Every task we perform as humans requires energy. In 2019, we generated 150,000 terawatt-hours of energy globally. Fossil fuels are the world’s primary energy source. It consists of coal, crude oil, and natural gas. So far, fossil fuels have done a fantastic job for humanity. Until recently, when we were confronted with some serious issues. Fuel resources are rapidly depleting due to overuse; lack of new fuel mines because they take thousands of years to produce, global warming; man-made climate change; dramatic increases in fossil fuel prices; and extremely high demand, to name a few.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable, which means they do not regenerate as quickly as we would like and are not reusable. On the other hand, renewables can be reused because mother nature produces enough sunlight, wind, biomass, and water. Nuclear power can also be included. These resources appear to be both environmentally friendly and economically beneficial. As a result, can renewable energy save humanity? So, let’s find out.
What exactly is the issue?
Is it the resources or the method that are important? Consider yourself. We can do heavy work as humans after five hours of eating. Have you ever wondered why this is so? because the energy from the food we ate earlier is stored in our bodies. The main issue with our energy system is a lack of storage. We generate energy in response to daily demand. As a result, we require more reliable and efficient sources to meet our day-to-day demands. The current situation in Sri Lanka is an excellent example. We can’t meet the daily electricity demand because we don’t have enough fossil fuel. However, if we had previously stored energy generated by renewable or non-renewable resources, we may be able to use it now.
Unfortunately, the world lacks sufficient energy storage. Lithium batteries are currently the most effective method. However, they are insufficient. As a result, we must find more energy resources.
Hydropower is the most fundamental renewable energy source. Essentially, we use the potential energy of water to turn a turbine and generate electricity. To store water, we must construct reservoirs and dams. There are few fundamental issues with hydropower. Hydropower is unreliable and inefficient due to weather uncertainty. Aside from that, there is evidence that reservoirs can emit methane gas, a greenhouse gas, as a result of microorganism activities. Large land areas, on the other hand, are required to build reservoirs. As a result, the ecological balance of the environment may be disturbed.
Wind and Solar Power
Wind turbines have a negligible carbon footprint. However, these tall and massive wings are said to have killed birds such as eagles and bats. Solar power is also very environmentally friendly, but it has a few drawbacks. Heavy metals are found in solar panel waste. The main issues, however, are efficacy and consistency. A large amount of land must be cleared in order to generate a significant amount of energy. Solar and wind farms have a direct impact on the ecological balance.
Green hydrogen is the process of producing hydrogen from water (electrolysis) and renewable energy sources. We can directly replace gasoline and diesel with green hydrogen. However, the main issues with green hydrogen are the cost, lack of infrastructure, storage facilities, transportation facilities, and efficiency.
Geothermal energy is heat derived from the earth. Iceland is one of the most prominent users of geothermal energy. Countries with a lot of active volcanoes and hot springs can benefit from this energy. However, construction takes a long time and is expensive. It can cause earthquakes by drilling and disrupting the underground balance. Some hot springs are sacred sites. As a result, it could be a cultural issue. There is also insufficient technology to drill after a certain temperature range.
Uranium, plutonium, and thorium can be used to generate nuclear energy. It is possible to achieve this through fission and fusion. However, fission is the most commonly used method. As a result of the exothermic reaction, heat is generated, and that energy is used to heat the water and turn a turbine. The first nuclear power plant was built in 1955. In the last seventy years, only Three-mile island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima accidents have been reported. Only 51 people died during these three incidents. Pollution caused by fossil fuel appears to have killed more than that in the last fifty years. However, the nuclear bomb in World War II has left us with a negative impression of nuclear energy.
If we divide our energy requirements into two categories, they are electricity generation and fossil fuel for transportation. When it comes to electricity, we require efficient and reliable resources. The most common problems with current renewable resources are limited supply, inefficiency, transportation issues, technological issues, lack of capital, and other environmental and cultural issues. When it comes to vehicles, good storage power is required if we are to replace gasoline, specifically for ships and aircraft.
What we can do is invest more money in new research for new materials, batteries, and other storage methods. New policies are needed to reduce the use of fossil fuels and encourage the use of renewable energy. Also, we must educate people in order to dispel their misconceptions about energy sources. We cannot fully rely on renewable energy if we do not have sufficient technology to address our problems. Furthermore, we do not have enough fossil fuel to rely on. As a result, we must begin working on this problem as soon as possible.