Global issues regarding our planet heating up, paired with high oil prices and ever increasing government support, are pushing forward renewable energy around the world today. According to the 2011 prediction produced by the IEA (International Energy Agency, renewable energies look odds-on to be producing the majority of the world’s energy within the next 50 years; reducing the increasing harm to our environment. As of 2011, various forms of renewable energy have been providing electricity to a few million households. For example, over 44 million households use biogas for lighting and cooking, and over 166 million households rely on more-efficient biomass cookstoves.
Electricity resourced from hydroelectricity provides 16.3% of the world’s electricity. When combined with other renewables that statistic rises to 21.7% worldwide electricity usage. Countries such as Iceland and Norway already receive a very high percentage of their power from renewed energy.
Below, we look at a few examples of renewable energy and their benefits to the world as a whole.
Solar energy is the greatest resource for mankind. The sun is responsible for sustaining life on earth. It is the greatest energy source in the universe as we know it. Temperatures exceed 15 million degrees at the centre of the sun. Engineers exploiting this heat for energy conversion use solar energy models to refine efficiency and performance. Technologies include solar ponds, solar water collectors and photovoltaic (PV) panels. PV is the field of technology and research related to the devices that directly convert sunlight into electricity. The solar cell is the elementary building block of the photovoltaic technology. Solar cells are made of semiconductor materials, such as silicon. One of the properties of semiconductors that make them most useful is that their conductivity may easily be modified by introducing impurities into their crystal lattice. For instance, in the fabrication of a photovoltaic solar cell, silicon, which has four valence electrons, is treated to increase its conductivity. On one side of the cell, the impurities, which are phosphorus atoms with five valence electrons (n-donor), donate weakly bound valence electrons to the silicon material, creating excess negative charge carriers. On the other side, atoms of boron with three valence electrons (p-donor) create a greater affinity than silicon to attract electrons.
Solar water heating makes a considerable and important contribution to renewable energies in many countries. An estimated 50-60 million households in China, for example, currently take advantage of this particular renewable energy. Worldwide this figure is 70 million for solar water heating systems. The use of this and various other renewable energies is steadily on the rise.
Solar power has a potentially endless supply of energy, and single dwellings can have their electricity supply. Plus, any surplus energy not used by a household is not wasted and it is recycled back into circulation.
Wind turbines can be found on their own but usually are grouped together on a wind farm; like the ones we see around our coastlines. These obviously have the potential to supply endless energy.
Tidal-powered renewable energy is ideal for islands such as the UK. Water has the potential to generate gross amounts of energy.
The 3 Big Pluses
- Renewable energy does exactly what it says on the tin: it’s re-useable – therefore, a sustainable source that cannot and will not run out.
- Facilities for renewable energy do not require as much maintenance as traditional generators.
- Renewable energies produce little or no waste into the environment – unlike fossil fuels.