Can The World Thrive On 100% Renewable Energy by 2050?
Renewable energy has taken off in the last decade. Places like Denmark are producing 43% of their energy from renewables, with a goal to produce 70% by 2020. Germany is producing over 25% now, with a goal to achieve 80% by 2050. About 13% of all electricity in the US is currently produced by renewable energy. This includes wind, solar, and hydroelectric dams.
Despite all of the nations currently committed to achieving 100% renewable energy, can the world actually survive – and thrive – on 100% renewable energy? With a 40% increase in demand in energy by 2035, we will need to find new and innovative ways to make this a reality. Places like The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and The National Renewable Energy Lab seem to think that 100% renewable energy is technically achievable over the next few decades.
Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.
–National Renewable Energy Lab
What Is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is energy that is collected from a renewable source. This means that very few resources are lost as a result of its production. The wind doesn’t lose power when it turns the propellers of the windmill. The sun doesn’t lose power when its rays are absorbed by a solar array.
According to the US Energy Information Association, there are 7 types of renewable energy:
Solar energy is the energy from the sun.
Pro’s: Massive range of ways to collect solar power from solar plates to solar water heaters
Con’s: It will not generate electricity if it is cloudy out.
Wind power is energy from motion generated by wind.
Pro’s: Fairly simple to set up
Con’s: Requires extensive coverage to provide meaningful amounts of energy
Hydroelectric energy is the energy from the gravitational potential energy of water.
Pro’s: Very little energy loss.
Con’s: Most of the world’s locations that can support hydroelectric dams have been used for such already.
Biomass is energy taken from plants.
Pro’s: Commonly available
Con’s: Most used form of Biomass energy is burning of trees which is often unsustainable
Hydrogen and Fuel Cell
Hydrogen and fuel cell are different from batteries in that they are chemical reactions that produce energy.
Pro’s: Will provide energy for as long as the fuel and oxygen are supplied.
Con’s: Require a continuous source of fuel and oxygen to sustain the reaction
Geothermal power is about using the energy of the Earth’s heat.
Pro’s: Reliable, cheap.
Con’s: Some environmental issues, may cause earthquakes. Heavy upfront costs.
Other Forms of Power
Con’s: Most of the other forms of energy are situational for instance wave-power or salt water energy require specific geographical constraints.
Why is Renewable Energy Important?
The term renewable energy is a phrase that has dominated the news for the last five years – and for good reason too. Over the course of 65 years, the U.S. has seen what amounts to an exponential increase in energy usage.
Increased dependence leads to certain questions, specifically:
a) What would we do without it?
b) How is this affecting the Earth?
Renewables, which are more or less unlimited, account for such a small percentage of the amount of electricity we use. This shows the ineffectiveness in how we are currently using and making electricity.
This also brings up a very important fear; that excessive use will end up killing the golden goose. Using renewable energy will decrease the massive impact that energy consumption is having on our planet, and at the same time is often present in abundance.
What Is The Most Efficient Renewable Energy Source?
Taking into account the cost, material, labor and environmental impact, the most efficient source of renewable energy is wind energy. Wind energy is a clean and efficient form of energy that is surprisingly, and perhaps most importantly, can easily be implemented on a wide scale.
Although it has high upfront costs, its upkeep is low, and its source of energy is free. As it is in harmony with nature, it can be constructed on multi-use land. This includes land such as farmland, used for growing crops or grazing animals.
But wind energy also brings up some issues. What do you do if you live in a place without access to the open space? that are the best for putting wind fields and promoting such an energy collection system? Birds have been known to be heavily affected by the presence of wind collection devices near or through migratory paths. Additionally, similarly to solar, nothing can be done about the wind not blowing.
What Drives Sustainability?
One of the major drivers of sustainability is government incentives. While sustainability is usually guided by environmental effects, often it is unknown what the fiscal impacts of the decisions will be. One of the thing that also shows a promising outcome as we go into the future is the amount of change that the sustainable energy sources have seen.
In the early decades of the 1900’s the main sources of energy were coal, petroleum, and wood. Between 2001 and 2017, however, major changes have been done in how much these are used. With collaboration and innovation, making the world run on 100% renewable energy seems possible.
Could We Ever Be 100% Sustainable Energy Dependent?
It’s clear that even after so many years, the foray into making energy sustainable has just begun. Currently, less than 10% of our energy is considered to be “sustainable”. This brings the need for innovation and open dialogue to the forefront.
Places like Arizona, where the heat index is already so high, become essential to creating these developments. Driving sustainable innovation in such a harsh climate allows these technologies to be implemented wherever they are needed. This, above all, requires cooperation.
Companies like Naya Energy hope to be at the forefront of this movement. Naya’s new initiative PEIR (Property Energy Impact Report) helps companies get an overall understanding over how and what are the best, smartest, and most efficient ways to better save energy and to add sustainability back into the equation.
Written by Naya Contributor Nikhil Patel