The World’s Energy Resources
Different types of energy resources and how they operate.
The world has continued to innovate and expand our technology at an exponential rate. This drive for advancement has increased our energy demand monumentally. From where do we expect to get all of this extra electricity? Simply put, we will get it from all around us. We have developed methods of manipulating energy and harnessing the elements to ramp up our energy production. Our current worldwide energy production has nearly doubled since 1993.
Here, you can see that the renewable energy resources are not only growing, but it is assumed that their energy production will skyrocket. This, coupled with improved efficiency in fossil fuel combustion could help us to decrease the growth rate of our carbon footprint.
Nuclear energy is the most efficient use of manipulating energy today with a capacity factor of 92%. Monumentally more efficient than natural gas operating at 56%, coal at 55%, and wind at 33% efficiency.
Through this process, we can harness the energy from a single atom of Uranium-isotope 235 by hitting it with an electron. Plutonium-239 is also used but it stems from the same concept. This reaction turns U-235 into U-236, Uranium’s much less stable cousin.
The atom can not hold this form effectively so it will split into two other isotopes. This split releases two very important things. First, it releases more molecules which in turn slam into other U-235 atoms and create a very powerful chain reaction. But secondly, and more importantly, it releases energy in the form of heat. As previously mentioned, this form of energy can be harnessed by manipulating the first law of thermodynamics.
When heat is released from this original atom and all of its fellow atoms that are in the chamber with it, heat is sent down a pipe through another chamber that is filled with water. The incredible heat in the pipe makes the water around it boil and turn into steam. Steam is powerful in this system because it creates pressure and is sent through yet another pipe that passes through and turns a massive turbine. The energy is once more manipulated and leaves the nuclear power plant in the form of electricity for the world to use.
Coal power plants operate under very similar designs with the difference, of course, being that the heat energy is released through the burning of the coal. This is very efficient with the added benefit of being relatively easy compared to the safety precautions for handling radioactive elements. There is also no worry of an unstoppable meltdown.
Gathering this substance from the earth, along with other fossil fuels, is the harder part. Companies that run these plants have to contend with the earth itself as an obstacle. Coal and oil are composed of ancient living organism’s remains deep underground. After being aged and compressed into their new respective forms, they must be “harvested” through different methods of reaching deep into the earth.
Manipulating solar and wind energy has been the main focus for many renewable energy proponents. Being naturally occurring with a side of easy operation is a delectable combination. Windmills and solar panels are clever ways of taking advantage of something that is already around us. No need to dig or drill to find these powerful resources; one being a largely unpredictable natural force and the other, a reliable form of heat that maintains our entire planet’s climate. Why would anybody pass that up?
The research and development in these specific fields have increased exponentially in recent years (as shown in the table). The United States has been working with this resource for years but the rest of the world is really catching up. China had next to no wind-energy collection devices operating just twenty years ago. They now have more than installed than even the United States, even though we maintain far more actual energy generation than any other country.
Every year, more and more windmills become operational and aid in the renewable energy cause. Because wind is a constant randomly occurring force, there is the potential to collect it from anywhere at any time. Windmills have been spread all across the globe in an effort to harness this energy to help those around it.
A windmill can be placed alone or in a large group and still be operated by one central hub. The typical windmill has three enormous, yet extremely light blades crafted from a mix of plywood and a glassfiber-epoxy polymer. A single blade averages 60–70 meters but can range anywhere up to 100 meters.
Innovation has taken this ancient farming design and turned it into a global energy contender. Such a desire to progress technology for the future’s benefit is comforting.
Progress can continue to be made in the energy field with all of these new and exciting methods developing so quickly. The time has come to use what has been discovered and manufactured and prepare for following generations. More innovation will lead to more efficient collection. More efficiency will lead to advancement in resources that will not cause damage to our home. Hopefully these advancements will lead us to a cleaner future.
The WEC’s energy survey