5 Renewable Energies of the Future: Can They Save Our Planet?

Renewable Energies of the Future: Can They Save Our Planet?

“Electricity is a relatively new agent in the arts and manufactures, and generations yet to be born will doubtless look back on this century with interest as the one in which it was first applied to the needs of mankind.” – Alfred Smee

Similarly to how our generation has reflected on the transformation brought about by the production of electricity from fossil fuels over the last century, future generations will reflect on the adoption of new renewable resources over the course of this century.

We are expected to be able to generate all of our energy needs from sources that are completely renewable in the near future. This will result in a more environmentally friendly and less wasteful human reality. Listed below are five of the most promising renewable energy sources for the foreseeable future.

1. Space-based Solar Farms

The gist of it:

  • Energy can be delivered anywhere on the planet
  • Avoiding the drawbacks of traditional solar energy production currently in use.
  • It is possible that it will be commercially viable within the next 30 years.

In 1968, an aerospace engineer by the name of Peter Glaser came up with the idea for this technology for the first time. He is also known as “the father of the solar-powered satellite,” according to some sources.

From that point forward, the concept of establishing orbiting solar energy farms has generated considerable interest among scientists worldwide. They have, on the other hand, never fully appreciated it.

Based on the fact that sunlight in space is largely uninterrupted, this model of energy harvesting is used to generate electricity. The current state of solar technology is dependent on weather conditions. It can only generate energy when the sun is shining brightly.

Space-based solar farms overcome these challenges by eliminating the need for power during the night and inclement weather. Also noteworthy is the fact that sunlight found outside of the Earth’s atmosphere is 30 percent more intense than sunlight found on the planet’s surface.

Several companies would launch inflatable modules into space in order to form a bell-shaped structure that would contain mirrors that would direct and concentrate sunlight onto solar panels, allowing them to function properly. They would then be able to send this energy down to the surface of the planet.

However, it is possible that the difficulties associated with space-based operation are preventing the development of this futuristic technology.

The most difficult challenge is bringing the captured energy back to the surface of the planet. The energy that these solar farms generate can be transmitted down to the ground in the form of microwaves or a powerful laser. There is a problem with this because the cost of the entire process currently outweighs the benefit of the increased power production that it provides at this time.

The transfer of energy has the potential to be harmful if it is used for weaponization or if something goes wrong. However, despite these reservations, this technology has a great deal of potential. In addition, it will be capable of delivering energy to remote locations anywhere on the planet, which will be of tremendous benefit.

Some have predicted that this technology will be commercially viable within 30 years, owing to the rise of private space companies. China is currently developing plans to build a space-based solar power plant. They claim to have already begun testing the technology and hope to have a fully operational space-based solar farm by 2050 at the earliest.

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2. Human Energy

The gist of it:

  • It is appropriate for densely populated urban areas.
  • Heat and kinetic energy that humans have generated can be converted to electricity by this device.
  • Energy that would otherwise be wasted is captured and used.

Food provides calories to humans, which our bodies convert into usable energy once they have been consumed by our bodies. We can compare our bodies to machines in a number of ways, just as any other machine that uses energy to perform work would be. These vital functions, such as keeping our hearts beating and supplying energy to our brains, are powered by this energy.

However, a significant amount of the energy our bodies generate is used in the form of heat and kinetic energy as a result of movement. A large portion of this goes to waste and remains unclaimed by human beings.

Given the number of humans on the planet and the amount of land that is being used to feed such a large population, it may appear that this was a missed opportunity.

To be more specific, for the majority of the history of humanity, human power has been the most important source of mechanical energy available to us. All of our structures, homes, farmlands, and tools were built and used with the help of human or animal energy.

Energy converted by human bodies was used to push the shovel into ground when digging a dam and to swing the hammer when a mason was carving a stone with the help of his or her hands. It has only been relatively recently that we humans have begun to rely on alternative sources of energy, specifically fossil fuels.

The average person’s body generates approximately 100 watts of power while at rest. When engaging in physically demanding activities, production increases significantly.

Cycling, for example, can generate 400 watts of power per hour of activity. Top-performing cyclists, on the other hand, have been recorded as generating up to 1800 watts. That occurred during brief bursts of physical exertion.

You can begin to understand why scientists are paying attention to this promising renewable energy source when you consider the average amount of heat and kinetic energy produced by humans in a single city (energy that is not being harnessed).

Considering how much energy is being wasted, we must ask ourselves: what can we do to capture and utilize all of this energy? When it comes to harnessing human energy, there are two major issues to consider.

To begin, current energy harvesting strategies are not very efficient in terms of converting sunlight into energy. This, however, is expected to change in the near future. Scientists are working on technologies that will allow them to harness this energy with greater efficiency and at a lower cost.

The second obstacle to human power becoming a viable renewable energy source is the current state of battery technology. At the moment, the battery systems that we have available are far too large, heavy, and bulky to make this type of technology a reality. Recent breakthroughs in energy-storage technology, on the other hand, suggest that a breakthrough in this area may be on the horizon soon.

Cities of the future, according to scientists, will be able to harness enough human energy to power entire buildings solely through our daily actions. In fact, a street in London has been transformed with materials that capture kinetic energy generated by pedestrians as they walk down it.

The University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, which is involved in the Human Power Plant project, plans to build a dormitory as part of the project. All of its energy is provided by the students who live within its walls.

The 22-story building will be powered solely by the mechanical energy of the 750 students in attendance. This includes the use of renewable energy sources for lighting and heating, rather than fossil fuels.

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3. Core Geothermal Energy

The gist of it:

  • Is accessible from any location on the planet
  • The ability to produce energy that is equivalent to that produced by nuclear power plants provides an unlimited supply of pollution-free energy.

While we already have the technology to harness geothermal energy in certain locations where volcanic activity is close to the Earth’s surface, this technology is not yet widely available in the majority of the world’s countries and regions.

Deep beneath the surface of the Earth, however, is its molten core, which contains enough energy to meet the needs of the entire human race in an almost limitless supply. If we were able to drill all the way down to the core of the Earth, we would be able to access vast amounts of clean, pollution-free energy that could be used by people all over the world.

The Earth’s core is extremely hot, reaching temperatures of approximately 6,000 degrees Celsius, which is approximately the same temperature as the surface of the sun. Earth’s interior is heated by a combination of residual heat from the planet’s formation, heat generated by radioactive decay, and heat generated by friction as dense core material sinks to the planet’s center.

So, given the enormous amount of energy that lies beneath our accomplishment, why haven’t we taken advantage of it more? Drilling down to a depth of 10,000 kilometers or more is required in order to access deep geothermal heat, which is not readily available. It is estimated that the heat found at these depths is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by a nuclear reactor.

However, because of the extreme temperatures at this incredible depth, the drilling process is made more difficult. Another major challenge is bringing this energy back to the surface using the materials that are currently available to us. Copper, as well as the majority of other commercially viable materials, melts at these temperatures.

A recent development in graphite technology may have provided the solution that scientists were looking for. This is the story of the discovery of graphene.

Graphene is a remarkable material, 200 times stronger than steel and an excellent thermal and electrical conductor. It is used in a variety of applications. When heated to approximately 4,000 degrees Celsius, this material becomes 100 times more conductive than copper, and it only begins to melt at that temperature.

It is possible that using graphene rods that drop down into regions close to the Earth’s core will provide us with limitless energy that is 100 percent pollution-free, which will undoubtedly transform the energy industry.

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4. Quantum Dot Solar Cells

The gist of it:

  • Through the use of solar windows, current solar technology will be transformed.
  • It converts significantly more solar energy than is currently available.
  • The technology can be applied to a variety of different materials.

As well as novel approaches to harnessing renewable energy, the future will bring significant advancements in technologies that are already in use. The use of solar energy has been successfully harnessed for a long time, and the technology has been improving all the time.

The development of quantum dot solar cell technology has only recently been accomplished by scientists.

Quantum dots are nanocrystals that are made of semi-conductive materials and are used in quantum computing. A thin layer of these cells can be applied to a solar cell to improve its efficiency. The nanocrystal particles are excited by the quantum dots, which absorb sunlight and act as excitation sources.

They can convert more than 65 percent of the sunlight that they receive into energy because the band gap of these quantum dots corresponds to the frequency that they are receiving.

This is a far greater efficiency rating than any solar technology currently available to us, with the average solar cell in use today achieving around a 15 percent efficiency rating on average.

Together with the fact that quantum dot solar cells are significantly lighter, more versatile, and more durable than our current solar cells, this technology has the potential to transform a wide range of material surfaces in the future.

Solar windows are one application that has the potential to be successful with this technology. At the same time, these windows would be able to generate electricity while also providing insulation and shading to the building. Due to the fact that the front layer absorbs blue light while the second layer absorbs the rest of the spectrum, windows are extremely energy efficient.

Quantum dots in the second layer of a solar window re-emit photons with a longer wavelength, allowing the energy re-emitted by the quantum dots to be converted into electricity by the solar cells integrated into the window frame. This technology would be relatively inexpensive, and it has the potential to significantly reduce the cost of solar energy technology in the future.

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5. Nuclear Fusion

The gist of it:

  • Has the greatest potential to fundamentally alter the face of energy generation.
  • Comparing nuclear fusion energy to current nuclear fission energy, nuclear fusion energy is 100 percent environmentally friendly.
  • Miniature manufacturing facilities would be transportable.

Because the current method of nuclear fission generates significant amounts of radioactive waste, nuclear technology is sometimes referred to as a “dirty” method of energy production by some people.

People, on the other hand, should be clear about the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission is the process by which a large atom is split into two smaller ones, releasing energy and neutrons in the process, which causes additional atoms to be split. As a result, there is a possibility of a chain reaction.

Nuclear fusion, on the other hand, occurs when two atoms collide and fuse together to form a heavier atom, which releases energy that is exponentially greater than that released by fission. Fusion, in contrast to fission, does not generate radioactive waste products that last for a long time, making it a clean energy source.

Fusion can also be carried out using materials that are virtually inexhaustible and widely available on the market. As it turns out, solar energy is a type of fusion energy because the sun generates energy through the use of a fusion process that takes place within its center.

With nuclear fusion’s ability to produce approximately four million times more energy than coal burning, we would only require a fraction of the number of power plants currently in operation on Earth to be able to meet the energy demands of the entire human population. The amount of energy produced by nuclear fusion is so enormous that it could be considered virtually limitless in the future.

Despite the fact that fusion is a highly promising energy source, it is not without its drawbacks. Among these are: It is extremely difficult to complete the process successfully. This is due to the fact that the reaction can only occur in extremely extreme circumstances. Fusion necessitates the use of extremely high temperatures (100 million degrees Kelvin) and enormous amounts of pressure.

Because of these requirements, achieving nuclear fusion on Earth frequently necessitates the use of more energy than it produces. However, as technology progresses and scientists continue their research, we are getting closer to developing a commercially viable fusion reactor.

An international collaboration of 35 countries is building the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France. It has been looking for a way to harness the potential energy from this source for some time.

Some predict that the ITER will be able to provide nuclear fusion energy to the grid as early as 2045, if all goes according to plan. That is setting the standard for environmentally friendly, limitless energy.

Even private companies are investing in nuclear fusion research in order to realize its full potential. Lockheed Martin and Tokamak, a company based in the United Kingdom, are among those involved.

Supposedly, Lockheed Martin claims that they could potentially build an experimental fusion reactor small enough to fit on a truck trailer and capable of supplying enough energy to power 100,000 homes. As early as 2030, a tokamak could be producing nuclear fusion energy for the first time.

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Our Next Steps

Technological advancement has occurred at an exponential rate throughout history, and the energy sector is no exception. We will transition to a world that solely relies on renewable energy within the lifetime of someone who was born in the last 20 years, almost unanimously agree scientists.

Because of the threat that climate change poses to us as a species, we must make this transition as quickly as possible. Although people may not always be optimistic about the future, when it comes to the future of energy production, the outlook is unquestionably brighter and more environmentally friendly.

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