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> Green Energy: a must! Issue: 2010-1 Section: General



The Energy Concept

Writing nowadays about Energy on a Green manner for a wide category of readers, aging between 16 and 24 years, means first of all to find a core interest issue. Fortunately this inexpugnably topic lies on the history of Energy itself. Regardless the awareness of humans the very essence of the Universe is the Energy.

Amazingly the very first approaches to this complex topic are also the philosophical basis of all known cultures ever existing on the Earth. All of them were dealing either with Energy, or with its effects, the only differences consisting in names and allocation algorithms: Gods or Goddess, Entities or Universal Laws.

After all it is a matter of evolution, and even more, it is strictly a matter of Technological evolution. If we are able today to move matter on atom-by-atom, at a nanoscale range, with an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) tip this is due to the Atomic archetype that has been initially philosophically defined few millennia ago and it was continuously developed enriching our knowledge and understanding ever since. This was determining us to improve our tools and technologies as to be able to describe and characterize nearby or faraway parts of our Universe and, at last, to proof the accuracy of the philosophical model. After such a long journey we are still at the beginning of this knowledge gathering and integration procedure!

The accurate description of the key life phenomena made by our ancestors to surpass their lack of technological advancements through an outstanding Synergetic Model of Life and Creation toward which the present Global Science and Technology must rush to comprehend it in order to keep the Earth surviving. Strangely, regardless our present age, all of us firstly come on touch with few basic models of Energy that emerged from fairy tales, legends, and cartoons, no matter where or when we grow up. Does gathering the power of Fire-Earth-Water-Wind look familiar to you from Japanese cartoons of the 80’s? If you will search better the different Cultural models of Life you will find that actually all known philosophies attempt to describe the basic elements of Life and their animating power (Energy) in almost the same terms, regardless space, time or language barriers.

Even if the model of Aristotle pointing five elements (Air, Water, Fire, Earth and Aether) roughly correspond to the presently known four states of matter (Solid, Liquid, Gas and Plasma) we must admit that despite the huge advances on Science and Technology we are anywhere but near the End of Physics – the Theory of Everything (William Tilles).


Why Renewable Energy?

What will we choose: Green or Renewable? Actually Sustainable Energy was the first approach to the Oil Energy Crisis of the 70’s. Shortly afterward it appears obvious that sustainable energy means as well a clean and environmentally friendly energy, so the next pointing term was green even if some of the green are blue or colourless. In the last couples of years the acknowledged term meaning all together: sustainable, clean and environmental friendly is Renewable.

Why worldwide scientists focus their multidisciplinary researches on these issues and almost all governments support this tremendous scientific and economic effort?

Because nowadays we are facing a very strange situation coping with the economic effects of the Non-Renewable Energy sources crisis spectrum but at the same time hardly using a huge amount of available energy having to last for a 5 billion year lifetime. Also because the Climate is changing and we must substantially decrease our potential impact on the environment using drastically cleaner energies than non-renewable ones. And definitely for the reason that at last these sources – Renewable - are widely distributed around the planet and many technologies available to exploit them are also affordable.

Obviously, a huge global effort of innovation, research and development continues to provide even more options but all of these efforts are focused toward scientific as well as social outputs. Decentralized and affordable technology means more jobs, more energy, social stability and security. There is no alternative to these Green solutions because non-renewable energy sources are rapidly depleting, and are destroying the planet. On the matter of fact presently and from now on Renewable Energy has to solve the problems created by Non-Renewable Energy.

The International Energy Agency states that theoretically there are three generations of renewable technologies, reaching back more than 100 years.

First-generation technologies appeared with the Industrial Revolution and include hydropower, biomass, geothermal and heat power. All these technologies are still in widespread use and continuously improving.

Second-generation technologies include solar heating and cooling, solar photovoltaics, modern forms of bioenergy, and wind power. These are only now entering markets even the research, development and demonstration investments runs since the ‘80s, initiated for energy security concerns related to the oil crises of the ‘70s. The continuing appeal of these technologies is echoing the significant advancements in materials science of the last decades.

Third-generation technologies are still under development and include advanced biomass gasification, biorefinery technologies, concentrating solar thermal power, hot dry rock geothermal energy, ocean energy and osmotic power generation. Advances on nanotechnology are also expected to play a major role.


Sustainable Energy Economy

Achieving a Sustainable Energy Economy through a harmonized manner means to cope with regional energy challenges having deep impact in all areas of Social, Economic and Political life.

The Coordinated Leading attributes have to make effective the research and development (R&D) activities getting the best use of the demonstration phase of the lab research as through Education and Deployment to attract Investments. Actually proper Investments are boosting the above state-of-the-art R&D and are speeding up the Construction phase, based on adequately detailed studies on the essential policies and market conditions.

Having such a deep impact upon all areas of human activities the public awareness is envisaged through specific promoting actions on medium and long term with the proper support of the Education and Work Force Development.

The last decades speed up the Industry Learning Curve however it takes 5 to 10 years at least to turn conceptual devices (lab scale demonstrators) into commercial applications.

Although achieving the potential of Renewable Energy requires a balanced portfolio among Revolutionary, Accelerated and Disruptive development supported through adequate economic and social politics.


Renewables Efficiency

Being mostly on an early stage of development the Renewable Energy is publicly perceived as having poor efficiency. The efficiency refers to the technological measures meant to improve the efficiency of conversion.

The most commonly misrelated compare refers to gas/diesel for cars fuelling (reported as above 85% efficiency).

Actually from oil extraction to automotive mobility the overall efficiency is ~12 - 14%.

In the case of electricity (incandescent lightening) from coal (non-renewable resource) the overall efficiency is even poorer ~1%. Both examples clearly demonstrate that vast amounts of energy wastes in the conversion process and largely unfair comparing terms are presented to the public opinion talking about Renewables efficiencies. Being largely emergent technologies the Renewables are worldwide ranked on a top position of the investments, regardless the actual Economic Crisis.

To point the key challenges of the Renewables means to stimulate their implementation at Giga Watts scale (speed and scale). At the same time a main paradigm shift should occur on people attitude toward Energy, valuing efficiency, cost, coordinated implementation, performance and reliability.

Educated and properly trained customers would properly value, achieve and exploit green buildings, vehicles and industrial applications and on the forefront of them are the teenagers and students of today.