The following statements are something we all have been reading and learning as the truth:
- Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are dangerous pollutants, and anyway we are running out of them.
- Nuclear power is so dangerous that it cannot safely be used; indeed, the nuclear facilities already in existence represent such a mortal danger that they should be shut down.
- But there is one hope: power derived from the sun and winds. These are infinite in quantity, or at least indefinitely great; and they are also safe and clean. All we need is a few years in which to develop this kind of power, and our energy needs will be taken care of.
Only the first of these three statements is true, with some qualifications. The second and third statements are false, although it is popular to believe that they are true.
Discussing sources of energy and what would be the future power generation method?
1) Fossil fuels
The fuels that caused the great industrial revolution, the fuels which accelerated the scientific progress of mankind, making our lives better, have also been the cause of polluting the environment. CO2, nitrous oxide, etc that are released during burning of fossil fuels are the major contributors to global warming while also leading to air pollution. Electricity and Heat Production occupy a major chunk of fossil fuel usage. Since they are non renewable and the pace at which we are already using it up they are likely to be over in the coming years. With such problems that pose from fossil fuels there’s a need to find better alternatives for energy production.
2) Renewable Energy
Are renewable energy green and clean as believed?
a) Solar energy
Direct Energy from the fusion reactor of the solar system, solar energy might look promising with new technology being developed, but is it true?
The major problem with solar power (in fact every renewable power plant) is that the energy generated isn’t constant and varies based on the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth’s surface i.e. based on night, clouds, heavy rains etc. These will cause hindrances in power generation and the effects of these are already being displayed in places like California and Germany which rely mostly on renewable energy generation, increase in price rise has been seen after the implementation since California pays the neighbouring states to use electricity when in excess and has to again buy electricity when electricity generation is low just to maintain the grid. As a result maintaining the grid is pretty difficult and hence large storage batteries are required which also raise the price. Another problem is the land occupied by the solar farms, the amount of land occupied by solar farms are huge compared to that of nuclear or fossil fuel power plants. On an estimate Solar and wind farms require between 400 and 750 times more land than nuclear and natural gas plants. Batteries also require space and hence the area needed might increase significantly.
Another major problem is the environmental concerns, the materials used in solar panels especially the toxic heavy metals can’t be recycled much, as a result they are being dumped in 3rd world countries once their lifetime is completed. As per reports by Chinese and Japanese experts, recycling and manufacturing solar panels from used ones is much costlier than making it all new. Wild-Life Conservationists argue that animals are losing their habitats from solar farms which is also a concerning issue (desert tortoises number has reduced over the years in California’s desert solar farms as of today many experiments are being done to allow the tortoises to dwell in the solar farms and make it their habitat). Solar energy for low energy demanding works or a few household purposes are better but for large scale energy generation, as of now they are inefficient and economically inviable.
b) Wind Energy
This, as explained, has problems similar to solar energy, apart from fluctuating and needing large scale place they also have materials that are not viable for recycling and are being dumped in 3rd world countries, they are also causing death of endangered bird species.
c) Hydro-electric power plants
Among the 3 major renewable sources this has higher efficiency in energy generation, can be used to prevent floods and also used to direct water for irrigation and drinking water purposes. But they too have serious environment concerns since they are generally built in active earthquake centres, loss of habitat of animals and people during construction etc., but the advantages outweigh the problems since they can generate higher amount electricity, protection from floods, water for drinking and irrigation etc. which lead to greater economic development while also causing lesser pollution, hence among renewable energy Hydro-electric power plants are more preferable for centralised distribution of power. But the major drawback is that they can be implemented in regions having rivers with high water flow and valleys.
Thus among renewable energy for centralised power distribution hydro electric power generation is better while for decentralised power roof top solar panels might be better off.
3) Nuclear energy
The most dreaded form of energy production, with nuclear bombings in Japan and the cold war’s race to develop more nuclear weapons, Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters and a lot of misinformation floating around, this might look like a taboo that mankind should never venture into and would be better if we shift our focus from the method, but is that true?
Nuclear fission power plants’ mortality rate per thousand terawatt hour is the least among all forms of energy production, produces the highest amount of energy per space occupied, the amount of waste produced per energy produced is also less. It has also cut down the cost of electricity production while the generation itself is mostly constant. The radioactive materials are handled with much more care and since the quantity produced per energy generation is less, with many new technologies being developed to reduce the life of toxic radioactive materials, it can be easily contained since the quantity generated itself is less in the process.
The 3 images represent the amount of clean energy used vs the cost that households pay, we see that Germany which is leading in usage of renewable energy still has a lot of coal power plants due to the variable nature of solar and wind power generation while also the price for household usage is rising.
There are a few problems such as using technology used in Nuclear Energy development for nuclear weapon production but new technology transfer ensures it’s intrinsically proliferation resistant. Thorium which is abundant in many nations can be used to reduce monopoly, strict procedures in every part of a nuclear power plant from building to maintenance to shut down have to be discussed and framed out such that events such as Chernobyl and Fukushima don’t occur again. But still comparing the data from the table below a nuclear power plant has a lesser mortality rate than other means. The initial investment required to build the power plant is high and the time taken to do is also more.
Comparing all the data we can say that nuclear power plants are the way for a green environment and cleaner energy. But does that mean every form of energy has to be discarded and only nuclear energy has to be developed and used, the answer would be no. There are several cases where fast deployment and generation of energy is needed where solar and wind energy can be used, Space exploration is one such example. Houses and other buildings can install solar panels to generate excess energy (if they can economically do so). Developing better analysis models we can predict the structural stability of dams and also build dams or hydro electric projects in a way to reduce disasters due to earthquakes. Research on fossil fuels is needed too so that as long as we are using them we create less amount of pollution.
But for a centralised distribution of energy, a less polluting, environment friendly and cheaper source of energy which can lead to greater economic development, nuclear energy is the best choice that Earth has as of now.
- If solar panels are so clean why do they produce so much toxic waste?
- Why renewables can’t save the planet
- Nuclear power our best option
- Safest sources of energy
- Deaths per TWH for all energy sources
- What is the safest energy for the future
- Death rate by energy source
- World’s safest energy source
- Desert Tortoise Ecology and Renewable Energy Development