The world in the 21st century is controlled by energy and its accessibility. It affects our daily lives and routines, it starts and ends wars, it shapes countries; their economies and the lives of people that are living in them. So, why does energy have so much power? Well, the answer to this question is simple - its “limited quantity”. Of course, everyone who is familiar with energy on a basic level knows that energy is inexhaustible; the amount of energy is always the same, and whatever we do, we will never increase or reduce its amount, only change its types.
So, what is the catch? Why are we talking about energy if it is inexhaustible? The catch is that the processes to get energy from fossil fuels are very inefficient. The amounts of fossil fuels are expendable and when we add inefficiency to it, the result is the world that we live in currently, as previously described.
Everything started when people realized that the human power could be replaced with a machine momentum which resulted in creating a steam engine. From that point in history, everything went straight forward, whether that be smarter implementations of old systems or creating new ways to reduce or remove human labor. The results were astonishing as people worked less and produced more; it was a true revolution in the industrial world.
Discovering new ways to produce a usable type of energy, using petroleum/oil or natural gas allowed the industry and human civilization to grow even more without thinking of possible consequences that could occur. With an extensive use of fossil fuels and total dependence of the World on it caused/or was one of the causes for events such as “The great energy crash”, which led to even bigger shortages and huge price increases of fossil fuels and “Santa Barbara Oil Spill” that caused an enormous environment pollution.
After realizing how dangerous for the environment fossil fuels usage (energy production from fossil fuels) could get and how easily it could be manipulated by a man, an idea of the World that could be powered by the energy that comes from renewable sources emerged. Use of renewable sources to produce electricity (a form of energy which is available in everyday use) has its roots in the past, but it was never widely accepted because it was considered as an inefficient, expensive, and undeveloped way to produce it in the amounts that the World already required. It was not until the events described above brought more attention to this topic which then started to change public’s opinion on how energy is produced and used.
With increased resources and increased scientific research in that area, solar cells and wind turbines were becoming cheaper and more accessible and even beginning to be cost-effective. In a short period of time, renewable energy gained momentum, wide accessibility, and implementation in our everyday lives, enabling self-sustainability. Nevertheless, The World still depends on fossil fuels; developed countries are still using huge amounts for everyday needs and underdeveloped countries that are just now starting to develop and expand industrially are also causing the increased usage of fossil fuel.
What does the future look like? It may sound bad, but it is looking bright. People have never been more aware of the risks and the pollutions that could be caused by a continuous usage of fossil fuels, new technologies are emerging every day, a great number of countries have energy goals to completely switch to renewable sources, like Iceland whose energy production is 100 % from renewable sources. Iceland may be a small country, but they set a great example for the whole world by showing that powering a whole country with renewables is possible.
The possibilities of green energy are huge, starting from resolving the energy dependence (energy production manipulation). It could end wars that were started due to the energy manipulation and by ending wars, human poverty and hunger could be eradicated in some areas of the world. There is simply no excuse for not switching from the fossil to green energy because there is plenty of it that can be retrieved by harvesting energy that comes from the Sun.
Let me give you an example: the total world energy usage (coal + oil + hydroelectric + nuclear + renewable) in 2015 was 13,000 Million Ton Oil Equivalent (MTOE). This translates to 17.3 Terawatts of continuous power during the year. By covering 335 kilometers by 335 kilometers (which is 112 225 square kilometers) with solar panels, we could easily achieve this goal, even with today’s efficiency of technology that is used, providing a bit more than 17.4 TW of power. The area of 112 225 square kilometers is huge and hard to sacrifice due to ever-increasing human expansion and limited space, but considering that The Great Sahara Desert area is 9.3 million square kilometers (112225 sq km is 1.2% of the Sahara area) which is truly Sun’s powerhouse (and it is unpopulated), with more than 12 hours of daylight per day, this idea could easily become a reality.
So, again, the future? The civilization is definitely making small steps in the right direction, but are we going to be able to make a huge leap in “fossil fuel free Earth”, stop living in the past and start creating the future in which we all want to live in… Probably, only time will be there to tell us the answer.
Author: David Cerkezovic