Renewable energy comes from natural resources such as wind, rain, sunlight, geothermal heat and tides. These renewable energy sources account for 20% of the final global energy consumption and the remaining 80% from traditional methods.¯¨
Traditional energy sources such as coal and gas are classed as non-green. The reason these traditional sources are becoming extinct is because in affect, we are taking from the earth and not putting back, whereas with renewables the power can be made again and again. The loom of climate change has made people rethink this careless use of non-renewables. With petroleum extraction reaching its global peak, oil prices are at a record high and the increasing government support, now is the time to switch.
Looking into the future, the International Energy Agency say that solar power generators may produce most of the world’s electricity within 50 years, dramatically reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases in the environment. With all the positive press and praise from governments, renewables are looking to be the way forward.
Due to the lack of testing problems relating to solar power are being brought to public’s attention. The main drawback is the cost of the solar panels, making it hard for the average household to afford them. Secondly, there have been reports of a fire risk with some units, putting the public at risk and turning opinion away from the power source. Hopefully with time and further testing, these issues will be resolved and solar power will become part of the norm.
Wind power is growing at the rate of 30% annually, with a worldwide installed capacity of 198 Gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Wind power is widely used in Europe, Asia, and the United States. It has similar drawbacks to solar, with its high price of insulation; however the main concerns of wind generators are that they are unsightly and generate noise pollution.
The world’s largest geothermal power installation is the Geysers in California, with a capacity of 750 Megawatts (MW). Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugarcane. Ethanol now provides 18% of the country’s automotive fuel making them one of the most efficient in the world. While these technologies are not quite as advanced in the UK, there is a certainty they will be appearing soon.
While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas. Government grants may be available to home-owners, making the technology more accessible and affordable. Who knows traditional methods may be unheard of in a couple of years.