Since the breakthrough of technology that took everything to the next level by exploring uncharted territories for better or for worse in humankind history, a better and sustainable way has come up to face climate change. Following this positive side, we’ll discuss a bit the better part of it that is driving (or at least trying to) the planet to a safer future. What scientists, technologist and engineers have done is using the power of plentiful and inexhaustible natural resources and making them into sustainable clean energy for us humans to use on a daily basis not only for domestic use but for our industries. which impacts our economy and transforms the way we have been producing our food, transportation means and communication channels.
On this note, natural resources translate into every resource not created by any man but that has been given to use by nature. To better understand this, we could begin by looking back to what we know, for instance, humankind has known to use hydropower for over 2000 years when Greeks used water wheels to grind grains. Also, we have been known to use wind power to propel boats across the Nile River over 5000 years and 200 years ago humans have been trying to use sunlight as power through solar cells. What makes it mind-blowing about technology is the fact that you can always go beyond your thinking, in fact today’s science plus technology have harnessed the internal heat of the earth to generate energy, it has also used living or recently living organisms and WASTE to produce energy and also the rise and fall of tides to create electricity.
It seems incredible how much knowledge and resources we have been and will be able to make use of by having a wider and deeper understanding of our surroundings. As a result of questionings, testing and initiatives today we have Geothermal, Biomass, and Tidal energy. To have a clearer understanding of how these new forms of energy came to be, we will briefly describe the technology and reasoning behind each renewable energy source here mentioned.
The energy that uses the internal heat of the earth in hot water and steam to produce electricity and or heating houses and entire buildings. This idea started in Italy when the steam coming from natural vents and drilled holes was used to extract boric acid from the hot pools that are now known as the Larderello fields. The first geothermal electric power plant was created in 1904 by scientist Piero Ginori Conti and it was the first time steam was used to generate power. 18 years later the first geothermal plant was installed in USA with a capacity of 250 kilowatts and then in 1946 first ground-source geothermal heat pump installed at Commonwealth Building in Portland, Oregon.
Nowadays, this energy source is used in over 20 countries that are actively under earthquakes and volcanoes and it only accounts for 1% of the world’s energy, but the great news about geothermal energy is that is reliable and consistent for power generation. However, the costs for testing and installing this energy in an area has relatively high costs, plus if done irresponsible it could lower the temperature on the internal side of the earth.
Biomass refers to the use of feedstock to be transformed as energy or fuel. Biomass was the primary source of energy prior to the industrial revolution, because combustion was used to create fire which was used for cooking, heating and producing energy. However, before the technological breakthrough biomass energy was used in an unsustainable way.
Going back to how can we use biomass in a sustainable way, it is crucial to understand that first feedstock is the term that comprises organic living material which can be plants or recently living plants logs, grass, corns, trees and waste. Second, each organic material will have either carbon, water or organic volatiles than can be processed to produce ethanol which is an organic liquid fuel that can be used in vehicles, syngas to produce energy and heat, bio-oil to fuel boilers, engines, and turbines for heat and power generation and when upgraded can also be used as transportation fuel and chemicals as fertilizer. Other sustainable products can be biochar, bio-gas, digested (a great fertilizer). Third, this energy source can be used in a sustainable way by doing a thorough planning of availability of resources, type of energy desired and availability of technology which can be high cost in some contexts.
Also known as tidal power it harnesses the power of the natural rise and fall of tides into electricity. This means that this form of energy is a type of hydropower that is used on the deeper side of the sea. In order to transform tides into energy, there are types of tidal dam-like structures that can be installed along coastlines if the water level reaches at least 5 meters, then this turbines are connected to generator to produce energy. These structures are tidal barrages, tidal fences and tidal turbines being tidal barrages the most efficient of them because it takes advantage of the changes in high and low tides to produce energy.
The downside of this energy source is that the site specifications are not fit for every area, and many times the energy power produced by the tides does not match the energy needed in many houses, buildings and industries. The positive side is that this energy source is predictable, is easy to install, renewable, it has lower environmental impact and no greenhouse emissions.