Fusion Power Is a Reason To Be Excited About The Future of Clean Energy

Fusion energy is perhaps the longest of long shots. To build a fusion reactor is essentially to create an artificial star. Scientists have been studying the physics of fusion for a century and working to harness the process for decades. Yet almost every time researchers make an advance, the goal posts seem to recede even farther in the distance.

Still, the enormous potential of fusion makes it hard to ignore. It’s a technology that could safely provide an immense and steady torrent of electricity, harnessing abundant fuel made from seawater to ignite the same reaction that powers the sun. It would produce no greenhouse gases and minimal waste compared to conventional energy sources.

With global average temperatures rising and energy demands growing, the quest for fusion is timelier than ever: It could help solve both these problems at the same time. But despite its promise, fusion is often treated as a scientific curiosity rather than a must-try moonshot — an actual, world-changing solution to a massive problem.

The latest episode of Unexplainable, Vox’s podcast about unsolved mysteries in science, asks scientists about their decades-long pursuit of a star in a bottle. They talk about their recent progress and why fusion energy remains such a challenge. And they make the case for not only continuing fusion research, but aggressively expanding and investing in it — even if it won’t light up the power grid anytime soon.

With some of the most powerful machines ever built, scientists are trying to refine delicate, subatomic mechanics to achieve a pivotal milestone: getting more energy out of a fusion reaction than they put in. Researchers say they are closer than ever.

Fusion is way more powerful than any other energy source we have

Nuclear fission is what happens when big atoms like uranium and plutonium split apart and release energy. These reactions powered the very first atomic bombs, and today they power conventional nuclear reactors.

Fusion is even more potent. It’s what happens when the nuclei of small atoms stick together, fusing to create a new element and releasing energy. The most common form is two hydrogen atoms fusing to create helium.

The reason that fusion generates so much energy is that the new element weighs a smidgen less than the sum of its parts. That tiny bit of lost matter is converted into energy according to Albert Einstein’s famous formula, E = mc2. “E” stands for energy and “m” stands for mass.

The last part of the formula is “c,” a constant that measures the speed of light — 300,000 kilometers per second, which is then squared. So there’s an enormous multiplier for matter that’s converted into energy, making fusion an extraordinarily powerful reaction.

These basics are well understood, and researchers are confident that it’s possible to harness it in a useful way, but so far, it’s been elusive.

“It’s a weird thing, because we absolutely know that the fundamental theory works. We’ve seen it demonstrated,” said Carolyn Kuranz, a plasma physicist at the University of Michigan. “But trying to do it in a lab has provided us a lot of challenges.”

For a demonstration, one only has to look up at the sun during the day (but not directly, because you’ll hurt your eyes). Even from 93 million miles away, our nearest star generates enough energy to heat up the Earth through the vacuum of space.

But the sun has an advantage that we don’t have here on Earth: It is very, very big. One of the difficulties with fusion is that atomic nuclei — the positively charged cores of atoms — normally repel each other. To overcome that repulsion and spark fusion, you have to get the atoms moving really fast in a confined space, which makes collisions more likely.

A star like the sun, which is about 333,000 times the mass of Earth, generates gravity that accelerates atoms toward its center — heating them up, confining them, and igniting fusion. The fusion reactions then provide the energy to speed up other atomic nuclei and trigger even more fusion reactions.

What makes fusion energy so tricky

Imitating the sun on Earth is a tall order. Humans have been able to trigger fusion, but in ways that are uncontrolled, like in thermonuclear weapons (sometimes called hydrogen bombs). Fusion has also been demonstrated in laboratories, but under conditions that consume far more energy than the reaction produces. The reaction generally requires creating a high-energy state of matter known as plasma, which has quirks and behaviors that scientists are still trying to understand.

To make fusion useful, scientists need to trigger it in a controlled way that yields far more energy than they put in. That energy can then be used to boil water, spin a turbine, or generate electricity. Teams around the world are studying different ways to accomplish this, but the approaches tend to fall into two broad categories.

One involves using magnets to contain the plasma. This is the approach used by ITER, the world’s largest fusion project, currently under construction in southern France.

The other category involves confining the fusion fuel and compressing it in a tiny space with the aid of lasers. This is the approach used by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Replicating a star requires doing this research at massive scales, so fusion experiments often involve the most powerful scientific instruments ever built. ITER’s central solenoid, for example, can generate a magnetic force strong enough to hoist an aircraft carrier 6 feet out of the water.

Building hardware to withstand these extreme conditions is its own scientific and engineering challenge. Managing such massive experiments has also been a struggle. ITER started with an initial cost estimate of 6.6 billion euros, which has since more than tripled. It began construction in 2007 and its first experiments are set to begin in 2025.

An upside to the intricacy of fusion reactions is that it is almost impossible to cause a runaway reaction or meltdown of the sort that have devastated fission power plants like Chernobyl. If a fusion reactor is disrupted, the reaction rapidly fizzles out. In addition, the main “waste” product of hydrogen fusion is helium, an inert gas. The process can induce some reactor materials to become radioactive, but the radioactivity is much lower, and the quantity of hazardous waste is far smaller, compared to conventional nuclear power plants. So nuclear fusion energy could become one of the safest sources of electricity.

For policymakers, investing in an expensive research project that may not yield fruit for decades, if at all, is a tough sell. Scientific progress doesn’t always keep up with political timelines: A politician who greenlights a fusion project might not even live to see it become a viable energy source — so they certainly won’t be able to brag about their success by the time the next election rolls around.

In the United States, funding for fusion research has been erratic over the years and far below the levels government analysts say is needed to make the technology a reality. The US Department of Energy currently spends about $500 million on fusion per year, compared to almost $1 billion on fossil fuel energy and $2.7 billion on renewables. Investment in fusion seems even tinier next to other major programs like NASA ($23 billion) or the military ($700 billion).

So from its basic physics to government budgets, fusion energy has a lot working against it.

Fusion energy should be treated as a solution, not just an experiment

Working in fusion’s favor, however, are scientists and engineers who think it’s not just possible, but inevitable.

“I’m a true believer. I do think we can solve this problem,” said Troy Carter, a plasma physicist at the University of California Los Angeles. “It will take time, but the real issue is getting the resources brought to bear on these issues.”

Investors are also getting in the game, placing billion-dollar bets on private startup companies developing their own fusion strategies.

The journey toward fusion has yielded benefits for other fields, particularly in plasma physics, which is used extensively in manufacturing semiconductors for electronics. “Plasma processing is one of the things that make your iPhones possible,” said Kathryn McCarthy, a fusion researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

And despite the hurdles, there have been some real advances. Researchers at NIF reported last summer that they achieved their best results yet — 1.3 megajoules of output from 1.9 megajoules of input — putting them closer than ever to energy-positive fusion. “We’re on the threshold of ignition,” said Tammy Ma, a plasma physicist at NIF.

To break out of its rut, fusion will need to be more than a science experiment. Just as space exploration is more than astronomy, fusion is much more than physics. It should be a leading tool in the fight against the world’s most urgent problems, from climate change to lifting people out of poverty.

Increasing energy access is closely linked to improving health, economic growth, and social stability. Yet close to a billion people still don’t have electricity and many more only have intermittent power, so there is an urgent humanitarian need for more energy.

At the same time, the window for limiting climate change is slamming shut, and electricity and heat production remain the dominant sources of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. To meet one of the goals of the Paris climate agreement — limiting warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius this century — the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half or more by 2030, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Many of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters are also aiming to zero out their contributions to climate change by the middle of the century. Making such drastic cuts in emissions means phasing out fossil fuels as quickly as possible and rapidly deploying much cleaner sources of energy.

The technologies of today may not be up to the task of resolving the tension between the need for more energy and the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A problem like climate change is an argument for placing bets on all kinds of far-reaching energy solutions, but fusion may be the technology with the highest upside. And on longer time scales, closer to the 2040s and 2050s, it could be a real solution.

With more investment from governments and the private sector, scientists could speed up their pace of progress and experiment with even more approaches to fusion. In the US, where much of the research is conducted at national laboratories, this would mean convincing your representatives in Congress to get excited about fusion and ultimately to spend more money. Lawmakers can also encourage private companies to get into the game by, for example, pricing carbon dioxide emissions to create incentives for clean energy research.

The key, according to Carter, is to ensure support for fusion remains steady. “Given the level of importance here and the amount of money invested in energy, the current investment in fusion is a drop in the bucket,” Carter said. “You could imagine ramping it up orders of magnitude to get the job done.”

He added that funding for fusion doesn’t have to cannibalize resources from other clean energy technologies, like wind, solar, and nuclear power. “We need to invest across the board,” Carter said.

For now, the big fusion experiments at NIF and ITER will continue inching forward. At NIF, scientists will continue refining their process and steadily work their way up toward energy-positive fusion. ITER is scheduled to begin operation in 2025 and start hydrogen fusion experiments in 2035.

Artificial star power might not illuminate the world for decades, but the foundations have to be laid now through research, development, and deployment. It may very well become humanity’s crowning achievement, more than a century in the making.

Umair Irfan covers climate change, energy, and Covid-19 vaccine development for Vox. He is also a contributor to Science Friday. Before joining Vox, Umair was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News in Washington, DC, where he covered health and climate change, science, and energy policy.

Source: Fusion power is a reason to be excited about the future of clean energy – Vox

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Europe Faces Bleak Winter Energy Crisis Years in the Making

 
Europe is preparing for an extreme winter as an energy emergency that has been a very long time in the making leaves the landmass depending on the ideas of the weather.Faced with flooding gas and power costs, nations from the U.K. to Germany should rely on gentle temperatures to traverse the warming season. Europe is shy of gas and coal and if the breeze doesn’t blow, the most dire outcome imaginable could work out: far and wide power outages that power organizations and plants to shut.

The extraordinary energy crunch has been fermenting for quite a long time, with Europe developing progressively reliant upon discontinuous wellsprings of energy like breeze and sun based while interests in petroleum products declined. Natural strategy has likewise pushed a few nations to close their coal and atomic armadas, decreasing the quantity of force establishes that could fill in as back-up in the midst of shortages.

“It could get very ugly unless we act quickly to try to fill every inch of storage,” said Marco Alvera, CEO of Italian energy framework organization Snam SpA. “You can survive a week without electricity, but you can’t survive without gas.”

Energy request is ascending from the U.S. to Europe and Asia as economies recuperate from the worldwide pandemic, boosting modern movement and powering worries about swelling. Costs are so high in Europe that two significant compost makers reported they were closing plants or shortening creation in the region.

And it’s not simply organizations. Governments are additionally worried about the hit to families previously battling with greater expenses of everything from food to move. As force and gas costs break records for a long time, Spain, Italy, Greece and France are largely stepping in to shield shoppers from inflation.

“It will be expensive for consumers, it will be expensive for big energy users,” Dermot Nolan, a previous CEO of U.K. energy controller Of gem, said in a Bloomberg TV meet. “Electricity and gas prices are going to be higher at home than everybody would want and they are going to be higher than they have been for about 12 years.”

Europe’s gas costs have dramatically multiplied for the current year as top provider Russia has been checking the extra conveyances the landmass needs to top off its exhausted stockpiling locales following a virus winter last year. It’s been difficult to get hold of elective supplies, with North Sea fields going through weighty support after pandemic-instigated postponements, and Asia gathering up cargoes of condensed gaseous petrol to fulfill rising need there.

Higher gas costs helped the expense of creating power as renewables wavered. Low wind speeds constrained European utilities to consume costly coal, draining stores of the dirtiest of petroleum products. Energy strategy additionally assumed a part, with the expense of contaminating in the European Union flooding over 80% this year.

“Gas supply is short, coal supply is short and renewables aren’t going great, so we are now in this crazy situation,” said Dale Hazelton, head of warm coal at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “Coal companies just don’t have supply available, they can’t get the equipment, the manufacturers are backed up and they don’t really want to invest.”

European gas inventories are at their most minimal level in over 10 years for this season. Gazprom PJSC’s CEO Alexey Miller said Europe will enter the colder time of year in with regards to a month without completely renewing its support reserves. The Russian gas monster has been pushing to begin its questionable Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Europe now needs great climate. While forecasters say temperatures are probably not going to plunge beneath typical one month from now, assumptions can generally change. Comparable climate gauges didn’t appear last year, bringing about an unpleasant temperatures that sent LNG costs in Asia to a record in January.

“It may happen again,” said Ogan Kose, an overseeing chief at Accenture. “If we end up having a very cold winter in Asia as well as in Europe, then we may end up seeing a ridiculous spike in gas prices.”

In 2018, a profound freeze that became known as the Beast from the East shocked energy brokers. This year there’s additionally a possibility that a La Nina climate example would grow once more. While the wonder can carry warm climate to Europe, it will in general send temperatures diving in Asia.

The U.S. Environment Prediction Center said there’s a 66% possibility that a La Nina example will return some time from November to January. That could fuel the battle for LNG cargoes, as purchasers from Japan to India start alarm purchasing because of fears of rivalry with Europe.

“Unfortunately, the way the weather works, when it’s cold, it is cold: it’s cold for the U.S., it’s cold for Europe and then it gets cold for Asia,” said Snam’s Alvera, who is wagering on hydrogen as the future for efficient power energy markets.

Europe should diminish request if the colder time of year is cold, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said, anticipating the district will confront power outages. There are as of now indications of stress, with CF Industries Holdings Inc. closing two compost plants in the U.K. furthermore, Yara International ASA will have diminished its smelling salts creation limit by 40% by next week.

Shutdowns additionally hazard hitting the food store network, which utilizes a side-effect of compost creation in everything from meat handling to brew. The sugar and starch businesses are likewise influenced, with France’s Tereos SCA and Roquette Freres SA cautioning of higher energy costs.

And it doesn’t stop there. Europe top copper maker Aurubis AG said greater costs will keep on getting edges through the remainder of the year. Indeed, even synthetic compounds goliath BASF SE, which delivers the greater part of its force, said it has been not able to completely turn the effect of record-breaking power prices.

Supplies are probably not going to improve altogether any time soon. Russia is confronting its very own energy smash and Gazprom is guiding its extra creation to homegrown inventories. Costs could remain high regardless of whether Europe winds up with a gentle winter, said Fabian Ronningen, an expert at energy specialist Rystad Energy AS.

“With natural gas prices already hitting record highs in Europe ahead of rising winter demand, prices could move even higher in the coming months,” said Stacey Morris, overseer of exploration at file supplier Alerian in Dallas. “There is a potential it can get worse.”

Source: Europe Faces Bleak Winter Energy Crisis Years in the Making – Bloomberg

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Solar Power Is Dirt-Cheap and About to Get Even More Powerful

After focusing for decades on cutting costs, the solar industry is shifting attention to making new advances in technology. The solar industry has spent decades slashing the cost of generating electricity direct from the sun. Now it’s focusing on making panels even more powerful.

With savings in equipment manufacturing hitting a plateau, and more recently pressured by rising prices of raw materials, producers are stepping up work on advances in technology — building better components and employing increasingly sophisticated designs to generate more electricity from the same-sized solar farms.

“The first 20 years in the 21st century saw huge reductions in module prices, but the speed of the reduction started to level off noticeably in the past two years,” said Xiaojing Sun, global solar research leader at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “Fortunately, new technologies will create further cost-of-electricity reductions.”

A push for more powerful solar equipment underscores how further cost reductions remain essential to advance the shift away from fossil fuels. While grid-sized solar farms are now typically cheaper than even the most advanced coal or gas-fired plants, additional savings will be required to pair clean energy sources with the expensive storage technology that’s needed for around-the-clock carbon-free power.

Bigger factories, the use of automation and more efficient production methods have delivered economies of scale, lower labor costs and less material waste for the solar sector. The average cost of a solar panel dropped by 90% from 2010 to 2020.

Boosting power generation per panel means developers can deliver the same amount of electricity from a smaller-sized operation. That’s potentially crucial as costs of land, construction, engineering and other equipment haven’t fallen in the same way as panel prices.

It can even make sense to pay a premium for more advanced technology. “We’re seeing people willing to pay a higher price for a higher wattage module that lets them produce more power and make more money off their land,” said Jenny Chase, lead solar researcher at BloombergNEF.

Higher-powered systems are already arriving. Through much of the past decade, most solar panels produced a maximum of about 400 watts of electricity. In early 2020, companies began selling 500-watt panels, and in June, China-based Risen Energy Co. introduced a 700-watt model.

Here are some of the ways that solar companies are super-charging panels:

While many current developments involve tweaks to existing technologies, perovskite promises a genuine breakthrough. Thinner and more transparent than polysilicon, the material that’s traditionally used, perovskite could eventually be layered on top of existing solar panels to boost efficiency, or be integrated with glass to make building windows that also generate power.

“We will be able to take solar power to the next level,” said Kim Dohyung, principal researcher on a perovskite project team at Korea Electric Power Corp., one of several companies experimenting with the material. “Ultimately, this new technology will enable us to make a huge contribution in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”

Adoption of perovskite has previously been challenged by costs and technical issues that prevented commercial-scale production. There are now signs that’s changing: Wuxi UtmoLight Technology Co. in May announced plans to start a pilot line by October with mass production beginning in 2023.

Solar panels typically get their power from the side that faces the sun, but can also make use of the small amount of light that reflects back off the ground. Bi-facial panels started to gain in popularity in 2019, with producers seeking to capture the extra increments of electricity by replacing opaque backing material with specialist glass. They were also temporarily boosted by a since-closed loophole in U.S. law that exempted them from tariffs on Chinese products.

The trend caught solar glass suppliers off-guard and briefly caused prices for the material to soar. Late last year, China loosened regulations around glass manufacturing capacity, and that should prepare the ground for more widespread adoption of the two-sided solar technology.

Another change that can deliver an increase in power is shifting from positively charged silicon material for solar panels to negatively charged, or n-type, products.

N-type material is made by doping polysilicon with a small amount of an element with an extra electron like phosphorous. It’s more expensive, but can be as much as 3.5% more powerful than the material that currently dominates. The products are expected to begin taking market share in 2024 and be the dominant material by 2028, according to PV-Tech.

In the solar supply chain, ultra-refined polysilicon is shaped into rectangular ingots, which are in turn sliced into ultra-thin squares known as wafers. Those wafers are wired into cells and pieced together to form solar panels.

For most of the 2010s, the standard solar wafer was a 156-millimeter (6.14 inches) square of polysilicon, about the size of the front of a CD case. Now, companies are making the squares bigger to boost efficiency and reduce manufacturing costs. Producers are pushing 182- and 210-millimeter wafers, and the larger sizes will grow from about 19% of the market share this year to more than half by 2023, according to Wood Mackenzie’s Sun.

The factories that wire wafers into cells — which convert electrons excited by photons of light into electricity — are adding new capacity for designs like heterojunction or tunnel‐oxide passivated contact cells. While more expensive to make, those structures allow the electrons to keep bouncing around for longer, increasing the amount of power they generate.

— With assistance by Heesu Lee

By:

Source: Solar Power Is Dirt-Cheap and About to Get Even More Powerful – Bloomberg

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Critics:

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and solar tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.

Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s.

As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and gigawatt-scale photovoltaic power stations are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harness renewable energy from the Sun. The current largest photovoltaic power station in the world is the Pavagada Solar Park, Karnataka, India with a generation capacity of 2050 MW.

The International Energy Agency projected in 2014 that under its “high renewables” scenario, by 2050, solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar power would contribute about 16 and 11 percent, respectively, of worldwide electricity consumption, and solar would be the world’s largest source of electricity. Most solar installations would be in China and India.[3] In 2019, solar power generated 2.7% of the world’s electricity, growing over 24% from the previous year. As of October 2020, the unsubsidised levelised cost of electricity for utility-scale solar power is around $36/MWh.

One issue that has often raised concerns is the use of cadmium (Cd), a toxic heavy metal that has the tendency to accumulate in ecological food chains. It is used as semiconductor component in CdTe solar cells and as a buffer layer for certain CIGS cells in the form of cadmium sulfide. The amount of cadmium used in thin-film solar cells is relatively small (5–10 g/m2) and with proper recycling and emission control techniques in place the cadmium emissions from module production can be almost zero.

Current PV technologies lead to cadmium emissions of 0.3–0.9 microgram/kWh over the whole life-cycle.[136] Most of these emissions arise through the use of coal power for the manufacturing of the modules, and coal and lignite combustion leads to much higher emissions of cadmium. Life-cycle cadmium emissions from coal is 3.1 microgram/kWh, lignite 6.2, and natural gas 0.2 microgram/kWh.

References

 

 

 

How To Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

If you have a home full of plants, it can be hard to have friends reliably take care of them while you’re gone. Plus, what if no one is available to come by every day to give your plants the specific care they need? Here are a few hacks that will keep your plants happy and healthy while you take time away.

How to water your plants while you’re on vacation

The biggest concern people have when leaving their plants alone is regular watering; and if you have a huge family of varying plants, they’ll need to be cared for differently. Thankfully, you can outfit different watering systems for your plants’ needs.

Use a wine bottle to water your plants

For larger plants that require regular watering, the wine bottle option is a great choice. Grab an empty twist-off wine bottle, then poke a hole in the metal cap and fill the bottle with water. Screw the (now pierced) cap back on top. Turn the wine bottle cap-side down into your potted plant and position it deep enough that the bottle will stand up on its own. The water will slowly release over time, feeding your plant while you’re away.

Put plants in a bathtub or kiddie pool as a water reservoir

If you have several tropical plants and perhaps not enough wine bottles, you can give your plants the hydration they need in the bathtub. Garden writer Barbara Pleasant told House Beautiful the best way to care for multiple indoor plants while on vacation is to fill your bathtub with one to two inches of water. Remove any saucers from the bottom of the plants’ pots and place each plant in the tub together. The plants will soak up the water through the drainage hole, drinking as needed while you’re away. The same process works using a kiddie pool for your outdoor plants.

Group plants together by type

Rearrange your plants by type before you head out on your trip. Succulents and cacti should be together with other plants that won’t need any attention while you are gone. Water those before you leave, and they’ll be all set. Keep the more tropical plants together so they can feed off of each other’s moisture and warmth.

How to regulate your plants airflow when you’re gone

The next concern for your plants is oxygen and airflow. (I am not one to leave my windows open when I know I’ll be away for an extended period of time.) There are ways to give your plant the humid or dry environment they need when you can’t regulate the temperature day by day.

Make a temporary greenhouse

Put a plastic container over small plants that love humidity. The plastic container will create a mini greenhouse, allowing the cycle of water and humidity to be maintained while you’re gone. This also works with a plastic bag as a small terrarium.

Move plants away from windows until you get back

Grouping your plants together is the easiest way you can control the airflow and temperature for your plants while you’re gone. The tropical plants go in your tub, and the succulents drying out in a corner as they like. But you’ll want to make sure all plants are away from any variables that could change the temperature at a moment’s notice. Keep plants away from air vents, sunny windows, and heaters. Without you there to move them around, these things could dry out your more sensitive plants faster than you think.

Adjust the heat or AC before you leave plants alone

This step might boost your utility bill for the time you’re gone, not to mention it’s not the most environmentally friendly, but if needed, your plants will thank you for spending a little extra cash on them by adjusting your heat or AC to control the temperature while you’re gone. This could mean coming home to a higher electric bill, but your plants have a better chance of being alive when you get back home.

By: Aisha Jordan

Source: How to Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

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7 Types of Renewable Energy: The Future of Energy

Renewable Energy Types | The future of eco-friendlier energy

What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is energy that has been derived from earth’s natural resources that are not finite or exhaustible, such as wind and sunlight. Renewable energy is an alternative to the traditional energy that relies on fossil fuels, and it tends to be much  less harmful to the environment.

7 Types of Renewable Energy

Solar

Solar energy is derived by capturing radiant energy from sunlight and converting it into heat, electricity, or hot water. Photovoltaic (PV) systems can convert direct sunlight into electricity through the use of solar cells.

Benefits

One of the benefits of solar energy is that sunlight is functionally endless. With the technology to harvest it, there is a limitless supply of solar energy, meaning it could render fossil fuels obsolete. Relying on solar energy rather than fossil fuels also helps us improve public health and environmental conditions. In the long term, solar energy could also eliminate energy costs, and in the short term, reduce your energy bills. Many federal local, state, and federal governments also incentivize the investment in solar energy by providing rebates or tax credits.

Current Limitations

Although solar energy will save you money in the long run, it tends to be a significant upfront cost and is an unrealistic expenses for most households. For personal homes, homeowners also need to have the ample sunlight and space to arrange their solar panels, which limits who can realistically adopt this technology at the individual level.

Wind

Wind farms capture the energy of wind flow by using turbines and converting it into electricity. There are several forms of systems used to convert wind energy and each vary. Commercial grade wind-powered generating systems can power many different organizations, while single-wind turbines are used to help supplement pre-existing energy organizations. Another form is utility-scale wind farms, which are purchased by contract or wholesale. Technically, wind energy is a form of solar energy. The phenomenon we call “wind” is caused by the differences in temperature in the atmosphere combined with the rotation of Earth and the geography of the planet.

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Benefits

Wind energy is a clean energy source, which means that it doesn’t pollute the air like other forms of energy. Wind energy doesn’t produce carbon dioxide, or release any harmful products that can cause environmental degradation or negatively affect human health like smog, acid rain, or other heat-trapping gases.[2] Investment in wind energy technology can also open up new avenues for jobs and job training, as the turbines on farms need to be serviced and maintained to keep running.

Take the next step by selecting the best energy plan for your home! justenergy.com/

Current Limitations

Since wind farms tend to be built in rural or remote areas, they are usually far from bustling cities where the electricity is needed most. Wind energy must be transported via transition lines, leading to higher costs. Although wind turbines produce very little pollution, some cities oppose them since they dominate skylines and generate noise. Wind turbines also threaten local wildlife like birds, which are sometimes killed by striking the arms of the turbine while flying.

Hydroelectric

Dams are what people most associate when it comes to hydroelectric power. Water flows through the dam’s turbines to produce electricity, known as pumped-storage hydropower. Run-of-river hydropower uses a channel to funnel water through rather than powering it through a dam.

Benefits

Hydroelectric power is very versatile and can be generated using both large scale projects, like the Hoover Dam, and small scale projects like underwater turbines and lower dams on small rivers and streams. Hydroelectric power does not generate pollution, and therefore is a much more environmentally-friendly energy option for our environment.

Current Limitations

Most U.S. hydroelectricity facilities use more energy than they are able to produce for consumption. The storage systems may need to use fossil fuel to pump water.[3]  Although hydroelectric power does not pollute the air, it disrupts waterways and negatively affects the animals that live in them, changing water levels, currents, and migration paths for many fish and other freshwater ecosystems.

Geothermal

Geothermal heat is heat that is trapped beneath the earth’s crust from the formation of the Earth 4.5 billion years ago and from radioactive decay. Sometimes large amounts of this heat escapes naturally, but all at once, resulting in familiar occurrences, such as volcanic eruptions and geysers. This heat can be captured and used to produce geothermal energy by using steam that comes from the heated water pumping below the surface, which then rises to the top and can be used to operate a turbine.

Benefits

Geothermal energy is not as common as other types of renewable energy sources, but it has a significant potential for energy supply. Since it can be built underground, it leaves very little footprint on land. Geothermal energy is naturally replenished and therefore does not run a risk of depleting (on a human timescale).

Current Limitations

Cost plays a major factor when it comes to disadvantages of geothermal energy. Not only is it costly to build the infrastructure, but another major concern is its vulnerability to earthquakes in certain regions of the world.

Ocean

The ocean can produce two types of energy: thermal and mechanical. Ocean thermal energy relies on warm water surface temperatures to generate energy through a variety of different systems. Ocean mechanical energy uses the ebbs and flows of the tides to generate energy, which is created by the earth’s rotation and gravity from the moon.

Benefits

Unlike other forms of renewable energy, wave energy is predictable and it’s easy to estimate the amount of energy that will be produced. Instead of relying on varying factors, such as sun and wind, wave energy is much more consistent. This type of renewable energy is also abundant, the most populated cities tend to be near oceans and harbors, making it easier to harness this energy for the local population. The potential of wave energy is an astounding as yet untapped energy resource with an estimated ability to produce 2640 TWh/yr. Just 1 TWh/yr of energy can power around 93,850 average U.S. homes with power annually, or about twice than the number of homes that currently exist in the U.S. at present.[4]

Current Limitations

Those who live near the ocean definitely benefit from wave energy, but those who live in landlocked states won’t have ready access to this energy. Another disadvantage to ocean energy is that it can disturb the ocean’s many delicate ecosystems. Although it is a very clean source of energy, large machinery needs to be built nearby to help capture this form energy, which can cause disruptions to the ocean floor and the sea life that habitats it. Another factor to consider is weather, when rough weather occurs it changes the consistency of the waves, thus producing lower energy output when compared to normal waves without stormy weather.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen needs to be combined with other elements, such as oxygen to make water as it does not occur naturally as a gas on its own. When hydrogen is separated from another element it can be used for both fuel and electricity.

Benefits

Hydrogen can be used as a clean burning fuel, which leads to less pollution and a cleaner environment. It can also be used for fuel cells which are similar to batteries and can be used for powering an electric motor.

Current Limitations

Since hydrogen needs energy to be produced, it is inefficient when it comes to preventing pollution.

Biomass

Bioenergy is a renewable energy derived from biomass. Biomass is organic matter that comes from recently living plants and organisms. Using wood in your fireplace is an example of biomass that most people are familiar with.

There are various methods used to generate energy through the use of biomass. This can be done by burning biomass, or harnessing methane gas which is produced by the natural decomposition of organic materials in ponds or even landfills.

Benefits

The use of biomass in energy production creates carbon dioxide that is put into the air, but the regeneration of plants consumes the same amount of carbon dioxide, which is said to create a balanced atmosphere. Biomass can be used in a number of different ways in our daily lives, not only for personal use, but businesses as well. In 2017, energy from biomass made up about 5% of the total energy used in the U.S. This energy came from wood, biofuels like ethanol, and  energy generated from methane captured from landfills or by burning municipal waste. (5)

Current Limitations

Although new plants need carbon dioxide to grow, plants take time to grow. We also don’t yet have widespread technology that can use biomass in lieu of fossil fuels.

source

Renewable Energy: What Can You Do?

As a consumer you have several opportunities to make an impact on improving the environment through the choice of a greener energy solution. If you’re a homeowner, you have the option of installing solar panels in your home. Solar panels not only reduce your energy costs, but help improve your standard of living with a safer, more eco-friendlier energy choice that doesn’t depend on resources that harm the environment. There are also alternatives for a greener way of life offered by your electric companies. Just Energy allows consumers to choose green energy options that help you reduce your footprint with energy offsets. Add JustGreen to your electricity or natural gas plan to lower your impact today!

By

Electricity, Energy Resources, Renewable Energy

Source: http://www.justenergy.com

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Sources:

  1. Energy.gov, Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy, Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
  2. Energy.gov, Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy, Retrieved from: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
  3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, What is U.S. Electricity Generation by Energy Source?, Retrieved From: https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3 
  4. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Ocean Wave Energy, Retrieved From: https://www.boem.gov/Ocean-Wave-Energy/
  5. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Biomass Explained, Retrieved From: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=biomass_home

 

 

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