Life without energy

Would we really be able to renew the renewable energy?

CRISIS

SYED AMAAN

With 7 billion energy hungry humans on the small spaceship we call Earth, energy resources are in more demand than ever before. But the traditional resources for that energy (e.g., petroleum, natural gas,coal) are being used up at an increasing rate.
Extrapolated into the future, we can see when spaceship Earth will run out of those energy resources...and that's the crisis. How will we heat our homes, drive our cars, grow our food, produce essential goods and services...without energy?The answer according to many is to find alternative energy resources. And preferably those resources will be renewable like solar energy, wind energy, and tidal energy. These are called "renewable" because we can use them day in and day out without depleting the sources. The Sun will always be there, the wind will always blow, and the oceans will always have tides. Seems like the ideal answer to the crisis. But there's a catch.
All three resources are non-continuous sources. That is, there are periods when they are not available for use. The Sun goes down at dark time, or behind clouds. The air goes stagnate from time to time, even in typically windy areas like outside the San Francisco Bay Area. And due to cyclical forces of gravity from the Moon and Sun, the tides are not always in motion. But humankind demands its energy continuously,around the clock.
Supply from renewable energy sources does not always meet demand. What to do? Store the energy for periods when the resources are not producing. For example, while the Sun is out and lots of energy is being produced by photoelectric effect, use some of that energy to pump water uphill into a huge reservoir. Then at night, when the Sun is down, cascade that water back downhill and use hydroelectric power to provide the energy during the night. This is a very expensive solution, but running out of energy when demand is high is even more expensive.
This brings us to the other detriment to alternative energy sources...the costs. The reason oil, gas, and coal are so popular as energy sources is two-fold: they have high specific energy content and they are relatively cheap for creating and distributing the energy. The alternative energy sources are not so cheap. Solar panels are expensive to build, install, and maintain. Windmills are the same. And the devices to capture tidal motion are huge and placed over the oceans; so they are costly as well.
So there it is. We are in crisis mode because the non renewable energy sources are running out. The demands of 7 billion people are exceeding the ability of spaceship Earth to provide that energy. So alternative renewable sources are one answer to resolving the crisis. But these are problematic in that they are discontinuous sources and costly.

(Feedback at samaanforu@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 2 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 3 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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