Research Paper: Renewable Energy Sources Today

Pages: 4 (1236 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Energy  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Currently, the vast majority of wind turbine capacity is located in only a few countries, including Germany, Spain, Japan, Italy, and the United States.

Biomass

Almost without exception, all living matter derives most of its energy from the sun and stores it through carbon fixation. Traditional methods of converting solar energy into a useable form include the burning of firewood, straw, and animal dung for cooking and warmth, which still represents a major energy sourced in undeveloped countries. In developed countries the sources of biomass include agricultural and forestry residues, and municipal waste. Although still an important source of energy in developed economies, biomass provides a much smaller share of the energy consumed when compared to third world economies. The global energy contribution of biomass is around 9.5%, which represents 67.9% of the energy supplied by renewable energy sources (Balat 18). Biomass is converted to useable energy through combustion to generate heat, anaerobic digestion to produce methane, oil extraction for biofuels, or gasification to produce high grade fuels (Panwar, Kaushik, and Kothari). Unfortunately, the use of biomass generates greenhouse gases at almost the same rate as fossil fuels and therefore represents a threat to the environment.

Geothermal

The fourth biggest producer of renewable energy in the world is geothermal energy, which provides about 0.5% of the world's energy needs (Philips 2415). Geothermal energy exploits the heat stored within the earth, which was formed by the heat already present in the matter prior to the formation of earth, created as gravitational energy was spent as the matter combined to form the earth, and by ongoing radioisotope decay. From a human perspective, geothermal energy is essentially limitless.

Energy is produced by either tapping underground hot water reservoirs or pumping surface water deep into a borehole to heat it. If the temperature is hot enough to produce steam then electricity can be generated, otherwise it can be used as a heat source. There are several important limitations to using geothermal energy. For example, the steam derived from a geothermal reservoir can sometimes contain enough greenhouse gases to rival that produced by fossil fuels. The steam may also contain toxins, like mercury, boron, and radon. Other potential environmental hazards include water pollution, damage caused during the construction and operation of a geothermal power plant, soil erosion, and noise pollution. Still, with an annual rate of growth around 3.7% there is continued interest in exploiting this renewable energy source (Balat 21).

Summary

With the world's governments racing against time to have renewable energy sources online before fossil fuel prices become untenable, public investment into this energy sector is expected to continue to increase. With a goal of supplying 50% of global energy needs by the year 2040 (Panwar, Kaushik, and Kothari 1514) considerable investment into renewable energies will be required. Global photovoltaic, geothermal, and wind energy-producing capacity is expected catch up to hydropower by 2040, even though hydroelectric capacity is expected to increase by 17-fold during the same period. These projections reflect a dramatic shift in renewable energy markets and technology that is expected to occur over the next 30 years, which should reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Hopefully this transformation will lower the negative impact of energy production on the environment, but this isn't assured because the exploitation of some renewable energy sources can also damage the environment.

References

Balat, M. (2009). Development of worldwide green electricity in the past decade. Energy Sources, Part B, 4, 17-33.

Chan, Hoy-Yen, Riffat, Saffa B., and Zhu, Jie. (2010). Review of passive solar heating and cooling technologies. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 14, 781-789.

Panwar, N.L., Kaushik, S.C., and Kothari, Surendra. (2011).… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Renewable Energy Sources Today.  (2011, April 26).  Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/renewable-energy-sources-today/3656471

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"Renewable Energy Sources Today."  Essaytown.com.  April 26, 2011.  Accessed June 16, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/renewable-energy-sources-today/3656471.