Let us understand the concept of sustainable energy, and walk through its various utilities.
What is Sustainable Energy?
The energy that is used almost at an insignificant amount compared to its abundant supply can be termed as sustainable energy. This kind of energy has manageable effects on the environment; it is the kind of resource that serves the needs of the present generation, without depleting the same for the future generation. However, there is a common mistake of equating renewable energy with sustainable energy. Renewable energy can be defined as the energy which naturally replenishes itself on the historical chronology. However, sustainable energy is the one, which does not let the system compromise in which it is developed. The organizing principle for sustainable energy is sustainable development. This kind of development includes four interlaced domains, namely the economics, ecology, politics, and culture.
What are the technologies used?
Technologies that are used to create and promote sustainable energy mainly wind energy, water energy, hydroelectricity, solar energy, geothermal energy, wave power, bio-energy, tidal power etc. With the turmoil of the ecological balance, caused due to the atrocity of environmental pollution, the governments around the world are increasingly investing in the sustainable energy technology markets and investments. The phenomenon of energy efficiency and renewable energy are considered to be the two cornerstones of sustainable energy.
The utility of sustainable energy
The sustainable energy utility can be dived into three kinds, depending on the sources, namely, the first generation technologies, the second generation technologies and the third generation technologies.
First generation technology
Among the sources of sustainable energy, hydroelectric power plants have the advantage of sustainable longevity. The existing hydroelectric power plants already have a reported longevity of 100 years. Recent innovations in hydroelectricity are enabling efficient development of low impact, ‘run of the river’ hydroelectricity. Generically, hydroelectric power plants produce much lower harmful effluents and emissions compared to the other types of generation. These plants are further clean and have lesser harmful emissions.
Hydroelectric sustainable energy underwent an extensive development whilst the boom of electrification in the 19th and 2oth century epoch. In the era of 21st century, it is evolving with a greater boom. It has been an immensely important economy in Asia, with China being its developing leader. But, it is important to note that this energy growth is driven by high-cost maintenance, especially imported energy. Hence there is an increasing need for clean, domestically produced economical generation. However, there has been criticism directed too. The criticism claims that hydroelectric power plantation has led to the dislocation of people living in the area, where the reservoirs are planted. There have also been reports of the release of carbon dioxide during construction and flooding of the reservoir.
Geothermal power plants similarly can be utilized for 24hours every day. Its capacity depends on its load and potential. Studies reveal the potential for geothermal power is an estimated 85 GW, in the coming 30 years. This kind of energy is unfortunately still relegated to be available in specific parts of the world, namely The United States of America, Philippines, Central America, West Africa, Iceland, and Indonesia. The cost of maintenance and production of this sustainable energy has however reduced since the coming of the 1970s. The EGS (Enhanced Geothermal System) technology is agile enough not to require natural convection hydrothermal resources. As a result, it can be used in areas that were formerly not suited for the development of this kind of energy. The U.S Department of Energy is currently conducting extensive research on the EGD technology.
Second generation technologies
The second generation technology of sustainable energy includes solar heating. The solar heating system consists of solar thermal collectors which are basically a fluid mechanism to move the heat from the collector to the point of usage, to finally a reservoir for heat storage and subsequent usage of it. This sustainable energy technology may be utilized domestic heating of hot water, the water of the pool as well as for space heating. The heat can be further utilized for industrial application too.
Some of the other sustainable energy second generation technology may include the wind power energy. This energy also happens to be a cost effective sustainable energy, with relatively low production cost. However, in some cases and spaces around the world, wind power becomes difficult to be integrated into electricity grids.
Third generation technologies
As acknowledged by the International Energy Agency, biofuels are deemed to be third generation sustainable energy. The ocean energy or the energy of the tidal waves happens to be another example of third generation sustainable energy. Though there have been significant developments in the third generation technologies, it is still yet to be recognized as of significant commercial value.
Academic scope for sustainable energy and its development
Sustainable energy is a form of study which has an unthinkable amount of scope. Though the study of sustainable energy was relegated to research realms in the former days, with the coming of age, its study has started being implemented as regular courses in colleges across space. On such significant example would be the course Sustainable Energy and Building Technology in the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. Based in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), this college was built in 1967, with an agenda of advanced learning.
Their course of Sustainable Energy and Building Technology is a part of their school of applied technology. This course was developed with the mindset that the world is in a period of transition, from the times when the availability, cost and environmental impact of energy usage was not of significant importance to the current times when the same issues become a matter of prime importance to the generic mass, government and the different business enterprises.
This course is an advanced diploma course, which helps the stellar graduate students to prepare themselves to serve in project management roles in major four areas of focus. They are, first, energy conservation, efficiency and management, second Green and Sustainable Buildings, Third Implementation of Sustainable Energy Technology and finally Sustainable Community Development.
Thus Sustainable Energy is evolving as a major phenomenon in the 21st century and has gone beyond the relegation of being a topic of interest only for researchers. Academic advancements in this field, in terms of this domain being introduced as a regular course in colleges, shows how IT is slowly becoming the call of the hour.
To know more about the various utilities of renewable energy, visit here.