The human race is in its ever-ending expedition to improve their living comfort and well being. During this journey, humanity invariably relied on consuming vast amounts of power and fuel for their evolution. It is estimated that we tend to use about 320 billion kilowatt/hour of energy each day. Burning fossil fuels makes most of the energy for this enormous consumption. Fossil fuels serve our energy needs more efficiently, but they deplete in volume and may soon become obsolete.
There are many new greener and renewable energy sources, which may limit the impact of carbon emissions on the environment as pointed out by Paul Favret. These are also expected to control the adverse effect of global warming. Various sources are being suggested as the future of energy like solar energy, atomic energy, wind energy, biofuels, etc. Some of the other relatively new energy generation sources are geothermal energy, fuel cells, ocean energy, etc. In this article, we will look at a few current and future energy sources and how these may evolve.
Fossil fuels are the remains of dead animals and plants, which fell on earth millions of years ago. They are fossilized and exposed to the enormous heat and pressure in the earth’s crust for millions of years. Humanity has been using fossil fuels for many centuries now, but the major disadvantage of this fuel category is that they cannot be renewed. It takes millions of years for fossil fossils to fossil fuels to form, but they can deplete much faster than any new reserves can be created.
Natural gas is also a byproduct of fossil fuels, which get trapped in the coal beds or other fossil deposits. The microorganisms present in the landfills and wetlands create these natural gases. Natural gas consists of methane and other flammable gases like ethane and hydrocarbons with higher molecular weight. All these elements of natural gases other than methane have to be removed before the gas can be used as a fuel. Even though natural gas is much cleaner than different types of fuels, it is found to contribute to global warming and pollution. When these gases are released directly into the atmosphere, they may cause greenhouse effects. Still, it usually occurs in a significantly smaller amount and is not a significant cause of concern.
Everything in this world derives energy from the sun. We obtain the sun’s energy through various indirect sources, including fossil fuels. It is estimated that the earth receives about 174 billion megawatts of power from solar radiation. About 30% of this radiation is reflected, whereas the earth’s atmosphere, landmasses, and oceans absorb all remaining energy. All the vast amount of solar energy is available to us for free. The sun’s point falling on the ground during an hour during a day is equivalent to the amount of energy we may consume in an entire year.
However, as Paul Favret points out, the sun’s energy is somewhat diffused than concentrated, which is the greatest challenge in harnessing it. There are many other sources also as wind energy and biofuels etc., which are being leveraged only at a minimal level now.