People believe that what we have done to the planet is unnatural, but if you think about it, we ARE nature, and so everything that has happened up to this point couldn’t have happened any other way. Yes, maybe if humans would have never lived on Earth then there would be no global warming and species dying off, but there’s no way to know “what if”. There’s only the way that things are now, and what we know we can do to make it better, period. For that reason in this article we will be discussing the topic of renewable energy, what it is, and what methods and strategies we can use to create a better environment and reconstruct what we have destroyed on this planet.
Renewable Energy: Methods and Strategies
Renewable energy is defined as energy that can be re-created naturally in the timeline of a human life. This means that anything that takes more than 100 years to occur is not renewable energy, or at least not sustainable because we would have to wait centuries for it to happen and no one has time for that. About two hundred years ago, the only renewable energy source that people knew about was wood. We would cut trees down and burn them for their energy, which then gave rise to steam engines and stoves. We have been using fire through wood for centuries since it has been the most abundant source of energy, but as we continued to grow in overall population, there’s just not enough trees to sustain our energy needs AND the animals who need these forests more than us.
In 2018, renewable energy sources provided about 11% of the total U.S. consumption, which means that we are doing an okay job at extracting this energy and not destroying the environment, but we are not doing a good enough job yet. So what are those renewable resources and how can we continue to use them?
- Solar Energy
- Wind Power
- Hydroelectric Energy
- Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
- Geothermal Power
Solar energy is capturing the light that is emitted by the sun. One hour of sunlight captured with 100% efficiency would be able to power a small town for a whole year. The only problem with this is that we still don’t understand how to make 100% efficient photo voltaic cells that would be able to capture all of the energy. We are making good progress on this, but it will take a few more years, maybe even a few decades to figure out how to harness all of the sunlight we get. We are making great changes towards this by implementing electric car production. California is also taking leadership in this sector by forcing every new home built in the state to have solar panels as soon as the home is completed. This is to be effective next year in 2020 so we believe it will entice other states to do the same. If every state in the country were to make this a law, it would create a tremendous change in the United States’ ecological footprint.
Wind power is another method that we haven’t made 100% efficient. This is due to the fact that the Earth is rotating and temperatures change as it does this. What that means is that certain areas will have more wind that others and it is very hard to pinpoint locations that have consistent and powerful winds that can sustain turbines enough to create energy. It costs a lot of money for a company to purchase a large piece of land, enough wind turbines to fill the land, and people to do this. One other reason wind energy is not as efficient as we would like is that when the turbine spins it loses some of the energy through the heat expelled by the engines.
Hydroelectric energy has been used for many decades. This is a method of using water sources that flow down to capture this momentum to again spin an engine. As these engines spin, the energy is captured in a battery which is then distributed out as electricity. Most of the hydroelectric dams of the world have already been created and we have not found other suitable places to create more. One of the most well-known is the hoover dam which has the capacity to and produces over two thousand megawatts which translated to a little more than 4.5 billion kilowatt hours. This allows the hoover dam to give Arizona, southern California, and southern Nevada its power for more than eight million people.
Biomass is the term that is given to energy derived from plants. Biomass is what we were describing earlier; trees. The majority of the world still relies on burning plants, but this is a very dangerous thing to continue to do since it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Hydrogen and fuel cells are another piece of renewable energy for which we have tons, but which also require a large amount of energy in and of itself to produce. This is also very costly, hence why we don’t have water powered cars, YET. When we figure out how to effectively use fuel cells and hydrogen we will be able to use the water of the ocean for many many things. Desalination is very expensive and so we have an unused mass of water that could solve all of the world’s energy problems in an instant. There are companies all over the world trying to figure this out, but just like everything else, we have to wait and see what happens.
Dyson Sphere: We left this one until the end because it’s a very big deal. Creating a Dyson sphere is probably hundreds of years away and would require every nation in the world to come to an agreement to build, and would need trillions of dollars to complete. A Dyson Sphere is a hypothetical yet very possible structure which would encapsulate the sun with solar panels which would then capture the energy of the sun and re-direct it down to Earth.