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Renewable energy
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Advantages

The advantages of renewable energy sources are:

  • they are abundant and wide spread
  • they are non-polluting
  • the fuel source in the form of sunlight or wind is free of all charges and is an inexhaustible resource

Disadvantages

The disadvantages are:

  • variation in sunlight between day and night
  • variation in sunlight between summer and winter
  • the source is diffuse so that the 'collector' or 'absorber' may need to be reasonably large

Centralised versus dispersed energy production
Today most of our energy production is centralised with large electrical power stations situated on or near coal fields or near coal fields or near gas pipelines. This energy is then transmitted and distributed to our homes by electrical cables or pipelines. Whilst this is the most efficient form of generation and supply of energy supplied by fossil fuels, it does require a large infrastructure and leads to substantial losses of the order of 20%.

The reintroduction and uptake of renewable energy sources is most efficiently done at point of use as such sources are widespread and abundant. The losses in transmission and distribution can then be avoided. The electricity grid and pipe lines then perform a different role in which they supply energy if insufficient renewable energy is available locally or transfer energy if supply exceeds demand. In particular the electrical grid lines can link local sources together so that lack of supply in one area can be met by supplies from another area where the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

The challenge
The challenge will be to adapt our lifestyle to the variation during the day and between seasons like summer and winter. Thermal storage and electrical storage will have a key role to minimise the mismatch between supply and demand.

In the longer term, we may need to adapt our lifestyle so that we work when energy is available and so this may mean going to school some days and staying at home on other days when no renewable energy is available. This could be quite an enjoyable experience.



 

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