The world has seen a substantial increase in energy demand over the past few decades. At the same time, the overreliance on oil, coal, and natural gas since the Industrial Revolution continue to present a host of enormous challenges (Foster, 2013). For one, these conventional fossil fuels are being depleted faster than expected. Some analyst estimate that the global production of oil, coal, and natural gas will soon begin to decline.
Moreover, when fossil fuels burn, they emit both greenhouse gases and particulate air pollution. The former contributes to the climate crisis while the latter is throttles cities with smog. Additionally, byproducts of fossil fuels are associated with heat-trapping properties, which result in global warming.
With these new trends, the importance of planning for the future energy supply is becoming crucial as the global power consumption raises. Notably, finding the right mix of green energy technologies to generate reliable electricity in the future is critical. However, while the need to replace hydrocarbons with reliable energy alternatives proves inevitable, a single source of power is unavailable to take the place of fossil fuels. Thus, a patchwork of renewable sources –hydro, nuclear power, geothermal, wind, and solar –is the option for the future.
Renewable sources of energy are the right mix of energy to fuel the future. Derived from limitless sources, these forms of energy are often more efficient and environmentally friendly than fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources (Wang, & Li, 2009). Nevertheless, as Wang and Li explain, the world is still highly dependent on oil, coal, and natural gas. For example, over 80% of the global energy demand is met by on non-renewable energy sources (Islam, Hasanuzzaman, Rahim, Nahar & Hosenuzzaman, 2014). However, currently, the world is witnessing unavoidable to transition from non-renewable to renewable energy sources. In the future, the sustainable energy source is expected to include a combination of energy sources. This kind of mix according to Umair,2012, will provide not only a trusted future energy requirement but also an eco-friendly energy source.
Solar energy is considered as the most efficient renewable energy source. The use of solar as a source of power has been on the increase in the recent past. One of the vital quality of solar equipment is that it can be used in a wide range of application starting from farm applications to industrial uses. Therefore, Scientists are increasingly modifying methods to improve the efficiency of solar systems to make production cheaper.
One of the most recent developments in solar energy system is the invention of methods to convert sunlight into usable energy. Currently, there exist two methods used in converting sunlight energy into usable energy. The approach includes the conversion of the sun into thermal energy and conversion to photovoltaic energy (Vanderhulst, Lanser, Bergmeyer, Foeth and Albers,1990). The former method applies the use of a black surface to concentrate sunlight which is later converted to heat energy. On the other hand, the latter technique uses solar panels which absorb sunlight and generate it in the form of utilizable electric current.
Several countries have invented a wide range of methods advance in their solar power generation. Germany, for instance, uses a feed-in tariff program to encourage its solar owners to plug their panels into the grid. Through this program, it was projected that towards the end of 2011, Germany would complete the installation of 5,000 MW solar projects.
However, despite being a free energy source, its wide range of applications and simplicity of system installation, solar energy have got many limitations. Firstly, the sunlight itself is free. However, the equipment needed to convert the light energy into a usable form of energy is costly. Additionally, the installation of the technology in rural areas has been met with difficulties, particularly, in places where villagers have either little or completely lack knowledge about the technology, solar system installation has been quite expensive.
Opportunity to boost the current solar power potential is vast. Advancement in the science of photovoltaic will help develop solar panel with superior sunlight absorption than the current ones. Photovoltaic technology will improve energy conversion thus meeting the high power demand for the future. In the future, solar energy will be reliable energy if well developed.
Wind power is an essential development for the rising demand for energy in the future. The kinetic energy generated by wind is a trusted source of renewable energy in many parts of the world. Wind energy is converted into a utilizable form of energy with the use of wind turbines (Şahin, 2004). The energy is most reliable in coastal and inland areas since these places are characterized by open terrain or water bodies which facilitates wind movement.
However, the current statistical information has shown that wind accounts to only an estimated amount of 2.5% of the world’s power demand. Nevertheless, with the deployment of wind farms around the world, this figure is continually changing. Places such as Texas and the Great Plains, in the U.S. Şahin report, records about 20% of wind power. Additionally, several projects are underway to improve wind power in the coastal where the use has been quite limited. On the other hand, the technology has shown steady advancement along the offshore areas making the places a potential wind power source in Europe accounting. The offshore wind power generation supplies up to seven times more power than marine regions. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is projecting a wind power installation to shift by 2020 the projection anticipates a shift from 6.5 GW in 2013 to 40 GW in 2020. This move is spearheaded by the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany.
However, the pros and cons of wind power is a controversial debate. The argument is that wind energy is a clean and renewable method of generating electricity. Nevertheless, this source of energy is intermittent since wind is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Wind turbines are also expensive and difficult to install, thus requiring subsidized methods such as feed-in tariffs
In order to improve the future efficiency of wind energy supply, Jones, Zavadil, and Grant, (2005) suggest that the current wind turbines are required to be anchored to a distance not exceeding 30 meters in the seabed in water. Furthermore, Jones and his colleagues are recommending the integration of wind energy into control rooms to ensure cost-effectiveness wind energy as a mainstream element of the energy system.
Hydropower is also a form of renewable energy which is mainly produced by dams across large-flow rivers.Currently, this energy source produces about 8.25% of world total energy requirement. According to Algburi, 2016, Brazil and Canada are heavily dependent on hydroelectric power with the energy supply rates standing at 83.9% and 59%, respectively. On the other hand, China and Russia have hydroelectric power share of 19.0% and 15.5% of their total energy supply respectively recording a significant improvement in the recent past.
China is the world’s largest producer of hydroelectricity. Besides being the largest producer of hydropower, China is also the largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Therefore, capitalizing on hydropower is not only projected at improving power supply but also combating the pollution in major cities such as Beijing. Furthermore, Norway, the largest producer of oil and natural gas in Western Europe receives about 97% of its energy from hydropower. Hydroelectric power is, therefore, the most crucial in world power energy.
Currently, most hydro-power systems have been used in electric generators to drive machines. A complete method of hydroelectric comprises of wiring for electricity distribution electric generator, pipe flow control, the turbine, and excellent control. However, unfavorable climatic factors have limited the progress of the system. For example, extreme events of floods and droughts of flood across the globe have increased the cost of hydropower projects. Additionally, increased sediment load in water reservoirs decreases the live storage, as well as reducing the rate control in the storage devices.
Hydropower provides unique benefits that are not found in other renewable sources of energy. Firstly, hydropower resources are widespread across the world, and over 150 countries are capable of installing the system (Ottawa, 2000). Secondly, this type of energy has been proven as advanced technology, and it provides the most efficient energy conversion process which is eco-friendly compared to other sources. Finally, compared to other alternatives, the hydropower system has the lowest operating costs and most extended plant life. Once the initial investment is met, the maintenance cost of the whole system is economical.
Despite a wide array of the benefits, the construction of any infrastructure inevitably results in uncertain impacts. Hydroelectric power construction is associated with adverse physical changes in the environment. The development of dams and similar power plant may occur in sedimentation in the water reservoir. Over a while, the buildup of the sediments loads the repository reducing its storage capacity. Moreover, hydropower projects have presented a significant impact on the health of aquatic animals. Fish habitat, for example, is significantly affected by dam installation.
Hydroelectric power confers a variety of opportunity for future improvements. Ottawa (2000) recommends various steps to be made to facilitate future advancement in hydro technology. Fast, the report suggests that project managers should optimize implementations of planned hydro projects to reduce impacts on the ecosystem and conserve water sources. Additionally, Ottawa stresses on the need to develop an Energy Policy Framework which defines objectives planned hydro projects to improve the cost-effectiveness of the system. Fundamentally, the innovation of more sophisticated hydro-electric machines is critical to step up the efficiency of the entire system.
Organic matter, especially plant and animal material, such as wood, leftover of agricultural products, industrial organic issues, human and animal wastes are recurring energy sources. In the recent past, biomass was used as a source of fertilizers feedstock and fiber (Gavrilescu, 2008). However, with the increased demand for energy, the diversion of bio-based materials to produce power has been vast.
For ethical consideration, only biomass that does not compete with the food chain should be installed in the energy supply chain. Most developed countries possess almost 1,500 million hectares of land under crop, forest and woodland (Gavrilescu, 2008). Additionally, Gavrilescu maintains that to achieve 15 % of the total bio-based energy supply, an average of 1.25 million hectares of cropland would be required each year. This figure represents only 2 % of the full land coverage in developed countries. Hence, the supply of biomass energy can easily be met. The USA, for instance, has advanced in bio-based power generation technology. The state has allocated 49% of the forest category to focus on the contribution of biomass raw materials majorly.
The traditional method of burning firewood to produce biomass energy was not environmental friendly. Currently, scientists are inventing ways to generate electricity from biofuels. One such method are ‘co-firing’ (Maria, 2008). Biofuels from biomass include Biogas, liquid biofuels, biogasoline, and Biodiesels. Biomass is applied in a wide range of applications. Majorly, the system has been used in industries to generate heat or to drive steam engines.
Biomass is a sustainable and sound source of energy. It is also a replenish-able resource which can be utilized readily without permanently depleting natural resources. The future sustainable biomass energy production is projected towards boosting the world power supply. Also, biomass is an agricultural labor-intensive activity, the system is also targeting job creation in rural areas to solve rural-to-urban migration. Furthermore, biomass energy can help recover feedstock’s nutrient content in the form of ash and reduce landfill.
The cost-benefit analysis has revealed negative consequences resulting from the application of biomass. For example, specific methods of harvesting plant residues and planting trees without undergrowth may reduce water infiltration into the soil. Consequently, the life of soil organism is severely affected. The system may also intensify problems related to water overconsumption in the ground.
Prospect in biomass energy supply is dependent on the exploitation of agricultural resources for energy production. In this regard, a new cycle of plant domestication is required for improvement. The development should involve breeding a new plant species which can yield higher quantities of biomass than the ones currently cultivated. Moreover, the production of electricity from lignocellulosic biomass and biodiesel from vegetable oil should be intensified. These more methods will facilitate future energy supply from biomass.
Of all the fossil fuel, coal is the least expensive source of energy. However, the combustion of coal in electric power plants produce a large quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which pollutes the environment. Coal is a non-renewable source of energy and is mostly used in power stations to supply electricity.
Significant types of cold used in power industries include Lignite, subbituminous, Bituminous, and Anthracite. The burning of coal is linked to significant greenhouse effects and global warming. Coal combustion produces poisonous gases such as sulfur, nitrogen oxide, and mercury. These gases not only pollute the air but also affect pant life. Furthermore, the emissions of the gases lead to acidic rain which has a negative impact on health.
Because of the full range of its detrimental effects, The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act require that the involved in the use of coal to reduce pollutants released into the atmosphere and water bodies. For this reason, the continuous use of coal as a source of electricity has met criticism globally.
Finally, the world’s energy future is also dependent on nuclear power. According to McDonald, 2008, atomic energy meets between 3% to14% of the global power needs. The situation is likely to improve with further advancement in the system. Globally, the current nuclear power generation is active among 30 countries which have got the potential to install nuclear power generation machines. Statistics also show that electricity generated from nuclear reactors vary widely among the states (McDonald, 2008). The report maintains that France presents the highest capacity in production, with 78 % capacity while China records the lowest potential of 2 % of the total nuclear power produced in developed countries.
Nevertheless, increasing the use of nuclear as a source of energy has been met by a stance debate. In particular, the increased rate of global warming and climatic change associated with this type of energy supply has popped up public outcry on its pros and cons (McDonald, 2008). China, like any other developed nation, faces a steady increase in its energy demand. The country is exploiting all possible methods to meet its rising demand for energy, including advances in nuclear power. Currently, the state has got six atomic reactors under construction. China also projects an increase by nearly a five-fold in nuclear power capacity by 2020. In Africa, only South Africa has demonstrated the ability of nuclear energy generation while in Europe, the technology is advanced.
The power capacity of nuclear energy is steadily increasing with most of the plants are located in the Asia region being created and upgraded. In general, nuclear power is more attractive in countries such as China where the need for energy is proliferating. Countries with scarce resources like Japan also possesses the potential to incorporate nuclear power within their energy chain. Nuclear energy generation is essential in supplementing the current sources of power.
Compared to fossil fuels, nuclear machines are expensive to acquire. However, the devices are cheap to run. This makes nuclear power an excellent alternative source of energy. The realization of nuclear achievements and expectations rests on economic capacity and resources of a particular country. Projection in future nuclear power generation with the current progress is an indicator that the high demand for power is progressively being met.
Fusion power offers the possibility to design almost inexhaustible power source for the future. However, it presents a significant challenge in its design because of its dynamicity. Improvements in nuclear fusion technology based on magnetic confinement will have considerable impact on future nuclear power generation. The technology provides a long-term forecast on efficient nuclear energy production. Hence, the fission nuclear power will continuously be part of low-carbon electricity generation in the future world energy demand.
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