SamplesExploratoryRenewable EnergyBuy essay
← Cannabis Sativa LegalizationDomestication →

Custom Renewable Energy Essay

Environmental conservation has become a priority in many countries today. This is because the level of environmental degradation is currently very high in the world, and its effects are already being felt. Many countries are trying as much as possible to conserve the few natural resources they are left with. For instance, the production of fossil fuels has gone down considerably in the resent years, and it will be totally depleted in future. As the world’s population continues to escalate, the demand for domestic and industrial energy also continues to increase. We need more sufficient and efficient energy in order to develop the world economy. Over the years, we have discovered and utilized different sources of energy in an effort to make our work easier and our lives simpler. These sources have been broadly categorized into three: fossil energy, nuclear energy and renewable energy. This paper discusses the advantages associated with using renewable energy and the challenges that have been experienced in using it.

Fossil energy is generated through the burning of fossil remains. Currently, fossil energy is the predominant source of energy in the world. It is estimated that 86% of the world's energy today is supplied from fossil energy. The three forms of fossil energy are coal (which is solid), petroleum (which is liquid) and natural gas (which is gaseous). Coal was mainly used to provide energy during the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Then as the 20th century commenced, petroleum took center stage as the dominant source.

Petroleum still is a major source of energy today as it is used to propel automobiles, airplanes and many other machines. However, when it became apparent that the supply of petroleum was dwindling, there was increased need to harness natural gas to produce electricity. Although fossil energy is common and readily available, it unfortunately has very damaging effects on the environment. Coal, petroleum and natural gas are environmentally unfriendly.

“Using fossil fuels—coal, oil and natural gas—to make electricity dirties the nation's air, consumes and pollutes water, hurts plants and animal life, creates toxic wastes, and causes global warming” (Union of Concerned Scientists 1). This causes greenhouse effect resulting into global warming and consequently, climate change. Besides, fossil energy is getting depleted since it has been overused, and it is not renewable. This means that once coal, petroleum or natural gas is used, it is well and truly gone for good. This is rather wasteful and unfriendly to the environment since whatever is taken from the environment ought to be replenished in one way or another. Environmentalists have noted with a lot of concern that cars that consume gasoline have led to a considerable environmental damage. This is because cars emit large amounts of toxic gases, which degrade the environment. The manufacture and use of Hybrid cars has therefore been strongly recommended because they can mitigate the level of pollution. Another challenge linked with fossil fuels is fact that they can extremely annihilate the environment if there is a major disaster. For instance, the oil spillage that took place in the gulf high seas last year seriously contaminated the water, and it also affected the aquatic life. Moreover, disasters of this nature are extremely difficult to overcome.

Nuclear power is a more recent source of energy. It is generated in two different ways: nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. Nuclear fusion is whereby the nuclei of atoms are fused under extremely high temperatures to produce energy. The sun for example, naturally generates heat and light through nuclear fusion (Union of Concerned Scientists 2). Nuclear fission on the other hand, is manmade. It is whereby the large nuclei of uranium atoms are split under carefully-controlled reactions. Nuclear fission produces a great amount of heat which is used to heat up water to create steam. This steam drives turbines thereby producing electricity.

Nuclear energy is less expensive compared to other sources of energy like coal and petroleum. Due to the low cost of uranium, the electric power produced from it becomes cheaper. Currently, it is estimated that nuclear power (or atomic energy as it is also called) meets about 6% of the world’s total energy needs and 15% of the world's electricity needs. Many cities in the developed world now use electricity generated from nuclear reactors. Compared with fossil energy, nuclear energy is considered more environmentally friendly since it is much cleaner. It can also generate more energy using less fuel. A ton of uranium produces more energy than is produced by millions of tons of coal or millions of barrels of petroleum. However, many countries are shying away from nuclear energy since they find it rather difficult to handle challenges related to its use.

That having been said, nuclear power is still not the most environmentally friendly source of energy. For one, generating nuclear energy produces extremely hazardous high-level radioactive waste. This waste is very difficult to dispose of safely and must be buried deep underground in huge concrete dumps or stored and managed within the nuclear plant for thousands of years. Moreover, the application of this energy is regulated by stringent measures that many countries cannot meet. And as the recent nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan proved, exposure to nuclear radiations can cause devastating effects on the surrounding population and the environment. Secondly, nuclear power is not renewable. One of these days, the world is going to run out of uranium supply and consequently, out of nuclear energy.

The third source of energy as earlier mentioned is renewable energy (also called alternative energy). “Renewable energy basically refers to the energy harnessed from such natural sources as sunlight, water, geothermal heat and wind” (Union of Concerned Scientists 3). This source of energy can be replenished constantly and naturally, and is therefore considered quite environmentally friendly and a better option to the non-renewable energy sources discussed above. Currently, it is estimated that renewable energy accounts for approximately 16% of the world’s final energy consumption.

One major forms of renewable energy is hydropower.  Hydropower is produced by using generators to convert the energy of falling water into electricity. The use of water to generate power is nothing new. It began hundreds of years ago, though it gained predominance in the mid-20th century. Today, hydropower accounts for roughly 20 percent of the global electricity output. The United States alone has over 2,000 hydropower plants, making hydropower America’s largest renewable energy source. Hydropower is considered to be very friendly to the environment since there are no chemicals involved in its generation and therefore no wastes. However, establishing a hydroelectric power plant may necessitate deforestation and even the diversion of the natural course of a river, displacement of fauna from their natural habitat, and disruption of human settlements. In this case, large power installations can seriously obliterate the environment. Hydropower production is slowly becoming unreliable since its level of production is gradually going down per annum. This problem stems from the climatic changes, which have led to the dropping of water levels in the hydropower dams.

Another major form of renewable energy is solar power. Solar power as the name suggests, simply refers to energy derived from the sun. Since time immemorial, humans have used solar power to meet the most basic of their energy needs, for example, water heating, drying of clothes and crops, and even cooking. In modern technology, solar power is produced by gathering radiation from the sun and converting it into electrical energy. This is done by using solar panels.

Solar panels are large flat panels made up of many individual solar cells. Many homes, especially in the developing world now use solar power to meet various domestic power needs like in cooking, heating water and lighting (Sawyer 1). Solar power is quite cheap since it is inexhaustible and free for all who can harness it. It is also deemed environmentally friendly since it involves no pollution of air or water. However, manufacturing solar panels and building solar power stations tremendously interferes with the environment. Solar power technology also contributes to environmental pollution in that it promotes the use of lead batteries which in turn contribute to the increase in lead emissions.  Apart from this, critics of solar energy contend that solar cannot produce enough and reliable power for big industries.

A third major form of renewable energy is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy refers to energy obtained from the heat present underneath the earth. It is harnessed in regions where there is volcanic activity. Volcanic activities make rocks under the ground hot. These hot rocks in turn heat up underground water producing steam. This steam is channeled to the earth’s surface through holes that are drilled deep into the earth. The steam is then purified and used to turn turbines, which power electric generators. Geothermal power stations are quite expensive to build and there are still not many of them in the world.

However, once built, they are generally very cost effective. There is growing debate though, on whether geothermal energy is truly renewable and whether it can really be depended upon to meet the energy needs of the future. Some pundits also argue that geothermal sites will sooner or later run out of steam, rendering all the geothermal energy plants useless. Geothermal energy is considered environmentally friendly since it produces no harmful by-products. Moreover, it can easily be used to supplement hydro electric power. But there is always the risk that improper drilling into the earth can release dangerous gases and minerals, which can interfere with the entire ecosystem. Besides, the construction of geothermal power plants does have a negative effect on the natural landscape. This is because the drilling process alters the shape of the natural landscape and it also destroys the vegetation.

Biomass energy or “bio energy” is another form of renewable energy. This is energy produced from the organic matter that makes up plants. The most common source of biomass energy today is wood. For thousands of years, people have used wood to cook food and keep themselves warm. Wood has also been burnt on a larger scale to make steam for power stations. Other sources of biomass energy that have been put into similar use include food crops like sugar cane and fast-growing trees like poplar and willow, which have been harvested and used to produce energy. Wastes such as animal manure, seaweed, forest residues, lumber and paper mill wastes, crop wastes, garbage and even the organic component of municipal and industrial wastes have also been used to generate heat, electricity and transportation fuels. The use of biomass energy is considered advantageous to the environment because it does not release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Whatever carbon dioxide is produced by biomass energy is taken in by existing plants.

Biomass has also helped preserve the environment by reducing the need for fossil fuels. Moreover, the use of biomass energy promotes agriculture in that there are plants like sugar cane and corn, which are grown specifically for the purpose of energy production. However, the use of biomass energy is not entirely environmentally friendly. Though the burning of biomass does not produce as much greenhouse gases as the burning of fossil fuels does, the fact is that it still produces greenhouse gases. Biomass energy may also encourage deforestation in an effort to give space for the planting of “power crops” (that is, crops that can be used to generate energy). In addition, the harvesting and manipulation of biomass energy ironically involves the use of fossil fuels. The chain saws used to fell trees and the trucks used to transport them use petroleum! Hence, it has an indirect harm to the environment. Continuous use of this energy may further interfere with the already damaged ozone layer. 

There is yet another important form of renewable energy – wind power. This is energy generated from wind. For thousands of years, wind power has been harnessed to pump water for irrigation, grind grain, sail boats, drive machinery and produce electricity. The energy in wind is captured through windmills. A windmill is a machine made up of a high tower (usually over 20 meters tall) with a set of large rotor blades at the top. When the wind blows, the rotors revolve and the blades spin, thereby generating energy.

Having examined all major sources of energy, it easy to conclude that, wind power is the most viable source of energy. This is because like other alternative energy sources, it is clean, cost-effective and renewable. But wind power is a cut above all the rest in that it is the friendliest to the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, windmills do not release any greenhouse gases. Indeed, windmills do not interfere with the atmosphere in any way whatsoever and therefore are not contributors to the problem of climate change as a result of global warming. Unlike nuclear plants, windmills do not involve any chemical processes in producing energy; therefore, there are no harmful by-products to be disposed and no risk of any radioactive materials, or other harmful substances and gases being leaked.

Windmills hardly pose any danger to human or animal life. Furthermore, unlike hydropower and geothermal power plants which take up huge chunks of land, windmill farms take up very little land space (Parfit 2). Being towers, windmills only occupy a few square meters for the base. This allows the land beneath windmills to still be used for farming, grazing and any other purposes. Hardly any forests are cleared, or wildlife displaced, or populations resettled, or rivers diverted, or the ecosystem disrupted in any other way to erect windmills. Further still; unlike solar panels which encourage the use of lead batteries which are harmful to the environment, windmills generate power without the involvement of lead batteries.

Again, unlike the case of biomass energy, the harvesting of wind power does not involve the use of non-environmentally friendly products like petroleum. In harvesting wind power, there is hardly anything to be cut down and transported. Contrary to the widespread claims by the “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) advocates, that windmills are an unfriendly sight to behold, many ordinary citizens actually admit that they are often fascinated whenever they see windmills and that they always find it interesting to watch the windmill blades spinning slowly and effortlessly. If anything, the billowing of black smoke from oil fields, or the sight of millions of liters of water trapped behind a dam, or even the sheer massiveness of a nuclear or geothermal power plant are more unpleasant, if not scary to the eye. “On the plus side, both wind and solar can provide what's called distributed energy: they can make power on a small scale near the user” (Parfit 2).

Therefore, it is encouraging to note that in an effort to meet their ever growing energy need, while at the same time conserving the environment; many countries are now turning to wind power to produce energy. Thousands of windmills are under construction in energy-thirsty countries, like the United States, India, Denmark, Iceland, Spain, France, Portugal, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, China and Brazil. In some of these countries, the government is even offering unprecedented tax incentives to spur the development of wind energy. Over the past ten years, the use of wind power has increased at more than 25 percent annually. It is predicted that should this trend continue, energy from windmills will account for one third of the global energy output by 2050. Evidently, it is finally time for the wind to blow.

CONCLUSION

The above discussion reveals the nature of various types of energy and the challenges linked to their usage. Although all energy sources have some shortcomings, renewable energy is far much better than the others. Poor utilization of the world energy resources has led to their depletion, and it has also contributed to serious destruction of our environment. The following recommendations can therefore help us to curb these challenges. It is important for us to continue studying the idea of environmental sustainability because of the following reasons. The concepts of this study are important because it is through them that we can learn to make and keep our environment safe, so that the future generation can benefit from it. We can achieve this by reducing the level of pollution in our environment. Consequently, the consumption of renewable energy should be encouraged. On the other hand, carbon foot prints are not good for the environment and we should reduce them. This is because the environment has been degraded by excess use of fossil fuels. We should also utilize items that are eco-friendly. Environmental sustainability can be achieved by using the concept of going green. In addition to this, policies that favor sustainability should be developed. For example, technological innovations should not affect sustainability. Nonetheless, achieving this sustainability requires much commitment from all stake holders in environmental issues including the entire human population.

Sustainability challenges are incredibly intricate and they can be surmounted through various approaches. Sustainability stretches beyond simple conservation of resources that can be useful in future. In this case, we should also bear in mind human values and how they affect this sustainability. Sustainability encompasses human rights, ethics, and governance; and they all influence sustainability. Many aspects to sustainability are also laden in human values. This is because policies and procedures in or society are based on our values. Therefore, environmental values that are applied in the society determine sustainable outcomes. The answers to all our environmental constraints are not entrenched in the capitalistic way of thinking. The solution is embedded in the values that the indigenous individuals have, and their interaction with the earth. “But more importantly, the solution lies in aligning ourselves with the values of the millions of other species with whom we share this planet” (Parfit 4). One of the major obstacles towards overcoming environmental problems is lack of commitment among various stake holders. For instance, the current environmental discussions in Durban have clearly indicated the lack of commitment among various countries in fulfilling the Kyoto protocol, which can enable us preserve our environment. For instance, many European countries such as Canada are currently being criticized by environmentalist for “burying their heads in the sand” when they are approached to solve these issues. Therefore, developed countries that register high levels of carbon emissions per annum should remain committed in solving these environmental issues if we really want to remain safe.

Code: Sample20

Related essays

  1. Domestication
  2. Fresh Water
  3. Cannabis Sativa Legalization
  4. Domestication of Wild Plants and Animals
X
 
On your first order you will receive 15% discount
Order now PRICES from $12.99/page ×
Live chat