Can Renewable energy gain enough traction to replace fossil fuels?

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Soon your country's oil will run out, and you will be sorry. You should read this to know what to do.

Submitted: March 03, 2015

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Submitted: March 03, 2015

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Can renewable energy gain enough traction to replace fossil fuels?

By: Nwachukwu Lawson Luke

Energy is crucial for daily survival, and since ancient times, fossil fuels have gracefully provided for man’s energy needs. Nevertheless, civilization has forced mankind to research and develop alternative sources as fossil reserves are on their way to exhaustion.

What are fossil fuels?

Formed by the accumulation as well as the subsequent application of heat and pressure to decomposed plants and animals, fossil fuels are non-renewable resources. They take millions of years to form, and reserves are, depressingly, devoured much faster than they evolve. Examples of such are coal, crude oil and natural gas.

Evidently, the world’s population is on the rise, and the search for an infinitely-reliable and sustainable source of energy has long begun. This search has evoked an unprecedented interest in renewable energy forms. Nations, as well as organizations, are beginning to look beyond the present, and these renewable sources are beginning to gain renewed attention.

What are renewable energies?

Derived from natural processes, renewable energies are non-polluting, inexhaustible, and operate in stable harmony with the earth’s physical and ecological systems. They are easily obtained and do not give rise to any carbon emission. Examples of such are nuclear, geothermal, solar, wind and biomass energy. In the future, renewable sources of energy will suitably replace fossil fuels, and here are the reasons for this conclusion:

Geothermal energy:

According to a report by the International Solar Energy Society, geothermal energy has been used to provide heat for human comfort for thousands of years. It can serve as a major renewable energy resource for at least 58 countries: thirty-nine countries could, in fact, be 100 percent geothermal powered, with four more at 50 percent, five more at 20 percent and eight more at 10 percent. Indeed, there is an abundance of heat stored in the earth’s crust, this heat is made available through the use of pipes.

Wind energy:

Technically, wind power is a form of solar power because it is caused by the heat from the sun. Solar radiation unevenly heats up every part of the earth’s surface—sand, water, soil, and rocks. These surfaces retain and reflect heat at different rates; the air above the earth’s surface cools and warms at different temperatures. As a result, hot air rises and cool air rushes in replacement. This uneven movement of air gives rise to wind. Its kinetic energy can be captured with the aid of a wind turbine, and converted into other useful forms.

Reports show that global wind power exceeded 32,000MW by the end of 2002, and has been growing at a 32 percent rate per year. Utility-scale wind turbines are now in 45 countries, and the goal of 12 percent of the world’s electricity demand from wind appears to be feasible.

Solar energy:

With the aid of solar panels, the innate powers of the sun can be used directly to power homes, offices and (even) cars. Radiant heat from the sun can also be used to provide hot streams of water for industrial purposes as well as heat up fluids through concentration to temperatures sufficient enough to produce electricity in thermal-electric generators.

It is no surprise that solar electric technology is growing worldwide, and at immense rate. More photovoltaic systems will eventually be built, and this will allow for the expansion of solar-based electric systems. To commemorate this growth, policies which allows for the application of solar domestic water and space heating systems need to be established by all governments.

Nuclear energy:

There is a strong relationship between energy and sustainable development that for more than half a century, nuclear power has been viewed as a potential solution to the world’s energy needs. Although nuclear power holds ties with nuclear weaponry, the search for clean, sustainable and efficient power sources have made various governments to look towards the economic feasibility as well as the practical requirements for generating nuclear energy. It is produced by the fission of a radioactive material.

Of all renewable forms of energy, nuclear energy has arguably gotten the most attention: particularly because it is the safest, cleanest, cheapest, and the most efficient type of energy. Owing to the devastating nuclear accidents in the past, there have been serious concerns about its reliability—should it be done away with? Or should it still be developed while disregarding its disadvantage?

Indeed, the argument seems reasonable, but the demand for electricity has escalated. The world is fast experiencing a huge turnaround, and turnarounds require courage. Fortunately, several courageous steps have been taken in the past, and they have yielded results that are worthy of applause—nuclear energy accounts for about 17% of the world’s electricity.

Market feasibility

In recent years, the renewable energy marketplace and policy frameworks have rapidly evolved. According to a report released by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st century, renewable energy, in 2010, supplied an estimated 16.7 percent global final energy consumption, with 8.2 percent from modern renewable energy, while still generating an estimated 20.3 percent of global electricity by the end of 2011.

Biomass, solar-thermal and geothermal energy have continued to supply hot water as well as space heating and cooling for several domestic and commercial buildings worldwide. Reports have also affirmed that solar hot water collectors are used by more than 200 million households with more than half of the consumers in China. Bioenergy—the only carbon-neutral combustible carbon resource accounts for about 11 percent of the world’s primary source of energy.

Also, renewable energy offers significant potential for job creation. About 5 million people worldwide are employed directly or indirectly in the renewable energy industries, and this sector has created about 1.1 million jobs in the EU alone.

In conclusion, despite the slow pace of development, mainstream awareness and government policies are fast underway in many countries, and the national policies to accelerate this process are sufficiently feasible. As it stands, we cannot afford to wait even a quarter of a million years for fossil fuels to develop. Our society needs alternative sources, and we need them now.

 


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