Non-Conventional Sources of Energy

The nonconventional sources of energy are such an issue that has been a topic of discussion in almost all global meet-ups in the 21st century. Considering the gradually depleting fossil fuel reserve and the increasing effect of global warming, due to emissions from combustion of fossil fuels, the world is rapidly turning its focus to nonconventional sources of energy such as solar energy, biomass, hydel energy and wind energy. Now the question becomes as to what should be our approach to nonconventional sources of energy or rather to be more specific, how do we replace the system that has been running for so long with the help of fossil fuel with these nonconventional sources of energy? Would it be a major issue of concern? Let’s take a look.

The earth is warming up rapidly because of global warming and it’s the responsibility of the global citizens to minimize the excessive greenhouse effect leading to global warming. One of the major causes of global warming is complete and incomplete combustion of various fossil fuel like coal, petroleum etc in industries as well as in vehicles. Besides survey states that at the present rate of usage, the global reserve of fossil fuels will come to an end by 2080. Hence its necessary for us to find some alternative sources of energy that we can thrive on in future. The most important awareness that needs to be spread is that we cannot sit back saying that we have still got more than 50 years of reserve left, assuming that we will think about nonconventional sources when we have entirely consumed up the entire fossil fuel reserve. It must be kept in mind, that even till now, fossil fuels serve as the major backbone of energy supply to our society. This transition from conventional sources would not be easy; rather it would be mighty difficult. This transition phase must continue for at least 50 years before nonconventional sources of energy replace conventional sources of energy in our daily lives. So the effort for the transition phase should begin right now!

Solar energy is expected to be the energy that will serve almost 60% of India by 2050. Why? India is a tropical country where the sun shines brightly for most of the year. On proper use of technology, this ample solar energy can be converted to solar thermal electricity(STE) thus reducing carbon dioxide emission. When we look at the global scenario, we find that the world expects that the Solar photo voltaic cell will meet 16% of electricity requirement by 2050 while solar thermal electricity will be meeting another 11% requirement. India presently is working on a 19 billion dollar plan to construct a 20GW solar power plant by 2020. Successful execution of this plan would mean compulsory usage of solar power in all government offices and for all government jobs.

Biomass, as the name suggests itself, is derived from organic material. In Plants, the lignin and cellulose present in the cell wall and cell protoplasm respectively contribute to the biomass energy, Now this biomass, if burnt would not be energy efficient, i.e. if we burn a huge amount of biomass, we will obtain minimum energy. So what do we need to do?? We have to devise a method such that biomass can be converted to combustion efficient biofuels. Conversion of biomass to biofuels as methanol, ethanol , biodiesel and other transport fuels can be done by thermal, chemical and biochemical methods. At the present situation research is going on, on algae-based biomass. Successful results of this research would be beneficial to our society as they can be cultivated at a rate 5-10 times the general land crops and most importantly it is not a food crop.

This is perhaps the oldest form of a nonconventional source of energy that has been used in this country. Dams and barrages have been set up in many parts of the country namely HiraKund, Massanjore, Farakka. But still there is a problem with this form of energy. What? Why has it not been able to replace thermal power plants inspite of being in the market for so long? The problem with hydel energy is its very low efficiency. We have been able to set up hydel power plants in many parts of the country, but their production is extremely low as per market standards. Today, however, India is a great generator of hydroelectric power in the world, holding the 7th position in global hydel power generation. Today India meets about 18% of its net requirement of electricity through hydel power generation, an extremely vital statistic hence showing that our country might be a global leader in hydel power generation in future!

The development of wind power in India developed in this country as early as 1990s mainly in the southern part of India. In the last few years this power has increased significantly in the south in states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc. There is indeed a valid reason for the wind power flourishing in the southern part of the country. South India is basically a Peninsula and hence the effect of sea breeze here is huge. Wind current here is very high hence promoting the construction of windmills and hence resulting in wind power generation. Present statistics show that In South India around 36% of the net electricity requirement is met by wind power, which is indeed a ray of hope for our country.

USA is the most dominant when it comes to non-conventional energy sources. This is mainly because they have started the switch to alternative forms of energy about a century ago. And they are reaping benefits now. After 100 years they have started the switch to non-conventional sources, the later gives a considerable part of their energy consumption. Their transition phase went for about 60 years and then the alternative forms of energy took the lead. Other countries following USA’s footsteps are England France etc

Transition phase is the most important phase in case of transition in mode of fuel from conventional to non-conventional in case of India. Fossil fuel has to be the primary fuel at least 50-60 years from now. So it’s the responsibility of the government to handle this transition phase with utmost care such that India can be a global leader when it comes to nonconventional sources of energy half a century later..