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Are there any realistic alternatives to gas and oil?

Discussion in 'Earth and Environmental Science' started by Shaun, 23 Apr 2012.

  1. Shaun

    Shaun Über Geek

    Solar, wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass and geothermal energy all have their pros and cons but as more nations become more developed and the demands for energy increase, can these alternative energy sources provide a realistic solution to those demands?
     
  2. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    Yes, I think the core renewables wind, solar and water can supply all our needs even with a much larger demand.

    It's estimated that the oceans alone could supply twice the current world demands. Which is still my top source for the future. If money was no object you could build continent sized wave generators in the deep ocean, which is mainly devoid of living things. Very little environmental impact and a huge constant source of power.

    On the train yesterday I noticed quite a few houses with solar panels, how much energy could we capture if every roof was covered in solar tiles? Then there is the huge potential for of shore and on shore wind generation.

    Combined there is more than enough source energy even without biomass, nuclear or geothermal.

    Along with a global super conducting electrical backbone, already being tested in a few places, you could move electricity around the world to match supply with demand. Along with very large batteries to buffer supply where needed and locally installed solar or small wind generators to take load of the national grid.

    We don't need fossil fuels.
     
  3. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    Location:
    Reading
    The best book I have read on the subject is Sustainability Without the Hot Air by David MacKay. One of the best things about this book is that you can read it free here. The other good thing about it is that the arithmetic is quite understandable to the layman (which is probably why he was appointed chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and why he hasn't been sacked by the coalition yet). He only looks at the UK's energy needs. He concludes that it is just about possible to live off renewables alone, but it is very, very difficult. Political, social and economic considerations will probably ensure that it does not happen, at least not for a long time. The sums are a bit easier if nuclear is added.
     
  4. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Location:
    UK
    "Assuming a range of 4 m, a typical range in
    many European estuaries, the maximum power of an artificial tide-pool that’s filled rapidly at high tide and emptied rapidly at low tide, generating power from both flow directions, is about 3 W/m2."

    Thats from the free book mentioned above from the tidal section. Would that mean I could charge my mobile phone with a m2 of water?

    From a quick read it seems quite a good study. It does not seem to fully take into account lots of small scale generators like maybe mobile phones with solar panels on their body and keep themselves topped up, maybe even the same same with electric cars. There is a lot of research into flexible solar capture devices. I even saw recently transparent windows that capture energy from the outside or from lights inside the building.

    Wave and tidal generation may get much better results after a large scale insulation, which we have not seen yet.

    Also I think to go 100% renewable is a global effort with places like desserts helping more populated areas.