Technology Term Paper Example

Introduction

Nowadays, the contemporary society experiences the increased demand for inexhaustible sources of energy because the use of oil, coal, and gas has its limits. Therefore, scientists and researchers have discovered other resources that are more economical, environmentally friendly, and renewable. They include solar and wind energy, ebbs and flows, waves of the sea, and the warmth of the planet. The use of alternative energy sources will help people avoid many problems and their consequences, as well as to benefit without harming nature. Furthermore, the utilization of renewable energy technologies will provide a large number of new jobs. Consequently, the relevance of the topic determines the need to analyze the condition of renewable energy in the world as well as the most efficient sources of alternative energy.

 

Energy Outlook on Renewable Resources

It becomes obvious that traditional energy resources are not limitless. In the foreseeable future, maintenance of the current level of consumption is problematic. There is a danger of depletion of explored reserves of fossil fuels, production of which is economically justified. The increase in environmental pollution associated with energy production causes a growing concern. In this regard, the most crucial task worldwide is the development of affordable, renewable energy, production and consumption of which presupposes a minimal impact on the environment. Energy produced owing to renewable resources focusing mainly on the local stocks gives the opportunity to solve the economic and socio-cultural problems at the local level. Moreover, it increases the level of energy security of regions and creates new high-tech industries and jobs.

Renewable energy sources account approximately for 21% of global electricity generation (Fornasiero & Graziani, 2011). This percentage includes primarily geothermal power plants, which generate a large part of the electric power in Central America, Iceland, and the Philippines (Fornasiero & Graziani, 2011). Nowadays, Iceland is an example of a country, which widely uses thermal water for heating. However, tidal power stations are not extremely widespread so far. They are available only in a few countries – Great Britain, France, China, Canada, India, and Russia (Fornasiero & Graziani, 2011). In addition, a great number of countries have solar power plants on their territories.

The use of renewable energy has steadily increased in the world. According to various estimates, the share of alternative sources in the energy balance reached or exceeded 7% in many countries in 2012 (Michaelides, 2012). In the leading countries of the world – the USA, China, Italy, and France – in the last 10 years, the use of wind turbines (windmills) increased by 10-15 times (Michaelides, 2012). Nowadays, renewable energy sources significantly contribute to the energy balance of such countries as Norway, Denmark, Spain, and Germany (Michaelides, 2012). Taking into account the full costs of environmental protection measures during production, transportation, processing, and combustion of hydrocarbons, competitiveness of renewable energy sources enhances. Furthermore, various types of renewable energy sources are at different stages of development.

The Condition of Renewable Energy in the World

Over the last 15-20 years, there was an optimistic scenario for the development of renewable energy technologies. In particular, numerous countries experienced the constant increase in the installed capacity of plants based on renewable energy sources and their share in the fuel and energy balance (Kowalski, 2010). In 2008, the 19 771 TW share of renewable energy along with large hydropower amounted to 18.2% of a total production of electricity in the world (Kowalski, 2010). In 2011, this number increased to 2340.0 TW (Fornasiero & Graziani, 2011). The growth of installed capacity of renewable energy plants is characterized by a corresponding increase in the volume of investments in the renewable energy industry. In 2012, the investment in renewable energy reached $150 billion (Michaelides, 2012).

The rate of development of electric power accounts for about 2-3% per year, including large hydropower and nuclear power amounting to 2% and 1.6% respectively (Kowalski, 2010). On the contrary, the rate of development of renewable energy is much higher. For example, since the beginning of 2000, the growth rate of wind power is 25-30% per year (Kowalski, 2010). By the end of 2011, the total installed capacity of wind power accounted for 238.0 GW as compared to 7.5 GW in 1997 (Michaelides, 2012). In 2009, the total capacity of small hydropower in the world reached 85 GW. In 2012, the installed capacity of photovoltaic power plants amounted to 67 GW (Michaelides, 2012). Furthermore, the use of solar thermal installations and biofuel production continues to grow by 20% annually (Michaelides, 2012). In addition, solar collectors have an area of 200 million square meters. There is also the growing use of low-grade near-surface geothermal plants based on heat pumps and biomass. Annual production of biofuels – ethanol and biodiesel – reached 66 billion liters per year, accounting for about 4% of the world consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel (Michaelides, 2012). Currently, there are about 25 million of inhabited localities completely supplied on the basis of renewable energy sources (Michaelides, 2012).

Nowadays, wind power is the most widely used worldwide because specific capital investments in wind power installations of wind turbines are lower those give to the implementation of other types of renewable energy sources. In some countries, there is a new branch of engineering, namely wind power. The world leaders in the use of wind power are the USA, Denmark, Germany, India, and the Netherlands (Kowalski, 2010). Geothermal energy occupies the second place on the scale of the use. These plants can meet competition with conventional fuel power plants. Nevertheless, they are geographically linked to the fields of hydrothermal or thermal anomalies. This fact limits the scope of geothermal plants. Along with the geothermal power stations, the system of geothermal heating is widely utilized worldwide. Furthermore, most countries use solar energy mainly for the production of low-grade heat for domestic hot water and heating supply. Flat solar collectors are the predominant type of equipment in solar energy.

A number of countries have taken legislative and regulatory measures in the use of renewable energy sources accounting for the legal, economic, and organizational basis of the direction of the technological development. The legal framework presupposes establishing the rights of producers of electric power to non-traditional sources to connect to networks of energy supplying companies required to take this energy. The economic basis is reduced to the measures to stimulate the use of renewable energy sources, necessary at the stage of advancement, formation, and adaptation in the energy market. The methods of stimulation may be different, including tax and credit incentives, favorable tariffs, subsidies, among others (Michaelides, 2012). Finally, the institutional framework to solve the problem determines the state authority responsible for this direction.

Wind Energy Technologies

Wind energy is a technology of using the wind to generate electricity. In many countries around the world, this technology is developing extremely fast. Large wind turbines installed on the top of tall towers produce the energy of the wind. They operate like ventilators but in the reverse order. Instead of utilizing electricity to make the wind, turbines use the wind to produce electricity. Wind turbines are one of the most environmentally friendly and promising ways of generating electricity. At the same time, wind power is among most effective renewable energy sources.

To receive energy, the wind rotates the rotor blades. The blades twist the shaft coupled with a set of gear wheels that drive the generator. For electricity supply, large turbines can produce a great amount of power. Residential homes and telecommunications stations use small single wind turbines with the capacity of less than 100 kilowatts as an energy source. Above all, it is typical for remote areas, where there are no power supply systems of the common usage. In wind installations, turbines are connected to produce electricity for power utilities. Consumers receive electricity by means of transmission and distribution lines (Hau, 2013).

In 2006, European countries produced about 4% of electricity consumed by wind power (Hau, 2013). Wind power in Germany produced 31 billion kWh of electricity, which was 8% of the total energy produced in Germany. Moreover, in Denmark, the wind energy technologies generated about 21% of electricity (Hau, 2013). In addition, in 2006, India received approximately 4% of all electricity from wind energy.

Furthermore, since the early ‘80s, the United States’ scientists conduct thorough research and testing in the framework of wind energy (Hau, 2013). One of the objectives of this program of wind energy is to reduce the cost of wind power generation on a scale of community facilities.

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Solar Energy Technologies

As it is known, the sun is the primary and the major source of energy for the planet. It heats the entire Earth. Under its rays, 1 quadrillion tons of plants grow feeding 10 trillion tons of animal and bacterial cells (Sohail, 2012). Owing to the sun, there are reserves of hydrocarbon – oil, coal, peat, and others, which people actively burn. If humankind wants to meet its energy needs, about 10 billion tons of equivalent fuel is required per year.

Solar energy rests on the fact that the flux of solar radiation going through a region of 1 square meters situated perpendicular to the flow of radiation at a length of one astronomical unit from the sun is coequal to 1367 W/m (Sohail, 2012). Through the absorption during the passage of the Earth’s atmosphere, the maximum flux of solar radiation at sea level is 1020 W/m (Sohail, 2012). However, it is worth noting that the average daily value of the solar radiation through a single horizontal section is at least three times less. It is associated with the change of a night and a day, as well as the change of the angle of the sun above the horizon. In winter, this amount is even two times less in temperate latitudes.

There are different methods of producing energy at the expense of solar radiation. The first one is the production of electric power with the use of photovoltaic cells. The most common manufacturing technologies of photovoltaic cells are crystalline photovoltaic and thin-film photovoltaic cells. The latter method is the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy by means of heat engines. This approach includes steam machines, mainly pistons, Stirling engines, or turbines that use water vapor, carbon dioxide, propane, butane, and freons. The next method is solar thermal energy. It is the conversion of solar energy into thermal energy by heating the surface absorbing the sun’s rays. There are also solar balloon power stations, which generate water vapor inside the cylinder of the aerostat by heating the surface of the aerostat by solar radiation. The surface of the aerostat is covered with selectively absorbing coating (Sohail, 2012).

The construction of solar power plants requires large areas of land because of the theoretical limits of photovoltaic cells for the first and second generation. For example, the construction of the power plant of 1 GW needs an area of several dozen square kilometers. Photovoltaic inverters work during the daytime and in the morning and evening twilight. At the same time, the peak of power consumption falls on the evening hours. In addition, electricity generated by them may fluctuate sharply and unexpectedly because of weather changes. To overcome these deficiencies, solar power stations use efficient electric batteries (Sohail, 2012). To date, this problem is solved by the creation of unified energy systems that combine different sources of energy, which redistribute produced and consumed power.

Conclusion

In conclusion, alternative energy is the one derived from renewable, inexhaustible sources of energy, which include the wind, solar, biomass, and the internal heat of the earth. To receive alternative energy, special installations are used; mainly wind turbines, solar panels, solar collectors, and other installations. The undoubted merits of alternative energy sources include general widespread of most types, ecology, renewability, and low operating costs. Nowadays, many countries worldwide use various methods to increase the development and expansion of affordable renewable energy.

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