Renewable Energy

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This Entry, unlike so many others, is a project for school. smiley - biggrin Hi, everyone! As you can see, it is about renewable energy.

First off, some definitions

Renewable Energy

Any source of energy that can replenish itself faster than we can use it. For example: Solar energy, hydroelectric1 energy, geothermal energy, wind energy.2

Non-renewable energy

A source of energy that either cannot replenish itself or cannot replenish itself faster than we can use it. For example: Oil, coal, nuclear power.


Sources of energy for which it's hard to tell if they're renewable or not. For example: Biomass3.

A number of explanations

Nuclear power is a special case. Even though it is non-renewable, each piece of nuclear fuel provides enough energy that this fact doesn't make a great deal of difference. smiley - weird Of course, the downside of nuclear fuel is that if the radiation escapes before thousands and thousands of years (when it will be gone), then hello mutant city. smiley - monster Not really, but the results will not be good. At all.smiley - sadface

Biomass is a tricky one. The most commonly thought-of biomass source, wood, is no longer a renewable resource, because we use so much of it that it can't grow back fast enough. However, there are myriad other sources of biomass energy. Some of them include:

  • corn
  • rice hulls
  • peanut shells
  • sugar cane
  • grass cuttings(Or smiley - goodluckclovers)
  • leaves
  • manure
  • sewage
  • municipal solid waste4

Some questions to be answered

What kinds of energy do we5 rely on?

Of course, the main power source we use is electricity, but how do we get the electricity?

More than 85% of the energy used in the United States comes from fossil fuels - coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels, the key word being fossil, are a non-renewable resource, because it would take millions of yhears to build up another deposit.

Coal-fired electrical plants are an important part of America's power system. Coal is a non-renewable resource, being a fossil fuel, but nearly one-quarter of the world's coal reserves are in the United States, and the energy content of America's coal reserves is greater than that of all the known recoverable oil in the world. The main question is how to deal with the dangerous pollutants released when coal is burned, and new technologies are being developed to address that problem.

Perhaps the most infamous fossil fuel is... dun dun duuuun... oil. Oil supplies over 99% of the fuel for cars and trucks, and over 40% of our total energy supply. The Department of Energy has an Office of Fossil Fuels, which has two main concerns regarding oil: to keep America's oil fields producing, and to be able to respond immediately to disruptions in America's oil supply. Unfortunately, the recoverable oil will most likely be gone within two decades. This necessitates a switch to alternative fuel sources or an energy crisis of incredible magnitude.

These are but two of the fuels we rely on to produce energy. However, they are quite possibly the two most important sources of energy in the United States.

What countries are using different sources of energy and what effect does this have on the countries?

Most of New Zealand's energy is generated hydroelectrically. Since hydroelectric power is not storable6, dry seasons can lead to minor power cuts. According to a resident of New Zealand on h2g2, whom I will not point you towards out of respect, the country has so much more power per person than it used to, that the gopvernment is just recently starting to get to grips with the fact and starting to promote conserving power in addition to generating and supplying it, eg insulating older houses that previously did not have any insulation. Citizens also, according to the previously mentioned resident, expect access to as much power as they want, which is not a good position to be in. Another problem is the environmental impact (hence my earlier cynical footnote). Opposition to large dams recently prevented a large project from being started.

Iceland uses geothermal power for 45% of its energy. Nearly every home in Iceland is heated goethermally.

What are some alternative energy sources?

One alternative fuel source for cars and trucks - if the vehicle is built for it - is biodiesel, or vegetable oil. Some cars (very few so far) can convert used vegetable oil to a fuel source. Technically biodiesel is plant or animal oil that has had the glycerin separated with a chemical process, often using a combination of methanol7 and a small amount of lye. There are major problems with biodiesel, though - mainly the law and the price.8 As of late October 2004, biodiesel cost about $3.60 per gallon, over 60 cents of which was tax. Also, people who make biodiesel at home probably aren't paying road taxes.

There are of course many earth-based environmentally friendly sources of energy, including geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind power. The main downside to these is that the power source is not always portable. For example, one could not simply set up a geothermal power station in the middle of a city and ship the heat in like it is possible to do with coal. Hydroelectric power, of course, is only possible where there is water and a distinct lack of protesting environmentalists.9 Wind power is only practical in places that ordinarily have a good deal of wind to power the windmill things. Solar power, while one could set up a solar panel on the roof of any building in the world, are not incredibly efficient. An efficiency level of 30% has been recorded in laboratory work, but most commercial solar panels operate from 10%-15% efficiency.11

The above are a very few of the alternative sources of energy that are out there... somewhere... on some smiley - planet some place... I simply have no time to list them all. I might, if I get back to work on this... Good day to you. smiley - smiley


Because I have to have one.

1Water2Technically so-called 'renewable' energy will only last for several billion years, ie until the sun goes kablooie. smiley - tongueout3Matter originated from something living, eg wood, sewage, etc.4This includes paper, plastic, wood, yard trimmings, food waste, rubber, textiles, metal, and other stuff. Garbage, mostly.5The United States6What is storable, I don't know.7Methyl alcohol, or wood alcohol. Nasty to humans, but possible to be used as fuel.8In the USA, at any rate.9Or at least few enough that the government can safely ignore them.1010 /cynicism 11This is for very complicated reasons and whomever wishes to know those reasons may go here, then scroll down to post 52.

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