Renewable Energy and the Future

Renewable Energy and the Future

What is the future of renewable energy?

Last week Planet of the Humans a documentary presented by Michael Moore and directed by Jeff Gibbs was released on YouTube. The documentary painted an alarming picture of renewable energy in the United States. We are not here to discuss money or politics.  However, we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater.  On this occasion, renewable energy is the baby and the bathwater is politics and money. If we cut through the weeds of the documentary very little data was disclosed and only expert opinions were put forward. Unfortunately, this documentary highlights none of the novel ideas that are being implemented in the United States and around the world. Therefore, it did a disservice to those research scientists and engineers working hard behind the scenes in the race for greener technology and renewable energy.  

Planet of the Humans has over 5 million views on YouTube and several articles calling for it to be taken down or banned. We ask that you look at what renewable energy is doing right via another documentary that shows a global outlook. Energy Hunger, Blackouts and Energy Providers documentary by Deutsche Welle provides another lens. This documentary looks at the various renewable technologies being researched and implemented around the globe.
Energy Hunger, Blackouts and Energy Providers documentary by Deutsche Welle part 1.
Video timestamps:-
The world’s largest solar power plant in Morocco – 03:31-08:25
Wind Farms in the North Sea  – 15:15-17:06
The world’s first solar highway in China –  26:40-30:11
Storing electricity at the Franunhofer Institute’s RedOx Flow battery  – 35:03-38:06
Alternative Nuclear power? Nuclear Fusion research at Max Planck Institute – 38:10-41:57

What Is Certain?

What we know is true: – 

  • Solar does not work at night. Solar energy conversion rates range from 15 to 22%.
  • Offshore peak wind energy yield is seasonal.  Onshore wind is limited by direction and varying speed.
  • Hydrogen is a clean source of energy with water as a waste product. A renewable source of hydrogen is vital. 
  • Renewable energy cannot replace coal tonne for tonne.  To avoid arcing when renewable levels drop, we require a backup energy generator.
  • Cash rules – government and/or cooperate involvement is vital. Long-term investments are key to the success of renewable energy. 
  • Overpopulation is an easy excuse. Who decides who should live? The most populated countries do not use the most energy. 
  • Battery storage capabilities are the limiting step in renewable energy. The energy stored can dissipate therefore, this process is both expensive and unreliable.

What We've Learnt?

Yes, we would like to leapfrog into a utopia where emissions from energy produced water and not pollutant gases or particles. 

Our take-home message from Planet of the Humans is that the renewable energy/green movement has a chance, to be honest and speak plainly. Let’s amend the valid criticism.  For example, biomass and biofuel from trees, ethanol and sugarcane should not be classified as renewable fuels. The burning of PCP treated railroad tiles and tyres is solid waste combustion and should not be permitted as a carbon-neutral activity. Abiding by waste hierarchy rules is essential. A waste-to-energy plant provides a recovery route, however, an incinerator without energy recovery facilities is a disposal route.    

Oil and gas, mining, pharmaceuticals and airlines and are easy targets for the green movement. We rarely mention the energy required by big data and tech companies to provide cloud storage. How about the energy required by shipping and our need for commodities and fashion. We are all consumers and/or traders therefore we all have a stake in the problem.  

Cooperation is key, especially after this time of lockdown, where we can improve upon the reduced emissions to air and water. Let’s share the substantial green/renewable technologies that are making a change. Many countries will need to take a leaf from the pages of those who know-how.  Let’s ensure that collaborations take place driving forward reliable and effective technologies. 

What about Transportation?

More countries are investing in renewable energy. The race to reduce our fossil fuel dependency is on and transportation is a key hurdle. In Japan, the 2020 Olympics planned to use over 100 hydrogen-powered buses. Terntank in Sweden has ordered tankers that run on liquified natural gas/ liquefied biogas LNG/LBG and hybrid battery system. China is working on projects to install solar panels on their motorways. Let’s keep the momentum going.

Energy Hunger, Blackouts and Energy Providers documentary by Deutsche Welle part 2.
Video timestamps:-
18 year old wind turbine trading power directly to electricity consumers – 02:00-04:06
Electric ferries in Norway  – 05:35-08:09
Electric cars in Oslo, Norway –  08:10-10:37
Hydrogen-powered buses in Japan – 16:16-17:17
The wind turbine in Yokahama city, Japan that generates electricity for Hydrogen gas –  18:17-20:16
Electric powered aircraft – 23:23-25.49
Solar gasoline or synthetic kerosene – 26:32-29:33
The first smart city Fujisawa, Japan – 31:10-33:20
Energy consumption of digital transactions (digitalisation and sustainability) – 33:45-36:02
Internet of Things – 37:00-37:42
Sever farms and data centres – 37:45-40:37

What Does the Future Hold?

The renewable energy market has a variety of options available for nations around the world.  The combination chosen may depend more on price, natural resources and climate. Our need for energy is increasing every day. Whether it is via data consumption, electronics, air conditioning in the summer or heating in the winter months.

The ultimate question we must ask is how much are we willing to pay for renewable energy?

Feature Image:

Renewable Energy Future.
Solar Farm, Región de antofagasta, Chile. Image: Antonio Garcia | Unsplash

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