Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)


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Fossil fuels versus renewables

S, primary energy production. The share of U. India experienced 62 percent growth, the fast expansion in the world for renewables in the market. On the subject of renewable and alternative energies more broadly, two points should be noted. First, government policy has an important role to play in the development of this sector. Most renewable energy industries are still young. They face low demand from consumers as well as stiff competition from other well established energy industries such as the coal and nuclear industries. The production of clean energy also entails high setup and operating costs.

Companies in many undeveloped renewable energy industries find it very difficult to recover these high costs over the life cycle of a facility, even though such life cycles can be decades long Wirth et al, As strong growth in renewable energy capacity in Europe shows, wise government policies and encouraging incentives can have a real impact on the fortunes of these technologies.

Renewable Energy: The Clean Facts

One expert noted, specifically with regard to the U. To learn more about government controversies over tar sands, click here. Parfit, Although renewable and alternative energies cannot save the day on their own, they will be a central part of any long term energy strategy on both the domestic and global levels.

Next : Biofuels and Ethanol. Contact Us. Renewable and Alternative Energy Sources. The Cycle of Nuclear Power E. Hybrid Cars and Flex Cars F. Energy Audits G. The Energy Star Program H. Chinese Coal I. Examples of Micropower K. The Russian Stablization Fund L. The Nigerian Backlash M. Connect With Us. If a country loses, or finds it has restricted access, to oil and other resources, instability is likely as energy is rationed. Energy security can be the result of armed conflict or political instability in gas or oil-producing countries, or a buying country having access restricted when a producing country deliberately cuts a supply.

More clearly needs to be done though for the reasons stated below, but these figures are encouraging from the perspective of the use of renewables on its own. We can break these figures down even further and look at the divide between renewable energy types. These are:. There is still much to do though; between and , the largest growth area in terms of resources was coal - easily the dirtiest form of fossil fuel. The most used resource amid fluctuating price coupled with what we now understand to have been over-production for several years, was oil. As one of the world's largest consumers of energy at Exponential growth of production in China, and equal exponential growth in coal mining there, should not be permitted to outstrip renewable use and it seems we are winning that particular battle; a UN report concluded in that renewable technology is now being produced on an industrial scale There is a large disparity of energy production by state in the US with some producing a lot more than others.

Idaho came out on top as it produces most of its electricity from geothermal sources thanks to the volcanic activity of its topography Idaho is a success story of a renewable future and it reports some of the lowest energy prices to the customer of any state.


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Delaware is a net consumer of energy supplied by other states. However, a wind farm grant in now means that all of its domestic production comes from renewable sources. Wyoming's source of renewables is wind power. The story is similar for Alaska where the oil rich areas means a large supply of diesel to fuel the generators on which many state residents reply, though geothermal energy supply is also a boon for the state.

The first and main reason for why governments and businesses are keen to move to renewable energies as soon as possible is that fossil fuels are a finite resource. We may or may not have reached peak oil - the point at which demand outstrips supply -and by current figures, many experts seem to agree we did so around with only external factors creating fluctuations in demand making it difficult to predict precisely when it will run out.

That is another debate entirely that our politicians and economists have argued for decades, and will continue to argue 14 for many years to come. Whichever way we look at it, fossil fuels will run out eventually and it will take some 10,, years to replenish what we have used in around years. As the human population increases, our rate of consumption of these fossil fuels also increases. Geologists and others whose job it is to locate and access these pockets of crude oil are finding it increasingly difficult to locate and extract new sources.

Whether we have 1 year or years left of oil, many argue that what is left should remain in the ground because it is not sustainable - it will run out eventually and so we should prepare for a post-fossil fuel world now. The most immediate problem, particularly in light of the COP21 agreement of , and the changes we have seen to the climate in the last years, is climate change and the carbon emissions that are forcing it In the last few years especially, no part of the world has been untouched by freak weather conditions. Most continents have recorded record high temperatures in summer, record lows in winter and increased frequency of typhoons and hurricanes, record dry spells, drought and flooding.

There is no doubt that these freak weather conditions are affecting every country Most renewable energy sources, and the technology used to harness them, are low carbon emission. In most cases, once installed they have minimal or no carbon output and can still provide our energy needs.

We can never go fully carbon neutral as it takes resources to make a solar panel, build a dam and so on, but it is a critical and significant reduction of our carbon output. What we do need to do, is to take the steps we can to reduce our carbon footprint for international regulations, to help those in the developing world, and to protect ourselves against the freak weather.

We also know that the ice caps are melting and the sea levels are rising which creates food shortages and national instability as well as being an expensive situation for our insurance. Energy security is a relative newcomer to public perception when we consider the greater need for renewable energy The beginning of this decade has seen instability in the Middle East.

Why have these political issues in other parts of the world encouraged the rest of the world to think about its energy plan? The Middle East is one of the biggest suppliers of oil to the world. New tension between Russia and the west, firstly over Ukraine and secondly over Syria, has led to increased distrust between world powers. Being dependent on other countries for our energy supply is problematic in itself, but when international relations between supplier and supplied sour, increased wholesale prices threatening to destabilize the economy is the least that could happen 16, p5.

If a supply is cut off, then disaster could strike. For this reason alone, we need spare capacity and multiple avenues of energy acquisition. Energy security will become a much greater factor as fossil fuels begin to dwindle.

More than ever before, demands on energy supply often outstrip supply of conventional production forcing prices up 3. It is expected that increased tension over acquisition and protection of resources could lead to global conflict.

A History of Renewable Energy

Some are already arguing that the crisis in Syria is less about campaign for democracy reform in a major Middle Eastern power, and more a result of ongoing regional climate crisis. Former farmers who have fled to Europe and beyond have cited drought as the major catalyst for the civil war in the country The price of oil has fluctuated greatly in the last years - from an all-time high in to to record lows in to Oil prices have a knock on effect for the economy when they are at the extreme and lead to protests We must remember that oil is a commodity and when prices are erratic, it affects jobs all over the world.

Related to some of the issues mentioned above, where renewable energy offers a constant and sustained supply such as hydroelectric, wave power, solar and biofuels , energy prices are likely to remain stable and in turn, keep the economy stable In many cases, energy produced from renewable sources is already cheaper than that produced by non-renewable means.


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Mentioned above, Idaho produces a large amount of energy from geothermal sources. Another example is Texas where energy produced from wind power is noticeably cheaper for the state's citizens. As fossil fuel supply gets harder to acquire, and prospectors search for new pockets of oil and have to drill longer and deeper to acquire it, there has been conflict between environmental groups and industry 21 and between governments and both groups 22 when local wildlife and environmentally sensitive areas are threatened.

Here in the US, public consciousness and the need to protect our wildlife and natural landscapes means that many new developments are protested with concerns of environmental damage. Ongoing protests against fracking and new drilling in Europe and North America and recent examples. Though some renewables will have an environmental impact, many do not and when built, have no further impact - unlike ongoing drilling. Oil, gas and coal drilling and mining have high levels of pollution that are pumped into local environments and the wider atmosphere, so while protestors attempt to prevent the building of pipelines or new prospecting in virgin areas and wilderness, it is as much about public health as it is about conservation.

We have known for decades about the knock on effect of industrial processes for public health Few renewables are entirely emission-free, but their output is much lower than conventional fossil fuel acquisition and processing. Learn more about public health degrees and public health careers. Renewables are by definition unlimited, but it is important to note that not all forms are environmentally friendly. Here, we look at some of the most common types of renewable energy and discuss their advantages and limitations. Using water's motion power to generate electricity is not a new concept; we have been doing so for around one hundred years and most countries have some form of water generated electricity source.

There are two basic forms of using water for green energy needs. Hydroelectricity is produced by processing and controlling the flow of water through a dam. This is one of the most encouraging forms of renewable energy. Globally, it generates some 3, terawatts of power and has increased year on year since Hydroelectric power is likely to be one of our most common forms of energy production in the next few years and in the post oil world The building of dams at key strategic places as decided by environmental engineers means that energy generation can be increased or decreased depending on the needs of the community that uses it.

During times of low use output may be reduced, and increased during times of high output need 23 ; these changes can be made quickly compared to oil production which has a delay due to the need to refine the raw product. The speed with which output of hydroelectricity can be changed is a major advantage to our growing energy needs.

Hydroelectricity is one of the lowest cost forms of energy as it requires no fuel; this means no mining, no processing, and no transportation cost.

Potential of Various Renewable Energy and its Introduction Policy in Southeast Asia

It was estimated in that the average cost of a kilowatt-hour of energy produced by hydroelectricity was c It is one of the cleanest forms of energy. Though the construction process of building and maintaining a dam will mean carbon emissions, this is the only output - still a significant reduction over the burning of fossil fuels The relative cheapness of construction and maintenance, and the low cost of generation means it is used increasingly in both the developed and the developing world.

Finally, dams do not exist purely for their energy generation; they have many uses today. Flooding and drought are a major cause for concern with many countries having suffered both in recent years, often one season after another. Dams regulate water supply during floods and maintain water supplies during a drought Building Aswan Dam may very well have prevented drought in Egypt in the s when countries around them Sudan, Ethiopia suffered horrific drought.

Hydroelectricity and dam building does not come without cost and it's important that environmental engineers and decision makers keep this in mind when planning the siting of a new facility. Building a dam destroys an area of landscape and changes the ecology downstream 26 , this cannot be avoided, even where there is an extant river that is being modified.

Dam building can and does destroy important cultural landscapes too.

Advantages of Renewable Energy

Using Aswan Dam as an example again, the river valley flooded to create the high water table that would sit behind the dam destroyed an important archaeological landscape. Although many relics were saved and features recorded, and the international community came together to move Philae Temple block by block, the cultural landscape around the original site was lost forever In tropical areas, higher levels of methane output have been recorded from and around the reservoirs; this has been put down to the higher levels of anaerobic chemical processes It's important to note that methane output is much lower in more temperate areas.

Finally, the potential for failure of a dam is catastrophic. Should it burst, any settlement in the valley below would be flooded, leading possibly to loss of human life, destroyed houses, disrupted power supply to all the homes affected and possibly flooding of the winder landscape beyond, more ecological damage, more loss of human life. Thankfully, burst dams are rare and when they do occur, usually cause minimal disruption. Tidal power is not yet common but it has been demonstrated that it is possible to generate electricity at sea by reacting to the ebb and flow of the oceans.

This a common form of power generation across the Atlantic, in the eastern US states and Western Europe with the UK being one of the early developers thanks to the high tidal ranges around the Orkney Islands. Its take up has not been wholesale elsewhere yet for a number of reasons. Tidal power generators come in four general types The first major advantage is that tidal power is more predictable than other well-known renewable systems such as wind and solar power thanks to the natural relationship between The Moon and the Earth.

The pattern of the tides is predictable to a high degree of accuracy, a system on which we have been reliant for thousands of years of human existence. We have accurately measured these systems that people living in coastal areas where there is more than a minor variation, know the high and low tide times. This has always helped plan a number of maritime functions and now it is helping us begin to generate electricity Melting ice caps is not likely to affect these tidal ranges by a great degree, as the Moon is the only influencing factor on the fluctuations.

The third and most important is the low input to high output production. The density of water and its tidal motions means that we can, in theory, produce a lot of energy even from low wave activity. Choppy seas and stormy weather is not required to generate massive amounts of energy The technology has largely not been taken up due to high cost It is mostly still in development stage so some authorities are reluctant to invest in the technology while there are still cheaper alternatives available.

As mentioned above, the technology is limited to those areas of the world with a wide variation in its tidal range to warrant harnessing the power of the sea - this includes the eastern seaboard of North America and Western Europe but few other places The overwhelming majority of coastal sites will not be suitable for this technology.

Underwater ecologies are just as delicate as land ecologies and any intrusion into the seabed or disruption to the natural marine landscape is going to affect the wildlife and alter it forever; what's worse is it seems that we don't know what if any long term effects are on the marine ecology We can be pedantic and point out that the sun is not renewable, that it has a finite end - but the fact that it has some 4.

Solar power is arguably one of the best-known renewable energy sources and many argue that solar power should have been more common much earlier than it was. Interest began in the 19 th century with the same people who understand that coal would eventually run out. Heavy investment in fossil fuels meant that it went undeveloped until the late s when instability of oil supply began again Embargo and Crisis Also, growing environmental awareness and the prominence of peak oil meant we once again need to look for cleaner energies.

There are two basic types of solar energy:. The most obvious advantage 35 is that it will last as long as the sun will last - which is billions of years against the maximum years that we believe is the remaining life span of our oil supply, and against the several decades of gas and coal. It is a very flexible energy source and not only can it generate electricity, but can be used to heat water directly, and is a source of light.

The second is the cost saving of the system. Many people are concerned about the cost of the initial outlay, but they are far cheaper today than they were in the s and far more efficient, representing long-term investment and saving. They are noise-free and work all the time too. Plus, if you use your solar panels in line with your local or national grid, you can save a lot of money using solar energy. In some cases, you may be able to feed that energy back to the supply, effectively selling it, and making money in the process.

Once installed, they are low maintenance and with very little pollution compared to other forms of fuel. As it will be an important form of our energy supply in years to come, it is constantly under development. Investment in better technologies is likely to lead to more efficient systems in future. There are three major disadvantages 35 to solar. Firstly, their efficiency drops during cloudier days, during the winter when there is less sunlight generally, and during storms.

Though the PV systems of today are far more efficient than they used to be, there is still a way to go.

Renewable energy - Wikipedia

If you live in warmer and sunnier climes such as California, Texas, Arizona and so on you are likely to get more efficient use out of them than you would living in the northern states or places in the world where there is less sunshine. The second disadvantage is that you need to consider careful placement. The rotation of the Earth doesn't need to be explained here beyond the understanding that the sun does not remain in the same place all day.

It rises in the east and sets in the west. Unless you have an expensive system by which to rotate your panels, or panels on every slant of your roof to capture sunlight at every stage of the day and most don't because both systems would be expensive your PV paneling will be less efficient at certain times of the day. The third is what to do with all that energy and power to get maximum efficient use of the energy that the PV panels capture.

Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)
Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment) Introduction to Renewable Energy (Energy and the Environment)

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