Recently, many countries around the world have been embracing more popular sustainable energy sources, such as wind, hydroelectricity, and solar. Germany, China, and surprisingly the USA are all leaders in renewable energy installation and generation. What are not often discussed, however, are the many alternate sources of renewable energy that are on their way to becoming economically viable in the future.
Most uses of geothermal energy are residential systems, which aid in the heating and cooling of houses. In most places around the world, the shallow ground under the earth’s surface maintains a constant temperature of about 15⁰C. This constant temperature allows underground water filled pipes to aid heating in the winter and cooling in the summer.
There are a few power plants that generate electricity from geothermal energy in the form of steam generated turbines. These plants must be located over what is called a ‘geothermal reservoir.’ Unfortunately, these are fairly uncommon and we have yet to dig deep enough in the earth to harness the power of magma. Geothermal energy is a long way off from becoming a commonly used source of electricity, due to the earth’s limited presence of shallow reservoirs. On a small scale, as a complement to other forms of energy, geothermal is a promising source of heat control for residences and businesses.
Biofuel is the burning of organic matter in order to once again turn steam turbines, or to use the burning directly as a heat source. The sources of biofuel can be anything from edible plants, to plant waste, to human and animal waste. Despite popular opinion, burning biofuels is actually not bad for the environment on the whole. The act of burning plant matter is actually carbon neutral, the Co2 they draw out of the air during their lifetime is returned to the atmosphere once the plant is burned.
Biofuels are extremely accessible for people all over the world because animal and human waste is as common as humans themselves are. Excess plant matter from agriculture can also be used, but unfortunately the main source of biofuel in the western world is ethanol. I say unfortunately because ethanol is almost exclusively derived from plants that would be edible, had they not been turned into fuels. This is a problem because only about 10% of the land on earth is considered arable (suitable to sustain crops). With the world encountering another food crisis, we need to dedicate the land that we can draw crops from toward making food.
We already readily use one astral body to harvest a steady supply of energy, why not another? The moon controls the ocean tides, and we have confirmed that the tides raise and lower as regular as the sun rises. Despite this constant source of movement we can and should harness, very little research and development is being done in the way of tidal energy.
Tidal energy is mostly being harnessed through something called a ‘tidal barrage.’ It works on the same principle as a hydroelectric dam, only instead of the water repository being a dammed off water source, the tidal barrage allows water to fill up its reservoir during high tide and lets it go during low tide. This is a reliable coastal alternative to inland hydroelectric dams, which require large tracts of gently sloping land to gather enough water.
TENG (triboelectric nanogenerator)
You know any technology with the word ‘nano’ in it is going to be cool, and TENG is no exception. TENG is basically harnessing the power of static electricity, the generation of excess electrons due to friction. This has so many different applications for the future of clean energy, everyday objects can turn into power generators. Think about how much energy we are literally flushing away when we use the drains in our homes. All the water flowing through our pipes can soon be used to power our cities!
These generators are so precise that they can even generate energy from raindrops landing on solar panels! No longer will a cloudy day prevent a large solar field from powering its users. While this technology is far from becoming commonplace, it definitely has the most versatility.
What other renewable energy source do you find is underrepresented?