A Japanese construction firm is proposing to turn the moon into a colossal solar power plant by laying a belt of solar panels 250 miles wide around its equator and beaming the energy back to Earth by way of lasers or microwave transmission. The “Luna Ring” that is being proposed would be capable of sending 13,000 terawatts of power to Earth – more than three times more than the United States generated throughout the whole of 2011. (Shimizu Corporation, 2013) This Japanese firm is of the opinion that “essentially limitless, non-polluting solar energy is the vital source of energy.”
David MacKay a Theoretic Physicist in the University of Cambridge has done a check on realism of the current status of the sources of Renewable energy. He found out that in order to meet the demand of cars driving on a highway at 60 miles per hour giving an average of 30 miles per gallon, distanced at 80m per car perpetually going on the road and an efficiency of 1200 litres of biofuel per hectare per year. In order to meet their demand there would be a need of 8km wide of biofuel plantation. This check gives us a sense of the current status of renewable sources. The current energy consumption in UK per person has been calculated as 125kWh per day. The population density of UK is 250 person/sqm and we are ~90% dependent on fossils to meet our energy demand. Considering equal consumption per unit area measuring in watts per sqm, we have 1.25W/sqm in UK. Wind Power currently produces 2.5W per sqm, which means there would be a need to cover half of UK entirely with wind turbines to meet our demands if we are entirely dependent on this source. Solar panels when put on roof produces 20W/sqm which then on reduces as put closer and on ground in England, which means we’d still need to cover a large area of the country in entirety with these panels. There are all unfeasible options. Thus, it is evident that we need to reduce the demand per sqm., to reduce the carbon footprint but it puts a question on potential of renewable sources. (MacKay, 2012)
The above paragraphs put two contrasting perspectives on potential of renewables. There has been significant progress in improving the efficiency of energy production via renewable sources year after year and month after month. However even after years of evolution, these sources are nowhere near to meet the demand. Is there something wrong with the demand or the renewables?
With this continuous growth in technology, increased research, the demand for energy is increasing. The scientists and researchers are continuously trying to improve the standards of renewable sources such as improved conductor in solar cell or lightweight blades of wind turbine. The geothermal and tidal energy harnessing potential has also seen an unprecedented growth over the years and has a high potential in improving the overall scenario of energy distribution.
Despite the global financial crisis, India’s energy demand has been continuously rising. The Installed Capacity of the country as on 31st December, 2011 was 1,86, 655 MW. Coal-based generation contributes a major part of the installed capacity and contributes to about 68.6% of the total energy generation (year 2008-09).
Biomass as a source can itself contribute to more than 50% energy demand of the country. Being an agrarian economy, there is mammoth quantity of biomass available. However, it remains distributed wherein it is majorly utilised by inefficient vernacular measures which add to pollution. An estimated of 350 million tonnes of biomass is produced, aforementioned should be tapped, institutionalized and used accordingly. (Gera, Rai, Parvej, & Soni, 2013)
There is a massive ~6100 km of coastal line in India. These coastal areas have high wind speeds capable of harnessing substantial wind energy. With the Thar Dessert, immense prospective for Solar Energy is available and so is for other non-conventional energies like Ocean Thermal, Tidal, and Geothermal etc. which is ready to be harnessed.
Renewable sources while producing energy add significantly to life while adding to social, economic and environmental prospects. These sources don’t produce any Greenhouse gases thereby not leading towards Climate change and Global rise in temperature, which have already become a challenge for humanity. These sources are directly dependent on practically infinite sources thereby making possible a zenith of energy production to the world which will deal with the issue of the energy crisis.
These clean sources of energy, Renewable energy technologies have a much lower impact than conventional energy technologies. Renewable energy will not run out and thus becomes energy for our grandchildren. Most renewable energy investments are spent within the country on materials and workmanship to build and maintain the facilities rather than mostly energy impacts. Thus, renewable energy investments stay within the country adding the simultaneous strengthening of the economy.
Renewable energy directly comes from Nature, i.e. Sun, Wind, Ocean, River, Earth etc. which reduces the risk of factory production and thus release of uncalled chemicals and tampering of natural processes. This production and dependence on Renewable sources by any corporate has a multirole advantageous impact on it. Where the energy production directly fulfils the energy requirement, the Research and development for the source brings the publicity thus contributing to marketing and simultaneously becoming a CSR activity. Moreover, this non-polluting environmentally beneficial vernacular energy production adds to the social component augmenting an overall effectiveness of the company.
At the present times, considering the recent developments in solar energy, Manufacturer Tetrasun and the energy department (US) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have together devised a new solar cell with innovative design, simple architecture and elegant process flow for large scale energy production of an efficient solar cell. This low tetra solar cell instead of a grid of thin silver lines loads a 50 micron wide copper electrodes on its front contacts in a way that prevents diffusion of the metal. This has sparked new belief in this technology. With copper replacing Silver, terawatts of power could be generated with a cheaper cell yet more efficient.
There has come a time where the conventional sources of energy need to gradually fade out otherwise there would come a time when we can no more use them and don’t have an effective replacement as well.
While inventive financing mainstreaming of renewables is essential, they still might not be able to race with the present conventional energy sources, however, it is our responsibility to make them efficient enough to replace them.
The spark is already visible; it requires a large scale fire to pick the speed, contest and finally the conquest. And this conquest will be a conquest for the entire humanity.