Wind, Solar, and Geothermal Energy
Chapter 9 of Lester R. Brown’s World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse explains the possibilities for renewable energy with wind, solar, and geothermal. Because of the environmental problems we have now, these types of alternative energy are crucial to deterring the damage we have already done to the planet. Brown focuses on the different solar, wind, and geothermal options in different countries that can be implemented and calls this a “Plan B.” The Plan B goal is to have a complete use of renewable energy sources for energy by 2020. The main goal includes cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent also by 2020. To reach the full capacity of Plan B, we have to replace coal and oil-fired electricity generation. Countries like China, the United States, Canada, Scotland, India, and Brazil all have unique environmental factors that can be used in a sustainable way. For example, Saudi Arabia is filled with massive amounts of sunlight that can generate megawatts to power the cities nearby, just like the Desertec Industrial Initiative that could generate 300,000 megawatts of solar thermal capacity. Solar energy is very efficient compared to coal, oil and gas-powered stations. The efficiency of a solar-powered station varies between 40% and 80%, but for an oil-powered station, it may range at only 30% to 40% efficiency. A solar-powered station is therefore better than a coal-powered station since much of the energy is lost otherwise.
It is better to use renewable resources of energy rather than nonrenewable sources in the long term. Eventually the limited supplies of nonrenewable sources of energy will finish. We would then need to find other means. Not all renewable source power stations produce emissions that pollute the environment. Brown mentions that the damage done to the environment by this type of energy is quite small compared to that of non-renewable-powered stations. Using renewable energy reduces pollution, conserves land, and saves money.
One important renewable source of energy is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is the heat of the earth that can be used an energy source from large and complex power stations to small and relatively simple pumping systems. In Indonesia, there are about 128 active volcanoes. Volcanoes are thought of as the pimples of the earth as they release gasses and the pressure off the earth. With these volcanoes, they could develop about 6,900 megawatts of geothermal generating capacity. As a natural element of the earth, volcanoes can be used to replace oil production and be solely on heat.
Renewable or alternative energy is an important concern for all of us. In this world, maybe everyone would wait until or after the real problems arise, but this is not the reality. We need to try to convince big corporations to adopt this renewable or alternative energy before is too late, but taking this approach alone will not work. After almost 20 years and billions of dollars in federal funding, renewable or alternative energy programs have not had an excellent impact on the behavior of the general public nor corporations. It is time to put an end to obsolete programs that do not focus on renewable energy and give the general public and businesses more comprehensive educational programs that will better prepare them for the real future of renewable and alternative energy resources for the benefit of all.