for developing new nuclear power stations? Now sketch on a spray diagram the arguments given for not developing new nuclear power stations. Do you think any arguments have been missed?
Plan how you would explain to a friend your reasons for supporting, or not, new nuclear power plant construction. Together these account for over 40 per cent of carbon emissions. Read the speech by Malcolm Wicks to the Energy Institute, in which he mentions the expansion of renewables and the use of carbon capture and storage to clean up fossil fuel power stations and then outlines the key areas for energy efficiency.
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