4 Energy Sources That Will Define the Upcoming Decades

Introduction

It’s no shock that we’re running out of fossil fuels to burn for energy. At our current production rate, we’ll run out of oil in 52 years and natural gas in 53 years. With a rising population and globalization taking hold of the planet, we will likely see these resources dry up even sooner.

Whether we want to make a change is not up for debate; without a backup plan in place, all cars would stop running, all computers would shut down, and all homes would go dark. Global society cannot rely on fossil fuels for much longer before it is too late.

In response, governments worldwide have attempted to curb our reliance on fossil fuels in favor of other renewable resources (bonus points for low carbon footprints). Over the course of this article, we’ll look at the four most significant renewable resources and consider how they’ll impact the energy sector of tomorrow.

The 4 Energy Sources

The four primary renewable energy sources that will (likely) define our future in the upcoming decades are the following:

  1. Solar Energy
  2. Wind Energy
  3. Tidal Energy
  4. Hydro Energy

Let’s take a quick look into each one of these energy sources.

#1 Solar Energy

The sun is 4.18 nonillion (that is 31 digits long!) pounds of burning rock waiting to have its energy harvested by us. The sun’s rays provide Earth with 173,000 terawatts of energy continuously. To add some perspective, an hour of the sun’s energy is enough to power the planet for an entire year.

Solar energy can be collected through three methods: photovoltaics, solar heating and cooling, and concentrating solar power.

  • Photovoltaics (PV) systems use solar panels, which collect energy via the PV cells inside the panels. The energy collected during this process turns into energy which can then be used to power any electrical device.
  • Solar heating and cooling (SHC) systems collect the sun’s thermal energy, which can be used to provide warm water, space heating, and cooling for residential and commercial spaces. It’s estimated that 72% of our energy is spent on water heating, space heating, and space cooling, which makes SHC a potential game-changer.
  • Concentrating solar power (CSP) systems use mirrors to reflect sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. This energy can be turned into electricity and is often found in large power plants.

A significant advantage of solar energy is that it can be collected on-site by placing solar panels on the roofs of buildings and homes but can also be collected and stored in solar power plants for distribution. Solar technology has improved enough that we can hang onto this energy long after the sun sets at night.

Millions of solar installations have been set up around the United States, accounting for enough energy to power nearly 25 million homes. Solar energy is arguably the hottest renewable energy source, with an incredible average growth rate of 33% over the last decade.

#2 Wind Energy

Go to any rural area, and you’re sure to find wind turbines somewhere, and for a good reason. By using wind turbines, we can harvest an endless supply of clean energy for just 1–2 cents per kilowatt, making it one of the most cost-effective energy collection methods.

The aerodynamic nature of wind turbines creates drag and lift of the rotor blades, which causes them to spin. Once the blades get moving, they’ll pick up power that will be transmitted to the generators that they’re connected to for collection.

Wind energy accounts for roughly 16% of the renewable energy industry and has seen plenty of growth in recent years to make it a key contributor in the sector for years to come.

One challenge with wind is location. Wind turbines need space to collect wind which is why it’s unfortunately only seen in rural areas. For wind energy to be widespread, transmission lines between wind power sites and urban areas where energy is needed must be created.

#3 Tidal Energy

Tidal power is an energy source that is collected through the rise and fall of tides in large bodies of water. Water turbines collect the force of the water to collect energy. This energy can then be converted into various forms of energy.

In regions with a significant disparity between high tides and low tides, this energy source can be highly beneficial for generating power. Unfortunately, due to the need for a large tidal range, tidal power has not been able to see much use in the world.

Tidal energy is still in its infancy, and investors are not too confident about the practice’s profitability. Still, as the need to curb carbon emissions increases over time, tidal energy will find more places for its potential to shine.

#4 Hydro Energy

Hydro energy is one of the oldest forms of renewable energy, dating back to the ancient Greeks who used the flow of water to turn the wheels of their mills and ground wheat into flour.

Hydro energy is collected by creating a dam on rivers or streams where lots of water is constantly flowing and using a gate or valve to regulate how much water can flow into the reservoir. Like tidal energy, the water that flows through generates power is collected by turbines and sent to a nearby power plant for storage.

While this energy source may not be practical in regions such as western Asia, where bodies of water can be scarce, hydropower is a suitable form of energy for the majority of the planet.

Hydro energy is a reliable and proven form of renewable energy source, which is why it currently accounts for 37% of the renewable energy sector and 7% of the entire energy sector.

Conclusion

Fossil fuels may currently be contributing to the increase in carbon emissions and the threat of climate change, but that doesn’t have to be forever. Thankfully, we have a variety of forms of renewable and clean energy that we can fall back on over the upcoming years.

This is an issue that we cannot wait on for much longer; making a conscious and determined push for better energy sources will be the largest priority in stopping climate change.

Through a combination of solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, hydro energy, and more, we can finally see an end to the damaging of our planet and the species that call it home.

This article was brought to you by The Earth Store, an eCommerce business that sells bamboo toothbrushes and donates a portion of profits toward environmental organizations to help create a safer world for tomorrow. Check out our InstagramFacebook, and Twitter to receive more content on climate change and the environment.
The cover photograph of this article was taken from Karsten Würth
Solar energy and wind energy photograph from Pixabay | Tidal energy photograph from Kellie Churchman | Hydro energy photograph from Ali Madad Sakhirani

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