Monday, July 16, 2012

Renewable lies?

Is renewable energy the answer to our energy demand? This is a question we have asked many times, and often the answer is mixed. Like everything else in life, it has its shades of black and white and grey! The latest study just released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (an organization that exists to study and promote the viability of renewable energy) suggests that it may be possible to get 80% or so of North America’s electric power from renewable sources by 2050. But is that significant? Not really when you focus on the word power, as against energy! An interesting interpretation of the study goes to show how the same study indirectly proves that renewable energy will be a minority player in humanity’s energy portfolio.
The blogger goes on to show how the study suggests that only 13% of our electric energy will come from solar. Distributed solar enthusiasts (who favor photovoltaic solar panels on rooftops) will be further disappointed because half of that 13% will come from water-sucking centralized concentrated solar thermal power plants, many located in desert ecosystems, leaving only about 6% for solar panels on rooftops, of which many will probably not be on rooftops but in centralized power plants, probably displacing ecosystems or crops.
As electricity represents only 40% of the US’ energy needs, if all renewable energy sources are used up for electricity, there won’t be any left for the other 60% of the energy needs. In other words, what the study tells is that only 32% of the total energy needs can be “potentially” renewable.
He goes on into the definition of renewable, where hydro and biofuels fail to qualify while biomass is shown to be more polluting than coal. Removing all these from the renewable bracket would mean lesser energy available for electricity. Read on for more on nuclear and more.
All this brings us back to – what do we do now? Opt for nuclear? Or put the brakes on energy consumption? Is that possible? Or simply wait for a replenishment of energy dense fossil fuels? This would of course mean another mass extinction that leaves behind organic matter to decay over millions of years to produce the fossil fuels for another race??! Write in.

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