Smart investors know that green energy is set to be one of the key growth industries in the 21st century. Globally, wind power alone is already worth more than $2.43 billion, and the leading players in the energy market are hurriedly diversifying into renewable energy sector.
Shell estimates that 50 per cent of the world’s energy needs could be met by renewables by 2050. In the past, the main argument against renewable energy has been one of time and cost. Why research and develop new sources of energy when fossil fuels are cheap and abundant? But this argument begins to appear hollow when the true costs of fossil fuel are revealed.
The International Center for Technology Assessment, a leading US think-tank, calculates that $1 worth of petrol bought on the garage forecourt actually costs between $5 and $15 when we take into account hidden costs, including the costs of air, land, and sea pollution, and the generous tax breaks bestowed on the oil companies.
Many governments are seeking to level the playing field by introducing fairer tax structures that reward cleaner technologies, by directly funding renewable technologies, and by setting green energy targets. Consumers are also driving the move to renewables. In the late 1990′s, deregulation in the energy business meant that people could choose which company supplied the electricity to their home. Many opted for companies with the best environmental credentials, and today there are numerous energy schemes that supply “green” electricity from renewable sources.
Over the next few years, renewables will increasingly supplement fossil fuels and nuclear energy; in the longer term they could – theoretically – supplant conventional sources of power. If this is to happen, one problem remains to overcome – predictability of supply.
Energy is only useful if it is in the right place, in the right form, and in the right time. The answer is to store up excess energy from renewable sources, then release it to smooth out fluctuations in demand.
The excess renewable energy, in the form of electricity or heat, can be used to split water into its constituent elements – hydrogen and oxygen gases. These gases can be liquified for ease of storage and transport, and then recombined in a device called a fuel cell to produce electricity.
Fuel cells work at efficiencies of more than 70 per cent, and produce only water as a waste product. They are already being widely used to drive buses and cars and are hailed by many as the power source of the future.
Recommended Books on Alternative Energy
- The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment
- Renewable Energy: Power for a Sustainable Future, Second Edition
- Alternative Energy For Dummies
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