Alternative Energy Solutions Including Electricity from Renewable Sources
The production of energy from renewable sources, such as wind, sun and biofuels, is a sector that is becoming increasingly important in recent years. The main reason for this is that, eventually, the fossil fuel reserves will end. It is, therefore, essential to find alternative ways to produce energy.
There are also other reasons for the use of renewable sources:
- environmental: fossil fuels can be very polluting; in particular, they emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas believed to be one of the causes of global warming
- political: fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are not present everywhere on the planet, but mainly in some areas (i.e. the Middle East for oil, Russia for gas). These political issues are becoming even more important now, with the uncertain situation in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, caused by the earthquake, has also cast many doubts about the use of nuclear energy.
Considering this situation, there is always more interest in renewable sources and their performance for energy production. Here are some data recently published about the energy produced from some of these sources as we look for alternative energy solutions.
March 2011: record month for wind energy in Spain
According to the Spanish Wind Energy Association (Asociación Empresarial Eólica), wind energy was the main source of electricity in Spain for the month of March 2011, supplying about 21% of the total electricity production. It was the first time that the wind electricity production was superior to the nuclear one. The production (4738 GWh) was enough to provide electricity for 13 million average Spanish households.
2010: positive balance for Germany
The year 2010 saw an increase in the production of energy from renewable sources in Germany, compared to the year before. Data published by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety showed that:
- about 11% of the total energy (electricity, heat and fuels) was produced by renewable sources. In 2009, the figure was 10.4%
- if considering just the electricity, 17% of the total production came from renewables (in 2009, it was 16.5%)
- the main sources employed to produce electricity were biogas and solar power (photovoltaics). Solar power provided almost 2% of the total electricity, about double than in 2009. Wind energy, however, decreased in comparison with previous year, due to bad weather conditions. Despite this, it still covered 6% of the electricity production.
Impact on the employment
These data about the use of renewable sources are good not just in terms of the environment, but for employment too. It was estimated that in Germany, in 2010, there were about 370,000 jobs in the alternative energy sector; this compares with 339 500 and 160 500 in 2009 and 2004.
US: renewable on the rise but with some obstacles
A report published by the US Energy Information Administration showed that the electricity from renewables is comparable with the electricity from nuclear plants in the US. These data referred to the first 9 months of 2010; both sources accounted for about 11% of the total electricity production (10.9 and 11.4% for renewable and nuclear, respectively).
In 2010, however, not everything was positive. According to the American Wind Energy Association:
- the installation of new wind turbines in 2010 was almost half in comparison with 2009 (equivalent of 5,155 MW versus 10,000MW)
- the activity was particularly slow in the first 9 months of the year, with a clear increase in the last quarter of 2010
- people working in the sector hope that this is a sign of recovery, and for better prospects for 2011
Promising Results For Alternative Energy Solutions
The data show how renewable sources can produce sizeable amounts of power. Furthermore, the energy produced has been increasing in recent years; if this trend continues, the contribution given to overall energy production will become even more relevant.
It is, therefore, important to continue to study and invest in these technologies, to improve their performance and reduce or eliminate the problems associated with them. Scotland has seen great results from Tidal Power, which is one avenue attracting investment and has seen mergers recently too.