Renewable Energy : An Overview
With constant and unrecoverable exhaustion of non-renewable sources of energy, the world is in a dire state. And to recover from the approaching threat of their exhaustion, people from all over the world are turning towards renewable energy sources. For a long time, many individuals, industries, as well as big and small companies are constantly working towards building a strong and sustainable network of energy sources. Solar panels for electricity generation, electric vehicles, etc have been around for almost a decade but are now gaining speed like never before.
Are renewable resources 100% sustainable?
Switching to renewable energy is considered the best option we’ve chosen in order to slow down the climate crisis, says the UN. Not just are these sustainable but some alternatives are easy to install and operate at home making every individual contribute and be a part of the ‘Saving The Earth Mission’.
Talking about these energy sources being 100% eco-friendly, Professor Jacques Treiner, member of the Scientific Council of the think tank The Shift Project, says “There are no zero emission energy supplies because you have to manufacture the devices, as well as install them”. The statement says it all. Even if the energy resource is completely green, the installation and manufacturing of the machines that will convert these sources into desirable outputs are yet to seem really organic to date.
The crucial element here becomes energy storage. Just developing and finding new ways to generate energy will not work alone, until we learn to store it at the time of overproduction and be able to use it in the time of crisis.
The Rise of Renewable Energy
In a few years, the world is going to witness the most significant leap in renewable energy sources. Not just that they will be available to a wider band of the population but will also become affordable for them. The hydropower, wind, and solar projects are showing great results at a more-than-expected pace. According to the ‘Renewable 2020’ report issued by The International Energy Agency (IEA).
In the 6-year timeline of 2019-2024, solar energy is predicted to expand the renewable energy band by 50%, and by far it really is doing a great job. The current estimation shows that by the end of 2024, solar energy capacity will grow by 660GW around the world, while overall renewable energy is set to increase by 1200GW says the Earth.org.
Renewed Capacity of resources
Let us now have a look at the capacity and affordability figures of the energy resources that are easily accessible to us. Solar, wind, and water are three of the most abundant and efficient renewable resources for energy production.
1. Solar Energy
The generation of electricity by solar energy takes place when the sun shines over the solar panels and the light absorbed in the PV cells is converted into electrical charges. Setting up these solar panels requires big fields where the sun shines for a major time of the year. By 2023, the US is all set to double its solar panel installations to four million and become one of the biggest contributing countries to renewable energy. Seeing this rise in numbers, industry experts claim that the cost of solar energy will decrease by 15% – 32% by the end of 2024.
2. Geothermal Energy
The generation of geothermal energy involves pushing hot water under intense pressure through a well from a deep underground reservoir. The pressure is dropped suddenly when the water reaches the surface, resulting in the formation of steam. An electricity generator is then coupled with a steam-spinning turbine. In a cooling tower, the steam cools down and turns back into the water. This is done repeatedly and the feasibility of the process makes it an excellent source of renewable energy. The capacity of geothermal energy is predicted to grow by 28% i.e., 18GW as we reach the end of the year 2024.
3. Wind Energy
Windmills are an excellent way of producing electricity from wind. A 57% increase to 850 GW is expected in the onshore wind energy capacity by 2024 which is a very promising figure. While on the other hand, a three-times increase to 65GW is expected in offshore wind energy capacity by 2024.
4. Hydro Energy
The kinetic energy of water falling on the turbine is the secret behind the generation of electricity by hydropower. Its capacity is all set to increase by 9% to 120GW by 2024 just by Brazil, India, and China. Some countries are launching various projects like 10GW Baihetan and 16GW Wudongde in China and the 6.2GW Grand Renaissance Project in Ethiopia which are also being called the three megaprojects of hydropower.
Future-Oriented Renewable energy Projects
Just like the three megaprojects of Hydropower, there are numerous initiatives taken by scientists and industries in different parts of the world that are ready to contribute amazingly to renewable power generation for the world as a more long-term plan. Solar, wind, biogas, thermal, hydro, and heat from burning waste, there are numerous areas to explore and try our ideas for the benefit of all.
1. The Slum Electrification Program
One of the very old and successful energy projects of India, The Slum Electrification Program was established in Ahmedabad, India. Its main aim was to connect vulnerable households to the electric grid and remove the illegal power street line. A rough estimate of 200,000 households is connected to this since 2008 getting reliable power resources and decreasing the loss of power utility companies by 30%.
2. Green Sidewalks produce electricity
Europe’s largest urban mall is getting powered by its visitors. Yes, you heard it right. As people step on the ‘Pavegen’ paving slabs, the kinetic energy of impact converts into tiny packets of electrical energy that power the nearby systems. Laurence Kemball-Cook, the engineer behind the design, enthusiastically says, “ The average person takes 150 million steps in their lifetime, just imagine the potential”.
3. Dancing Power
To all dance lovers, you can generate power alone by having fun. The Glasgow nightclub SWG3 recently launched its power-packed project BODYHEAT. Just as the name suggests, the project is all about capturing the body heat of dancing crowds in clubs and transferring it to 150-200 meters deep boreholes drilled into the floor. The power can be stored there for as long as years and power a whole building when required. It has the potential to reduce energy consumption in clubs and save up to 70,000kg of carbon emissions.
4. Sustainable Skiing
Copenhill, a metallic mountain situated in Copenhagen, is home to the world’s cleanest incinerators. Burning 35 tons of waste per hour, this waste-to-power generator ‘hill’ now has a recreational area with climbing walls, ski slopes, and hiking trails. Not only this, the power and heat generated from the burning waste, are utilized by more than 150,000 households while saving about 107,000 tons of carbon dioxide.
5. Smart Palm Trees
As a smart city initiative, Dubai has planted Smart Palm Trees all over public places. Here is the interesting part. These man-made trees not only provide shade but are a whole sustainable energy package. Equipped with wifi points and charging stations that can charge mobile phones up to 2.5 times faster as compared to normal chargers, they procure energy from solar sources. Not only are they useful in the day, but the smart palm trees work as night street lamps by led powered bulbs which also get their energy from stored solar power.
6. Bath Abbey Hot water
The eco-heating system, an innovative project of Bath Abbey launched in March 2021, is making perfect use of the hot spring water flowing from the Roman Baths. The heat pumps 1.1 million liters of 40 degrees hot water flowing beneath the Abbey and with the help of heat exchangers utilize the power to heat itself and the neighborhood. This energy source roughly supplies 1.5MWs of energy and supplies heat to the Abbey, its schools, offices, and other nearby areas.
The renewable and Smart Future
With young minds and experienced people constantly working to power the earth with the most reliable source of energy, the future looks promising. Constant innovations and fast-paced technology bring new hope to the otherwise troubled world with the depletion of non-renewable sources of energy. We must look forward to more discoveries and promise to contribute our best and be a part of the bright future awaiting your ideas. IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol says “This is a pivotal time for Renewable Energy” and we couldn’t agree more.