The two major crises [ie. other than the economy] ailing the world today are the food crisis and the energy crisis. There is a serious shortage of food among the producers/exporting countries and as usual there is and will always be a shortage of energy. I am not touching topic of the volatile present day economics. In this post I want to talk about the ever increasing energy needs and the ways we can conserve energy, or even better, find alternate sources.
We are incessantly depending on energy to fuel our basic needs in our day-to-day lives. The majority of the energy demand is for either electricity or fossil fuels. Let me show some fancy stats to reiterate my point. The global electricity consumption in 2005 was 16,830,000,000 MWHr approximately. And the present day oil reserves are to be present only for the next 40 years before they go dry. Mind you, this situation is going to be very much in our lifetimes. [Hopefully..! assuming the mortality rate doesn’t increase all of a sudden!]
One thing is for sure, the consumption is only bound to increase by the day. So what can be done about this?
1. We can conserve whatever little is left and prolong the period of the fossil fuels running out/avoid wastage of electricity or
2. Find alternate sources.
There are basically 3 different conventional sources of electricity-
1. Hydro-electric power: as we all know, this is generated by water injected at high pressure that drives turbines which are coupled to generators. The high pressure is achieved by storing water in dams/reservoirs. This is the most popular means of power generation. There are many hydel projects that are very successful, Itaipu dam, that’s located between Brazil and Paraguay is a good e.g,.
2. Thermal power: this is generated by BURNING coal. I just can’t digest this fact. The heat energy thus produced is used to heat water, thereby producing steam to drive turbines. Thermal power stations are becoming unpopular as the wastage is pretty high.
3. Nuclear power: the concept is similar to thermal power except that nuclear fuel is used to heat water instead of coal. Nuclear power is supposedly ‘clean fuel’. Lots of precautions have to be taken to ensure there is no leakage of radiation. [remember Chernobyl??]
There’s the ‘Why’ and ‘What’. Now let’s go to the ‘HOW’…
1. Charity begins at home they say. Aptly said. Firstly, we must put off all equipments when not in use. [at home or work]. A monitor or TV on standby mode uses 50% of its rated power.. its not just about your electricity bills, its about how much energy all of us can save together. The amount of electricity wasted by one of us in a week or so maybe enough to power someone’s house for at least a day. And that shouldn’t be denied. Because, it all comes at a price.
2. Energy efficient equipments should be used; Lighting at homes, or high power equipments in industries.
3. Buildings should be built keeping energy conservation in mind. That is minimizing the use of artificial lighting and air conditioners; and incorporating rain water harvesting etc.
4. And lastly, urban farming can also be adopted. This is a technology newly followed in Japan [ I don’t know much about this] using this, the environment where the farm is situated can be kept cool, thus minimizing the usage of electricity.
The above mentioned 3 sources of energy are not renewable. So there is a dire need to find alternate sources. There are already popular methods –
1. Solar energy: there should be many more solar fields set up like the one in Spain. Here arrays of mirrors are aligned with the sun to reflect and concentrate sunlight on to the top of a tower. There is a differential gradient and the mirrors align with the sun throughout the day. There are a set of pipes that circulate water in and out of the point of concentration. Thus the heated water is converted to steam and used to produce electricity. A very small land area is used to set up these arrays of mirrors. The investment is one time and the returns are high. The electricity thus generated is enough to power an entire city..! For more info on this please watch ‘planet mechanics-solar paella’ or ‘megastructures-man made sun’ episodes. This is ideal for tropical countries which receive ample sunlight that can be tapped.
2. Wind energy: there is a lot of scope for wind turbines to be set up in many countries. Denmark satisfies 33% of its energy need from wind sources. This is the largest in the world. An international commission can be set up to identify specific areas where this can be incorporated. The installation and operation can be given on a contract basis or outsourced.
3. Tidal and geothermal energy are yet to be tapped commercially and need a lot of technical development.
Other than these, more and more companies should be given carbon credits, so that they are encouraged to reduce pollutants.
I shall talk about the alternate sources for fossil fuels in the next post…