Energy development

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Energy development
Schematic of the global sources of energy in 2010
Source: REN21: Renewables 2012 Global Status Report
Total:      Fossil;      Renewable;      Nuclear
     Biomass heat;      Solar-water;      Geo-heat;      Hydro;      Ethanol;
     Biodiesel;      Biomass electric;      Wind;      Geo-electric;
     Solar PV;      Solar CSP;      Oceanic

    Total world primary energy production (quadrillion Btu)
Source: International Energy Statistics

     United States;      China;      Europe;      Russia;      Africa;
     Central and South America
Estimated US Energy Use/Flow in 2011: 97.3 quads. Energy flow charts show the relative size of primary energy resources and end uses in the United States, with fuels compared on a common energy unit basis. (2012-10)
(Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. flowcharts; source)

Compounds and Radiant Energy:
     Solar;      Nuclear;      Hydro;      Wind;      Geothermal;      Natural Gas;
     Coal;      Biomass;      Petroleum

Producing Electrical Currents:
     Electricity Generation
Utilizing Effects Transmitted:
     Residential, Commercial, Industrial, transportation
     Rejected energy[note 1]      Energy Services

Energy development[1][2][3] is a field of endeavor focused on making available sufficient primary energy sources[4] and secondary energy forms to meet the needs of society.[5][6][7][8][9] These endeavors encompass those which provide for the production of conventional, alternative and renewable sources of energy, and for the recovery and reuse of energy that would otherwise be wasted. Energy conservation[note 2] and efficiency measures[note 3] reduce the impact of energy development, and can have benefits to society with changes in economic cost and with changes in the environmental effects.

Contemporary industrial societies use primary and secondary energy sources for transportation and the production of many manufactured goods. Also, large industrial populations have various generation and delivery services for energy distribution and end-user utilization.[note 4] This energy is used by people who can afford the cost to live under various climatic conditions through the use of heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning. Level of use of external energy sources differs across societies, along with the convenience, levels of traffic congestion, pollution sources[10] and availability of domestic energy sources.

Thousands of people in society are employed in the energy industry, of which subjectively influence and impact behaviors. The conventional industry comprises the petroleum industry[note 5] the gas industry,[note 6] the electrical power industry[note 7] the coal industry, and the nuclear power industry. New energy industries include the renewable energy industry, comprising alternative and sustainable manufacture, distribution, and sale of alternative fuels. While there is the development of new hydrocarbon sources,[11] including deepwater/horizontal drilling and fracking, are contentiously underway, commitments to mitigate climate change are driving efforts to develop sources of alternative and renewable energy.

Primary and secondary energy forms[edit]

Type of energy
Open System Model (basics)

Colloquially, and in non-scientific literature, the terms power,[note 8] fuels, and energy can be used as synonyms, but in the field of energy technology they possess different distinct meanings that are associated with them. An energy source is usually in the form of a closed system, the element that provides the energy by conversion from another energy form; However, the energy can be quantitative, the balance sheet is capable of containing open system energy transfers.[note 9] Illustrative of this can be the emanations from the sun, which with its nuclear fusion is the most important energy source for the Earth[note 10] and which provides its energy in the form of radiation.

The natural elements[note 11] of the material world exist in forms that can be converted into usable energy and are resources which society can obtained energy to produce heat, light, and motion (among the many uses). According to their nature, the power plants can be classified into:

Classified according to the energy reserves of the energy source used and the regeneration capacity with:

So, for example, shale gas is secondary non-renewable. Wind is a primary renewable.

The principle stated by Antoine Lavoisier on the conservation of matter applies to energy development:[note 17] "nothing is created." Thus any energy "production" is actually a recovery transformation of the forms of energy whose origin is that of the universe.

For example, a bicycle dynamo turns in part from the kinetic energy (speed energy) of the movement of the cyclist and converting it into electrical energy will transfer in particular to its lights producing light, that is to say light energy, via the heating of the filament of the bulb and therefore heat (thermal energy). But the kinetic energy of the rider is itself biochemical energy (the ATP muscle cells) derived from the chemical energy of sugars synthesized by plants who use light energy from the sun, which runs from the nuclear energy produced by fusion of atoms of hydrogen, the material itself constitute a form of energy, called "mass energy".

Fossil fuels[edit]

The Moss Landing Power Plant burns natural gas to produce electricity in California.
Natural gas drilling rig in Texas.

Fossil fuel (primary non-renewable fossil) sources burn coal or hydrocarbon fuels, which are the remains of the decomposition of plants and animals. There are three main types of fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Another fossil fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is principally derived from the production of natural gas. Heat from burning fossil fuel is used either directly for space heating and process heating, or converted to mechanical energy for vehicles, industrial processes, or electrical power generation.

Fossil energy is from recovered fossils (like brown coal, hard coal, peat, natural gas and crude oil) and are originated in degradated products of dead plants and animals. These fossil fuels are based on the carbon cycle and thus allow stored (historic solar) energy to be recycled today. In 2005, 81% were of the world's energy needs met from fossil sources.[12] Biomass is also derived from wood and other organic wastes and modern remains. The technical development of fossil fuels in the 18th and 19th Century set the stage for the Industrial Revolution.

Fossil fuels make up the bulk of the world's current primary energy sources. The technology and infrastructure already exist for the use of fossil fuels. Petroleum energy density in terms of volume (cubic space) and mass (weight) ranks currently above that of alternative energy sources (or energy storage devices, like a battery). Fossil fuels are currently economical, and suitable for decentralized energy use.

Dependence on fossil fuels from regions or countries creates energy security risks for dependent countries.[13][14][15][16][17] Oil dependence in particular has led to war,[18] funding of radicals,[19] monopolization,[20] and socio-political instability.[21] Fossil fuels are non-renewable, un-sustainable resources, which will eventually decline in production[22] and become exhausted, with consequences to societies that remain dependent on them. Fossil fuels are actually slowly forming continuously, but are being consumed quicker than are formed.[note 18] Extracting fuels becomes increasingly extreme as society consumes the most accessible fuel deposits. Extraction in fuel mines get intensive and oil rigs drill deeper (going further out to sea).[23] Extraction of fossil fuels results in environmental degradation, such as the strip mining and mountaintop removal of coal.

A Trabant 601 Limousine.
Trabants had poor performance, outdated and inefficient two-stroke engine (which returned poor fuel economy for the car's size and produced smoky exhaust). Such two-stroke petrol engines are common throughout the 19th-21st century in a variety of other applications.

Petroleum-powered vehicles are inefficient, this has been remediated though with the advance of technology since the automobile's inception. Only about 30% of the energy from the fuel they consume is converted into mechanical energy.[24] The rest of the fuel-source energy is inefficiently exhausted as waste heat.[note 19][note 20] The heat and gaseous pollution emissions go into the environment.[note 21] There is various technologies involved in vehicle emissions control and regulations of air pollution via emission standards.

Fuel efficiency is a form of thermal efficiency, meaning the efficiency of a process that converts chemical potential energy contained in a carrier fuel into kinetic energy or work. The fuel economy is the energy efficiency of a particular vehicle, is given as a ratio of distance travelled per unit of fuel consumed. Weight-specific efficiency (efficiency per unit weight) may be stated for freight, and passenger-specific efficiency (vehicle efficiency per passenger). The inefficient atmospheric combustion (burning) of fossil fuels in vehicles, buildings, and power plants contributes to urban heat islands.[25]

Conventional production of oil has peaked, conservatively, between 2007 to 2010.[note 22] In 2010, it was estimated that an investment in non-renewable resources of $8 trillion would be required to maintain current levels of production for 25 years.[26] In 2010, governments subsidized fossil fuels by an estimated $500 billion a year.[27] Fossil fuels are also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to concerns about global warming if consumption is not reduced.

Further information: Gasoline and diesel usage and pricing and History of fossil fuel

Hydrocarbon sources and toxicology[edit]

The combustion of fossil fuels leads to the release of pollution into the atmosphere. The fossil fuels are mainly based on organic carbon compounds. They are according to the IPCC the causes of the global warming.[28] During the combustion with oxygen in the form of heat energy, carbon dioxide released. Depending on the composition and purity of the fossil fuel also results in other chemical compounds such as nitrogen oxides and soot and fine dust alternativey. Greenhouse gas emissions result from fossil fuel-based electricity generation. Typical megawatt coal plant produces billions of kilowatt hours per year.[29][note 23] From this generation, the carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, small airborne particles, nitrogen oxides (NOx) (ozone (smog)), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, other heavy metals, and uranium traces are produced.[note 24][30]



Diablo Canyon Power Plant Nuclear power station.

Nuclear power stations use nuclear fission to generate energy by the reaction of uranium-235 (primary non-renewable minerals)[note 25] inside a nuclear reactor. The reactor uses uranium rods, the atoms of which are split in the process of fission, releasing a large amount of energy. The process continues as a chain reaction with other nuclei. The energy heats water to create steam, which spins a turbine generator, producing electricity.

Stated estimates for fission fuel supply at known usage rates vary, from several decades to billions of years; among other differences between the former and the latter estimates, assume usage only of the currently popular uranium-235, and others assume the factor of a hundred fuel efficiency increase which would come from utilizing uranium-238 through breeder reactors.[31] The Earth's crust contains around 40 trillion tons of uranium and 120 trillion tons of thorium, but, depending on assumptions, reserve figures can be millions of times less for the portion assumed affordable to extract in the future, for the amount of quality ores of far above average crustal concentration.[32][33][34]

The energy content of a kilogram of uranium or thorium, if spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed and fully utilized, is equivalent to about 3.5 million kilograms of coal. The cost of making nuclear power, with current legislation, is about the same as making coal power, which is considered inexpensive (see Economics of new nuclear power plants). If a carbon tax is applied, nuclear does not have to pay anything because nuclear does not emit greenhouse gasses such as CO2 nor toxic gases NO, CO, SO2, arsenic, etc. that are emitted by coal power plants. Nuclear power does not produce any primary air pollution or release carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, it contributes only a small amount to global warming or acid rain.

Raw material extraction is safer for nuclear power compared to coal. Coal mining is the second most dangerous occupation in the United States.[35] Nuclear energy is not exposed to danger or risk per unit than coal resources,[36] but suffers other risks. For the same amount of electricity, the life cycle emissions of nuclear is about 4% of coal power. Depending on the report, hydro, wind, and geothermal are ranked lower, while wind and hydro are ranked higher (by life cycle emissions).[37][38] According to a Stanford study, fast breeder reactors have the potential to power humans on earth for billions of years, making it sustainable.[39]

Actinides and fission products by half-life
Actinides[40] by decay chainHalf-life
range (a)
Fission products by yield[41]

No fission products
have a half-life
in the range of
100–210k years…


...nor beyond 15.7M[43]


Legend for superscript symbols
₡  has thermal neutron capture cross section in the range of 8–50 barns
ƒ  fissile
metastable isomer
№  naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM)
þ  neutron poison (thermal neutron capture cross section greater than 3k barns)
†  range 4a–97a: Medium-lived fission product
‡  over 200ka: Long-lived fission product

The improper operation of a nuclear reactor with no containment vessel can be catastrophic in the event of an uncontrolled power increase in the reactor. For example, the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine (former USSR) affected large areas of Europe by moderate radioactive contamination; parts of the Ukraine and Belarus continue to be affected by radioactive fallout.[44] Transuranic waste produced from nuclear fission of uranium is poisonous and highly radioactive. Breeder reactors could burn this waste as fuel, fissioning transuranics into faster-decaying fission products which stabilize at a relatively low level of radioactivity in 100–500 years, but recycling plutonium as MOX fuel in current light water reactors merely transmutes between isotopes of plutonium and offers little reduction in radioactivity.

Without nuclear reprocessing, whole spent fuel bundles containing transuranic waste must be stored in spent fuel pools, dry cask storage, or a geological repository. There can be connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapon proliferation, since many reactor designs require large-scale uranium enrichment facilities. Uranium ore is a limited resource and estimate that current supplies will fail to meet demand in 2026, provided no other deposits are discovered. Also, breeder reactors extraction of energy is above the same amount of uranium.

The limited liability for the owner of a nuclear power plant in case of a nuclear accident differs per nation while nuclear installations are built close to national borders.[45][note 26] Since nuclear power plants are typically quite large power plants, and are, fundamentally, thermal engines, waste heat disposal becomes difficult at higher ambient temperature. Thus, at a time of peak demand for power for air-conditioning, a power reactor may need to be shut down or operate at a reduced power level, as do large coal-fired plants, for the same reasons.[46]

Fission costs[edit]

At the present rate of use, there are (as of 2007; See various current estimates) about 70 years left of presently inventoried uranium-235 reserves identified as economically recoverable at the current natural uranium price of US$130/kg.[47] (For any typical element, though, the amount of proved reserves inventoried at a time may be considered "a poor indicator of the total future supply of a mineral resource";[48] among examples with other elements, tin, copper, iron, lead, and zinc all had both production from 1950 to 2000 and reserves in 2000 exceed world reserves in 1950, which would be impossible except for how "proved reserves are like an inventory of cars to an auto dealer" at a time rather than the total affordable to extract in the future).[48]

The nuclear industry argues that the cost of fuel is a minor cost factor for fission power; if needed, expensive and difficult to extract sources of uranium could be used in the future, such as lower-grade ores, and, if prices increased enough, from sources such as granite and seawater.[47] Increasing the price of uranium would have little effect on the overall cost of nuclear power; a doubling in the cost of natural uranium would increase the total cost of nuclear power with typical present reactors by 5 percent (without considering usage of breeder reactors for handling greater uranium price rise). On the other hand, if the price of natural gas was doubled, the cost of gas-fired power would increase by about 60 percent.[31][49]

Opponents on the other hand argue that the correlation between price and production is not linear, but as the ores' concentration becomes smaller, the difficulty (energy and resource consumption are increasing, while the yields are decreasing) of extraction rises fast, and that the assertion that a higher price will yields uranium is overly optimistic. As many as eleven countries have depleted their uranium resources, and only Canada has mines left that produce better than 1% concentration ore.[50] Uranium from seawater is dubious as a source.[51]

Fission development history[edit]

Nuclear meltdowns and other reactor accidents, such as the Fukushima I nuclear accident (2011), Three Mile Island accident (1979) and the Chernobyl disaster (1986), have caused public concern. Research is being done to lessen the known problems of current reactor technology by developing automated and passively safe reactors. Historically, however, coal and hydropower power generation have both been responsible for more deaths per energy unit produced than nuclear power generation.[52][53]

Global status of nuclear power      constructing first plants;      constructing new plants;      considering plants;      considering new plants;      have reactors but are not constructing or decommissioning;      considering decommissioning;      decommissioned all commercial reactors;      No commercial reactors;      declared free of nuclear power (and weapons)
circa May 2009
History of nuclear power use
     Installed capacity;      Realized capacity
Active nuclear power plants
     Active capacity;      Capacity under construction
circa May 2007

At present, nuclear energy is in decline, according to a 2007 World Nuclear Industry Status Report presented by the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. The report outlines that the proportion of nuclear energy in power production has decreased in 21 out of 31 countries, with five fewer functioning nuclear reactors than five years ago. There are currently 32 nuclear power plants under construction or in the pipeline, 20 fewer than at the end of the 1990s.[54][55]

The long-term radioactive waste storage problems of nuclear power have not been solved. Several countries have considered using underground repositories. Nuclear waste takes up little space compared to wastes from the chemical industry which remain toxic indefinitely.[56] Spent fuel rods are now stored in concrete casks close to the nuclear reactors.[57] Consequence of a doubling in the price of uranium give marginal increase in the volumes that are being produced. The amounts of waste could be reduced in several ways. Both nuclear reprocessing and breeder reactors could reduce the amounts of waste. Subcritical reactors or fusion reactors reduce the time the waste has to be stored.[58] Subcritical reactors may also be able to do the same to already existing waste. The only long-term way of dealing with waste today is by geological storage. The economics of new nuclear power plants evaluations include capital costs for building and fuel costs. Comparison with other power generation methods is strongly dependent on assumptions about construction timescales and capital financing for nuclear plants.

Another contemporary concern is that of Nuclear proliferation. The spread of nuclear technology is feared to happen from nation to nation or through other black market channels, including nuclear power plants and related technology including nuclear weapons. Technology like SSTAR ("small, sealed, transportable, autonomous reactor") seeks to remediate this risk.

Thorium is being explored as a nuclear fuel[59][60] and for proliferation resistance. Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), has worked on developing thorium reactors and has stated that a tonne of thorium can produce energy equivalent to 200 tonnes of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal.[60][61][62] One of the early pioneers of the technology was U.S. physicist Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, who helped develop a working nuclear plant using liquid fuel in the 1960s.

See also: History of nuclear fission


Fusion power could solve many of the problems of fission power[63] (the technology mentioned above) but, despite research having started in the 1950s, no commercial fusion reactor is expected before 2050.[64] Many technical problems remain unsolved. Proposed fusion reactors commonly use deuterium (primary renewable chemical), an isotope of hydrogen, as fuel and in most current designs also lithium. Assuming a fusion energy output equal to the current global output (and assuming that this does not increase in the future), then the known current lithium reserves would last 3,000 years. Lithium from sea water would last 60 million years, and a complicated fusion process using only deuterium from sea water would have fuel for 150 billion years.[65] A number of amateurs have done nuclear fusion using simple fusor machines.[66] Fusors have been built by various other institutions as well.[67][68][69][70]

See also: History of fusion research

Renewable sources[edit]

The wind, Sun, and biomass are three renewable energy sources.
Sandesneben, Germany

Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain,[note 27] tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished).[note 28] In 2009, about 16% of global final energy consumption came from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from hydroelectricity. New renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) accounted for another 2.8% and is growing rapidly. The share of renewables in electricity generation was around 19.4%, with 16.1% of global electricity coming from hydroelectricity and 3.3% from new renewables.[71]

As of 2011, wind power was growing at the rate of 21% annually, with a worldwide installed capacity of 238 gigawatts (GW),[72] and was widely used in Europe, Asia, and the United States.[73] At the end of 2011, cumulative global photovoltaic (PV) installations surpassed 69 GW[74] and PV power stations are commonplace in Germany, Italy, and Spain.[75] Solar thermal power stations operate in the USA and Spain, and as of 2000 the largest of these was the 354 megawatt (MW) SEGS power plant in the Mojave Desert.[76] The world's largest geothermal power installation is The Geysers in California, with a rated capacity of 750 MW.[77] Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugar cane, and ethanol now provides 18% of the country's automotive fuel.[78] Ethanol fuel is also widely available in the USA.

As of 2007, climate change concerns, coupled with high oil prices, peak oil, and increasing government support, were driving increasing renewable energy legislation, incentives and commercialization.[79] New government spending, regulation and policies helped the industry weather the 2008 global financial crisis better than many other sectors.[80]

While many renewable energy projects are large-scale, renewable technologies are also suited to rural and remote areas, where energy is often crucial in human development.[81] Globally, an estimated 3 million households get power from small solar PV systems. Micro-hydro systems configured into village-scale or county-scale mini-grids serve many areas.[82] The 30 million rural households get lighting and cooking from biogas made in household-scale digesters. Biomass cookstoves are used by 160 million households.[82]

Scientists have advanced plans of the world's energy with wind, hydroelectric, and solar power by the year 2030,[83][84][85] recommending renewable energy subsidies and a price on carbon reflecting its cost for flood and related expenses. The 2010 renewable energy plans (with renewable energy efficiency projects) estimated that could transition to renewables for hundreds billion over a ten-year period.[86][87][88][89] Driving an electric car is like buying gasoline for $0.60/gallon,[90] although in 2012 an electric car cost optimization is less than one powered by gasoline. If they were mass-produced, this differential would be reversed.[91] The most costly part, the battery, is projected to be reduced by 2020.[92][93] Charging an electric car from roof mounted solar panels is almost free, other than the cost of installation, which could be included in the purchase price of the home.[94] Electric cars have almost no maintenance costs. The EV1, an advanced prototypical electric car, was brought in once every 5,000 miles just to rotate the tires and re-fill the windshield washer fluid.[95]

See also: History of renewable energy


Wind power: worldwide installed capacity (c. May 2011)[96]
See also: WWEA

For current capacity, see: Wind power by country.

Wind (primary renewable natural) power harnesses the power of the wind to propel the blades of wind turbines. These turbines cause the rotation of magnets, which creates electricity. Wind towers are usually built together on wind farms. Wind power is growing at the rate of 21% annually, with a worldwide installed capacity of 238 gigawatts (GW) in 2009,[72][97] and is widely used in Europe, Asia, and the United States.[73]

At the end of 2011, worldwide nameplate capacity of wind-powered generators was 238 gigawatts (GW).[72] Energy production was 430 TWh, which is about 2.5% of worldwide electricity usage.[98][99] Several countries have achieved relatively high levels of wind power penetration, such as 21% of stationary electricity production in Denmark,[98] 18% in Portugal,[98] 16% in Spain,[98] 14% in Ireland,[100] and 9% in Germany in 2010.[98][101] By 2011, at times over 50% of electricity in Germany and Spain came from wind and solar power.[102][103] As of 2011, 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis.[101]

Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the USA. As of 2012, the Alta Wind Energy Center is the largest onshore wind farm in the world, with a capacity of 1020 MW of power, followed by the Roscoe Wind Farm (781.5 MW). As of 2013, the 504 MW Greater Gabbard wind farm in the UK is the largest offshore wind farm in the world, followed by the 367 MW Walney Wind Farm in the UK. Wind power produces minimal pollution that can contaminate the environment, because there are no chemical processes involved in wind power generation. Hence, there are no waste by-products, such as carbon dioxide. Power from the wind does not contribute to global warming because it does not generate greenhouse gases. Wind towers can be beneficial for people living permanently, or temporarily, in remote areas. It may be difficult to transport electricity from a power plant to a far-away location and thus, wind towers can be set up at the remote setting. Farming and grazing can still take place on land occupied by wind turbines. Those utilizing wind power in a grid-tie configuration will have backup power in the event of a power outage. Because of the ability of wind turbines to coexist within agricultural fields, siting costs are frequently low.

Wind is unpredictable; therefore, wind power is not predictably available. When the wind speed decreases less electricity is generated. This makes wind power unsuitable for base load generation. Wind farms may be challenged in communities that consider them an eyesore or obstruction.[104] Wind farms, depending on the location and type of turbine, may negatively affect bird migration patterns, and may pose a danger to the birds themselves (primarily an issue with older/smaller turbines). Windfarms may interfere with radar creating a hole in radar coverage and so affect national security.[105] Tall wind turbines have been proven to impact doppler weather radar towers and affect weather forecasting in a negative way. This can be prevented by not having the wind turbines in the radar's line of sight.[106]


The Gordon Dam in Tasmania is a large conventional dammed-hydro facility, with an installed capacity of up to 430 MW.

In hydro (primary renewable natural) energy, the gravitational descent of a river is compressed from a long run to a single location with a dam or a flume. This creates a location where concentrated pressure and flow can be used to turn turbines or water wheels, which drive a mechanical mill or an electric generator.[107]

In cases with hydroelectric dams, there are unexpected results. One study shows that a hydroelectric dam in the Amazon has 3.6 times larger greenhouse effect per kW•h than electricity production from oil, due to large scale emission of methane from decaying organic material[108], though this is most significant as river valleys are initially flooded, and are of less consequence for boreal dams.[109] This effect applies in particular to dams created by simply flooding a large area, without first clearing it of vegetation. There are however investigations into underwater turbines that do not require a dam. And pumped-storage hydroelectricity can use water reservoirs at different altitudes to store wind and solar power.

Hydroelectric power stations can promptly increase to full capacity, unlike other types of power stations. This is because water can be accumulated above the dam and released to coincide with peak demand. Electricity can be generated constantly, so long as sufficient water is available. Hydroelectric power produces no primary waste or pollution.

Hydroelectric capacity is still undeveloped, such as in Africa. The resulting lake can have additional benefits such as doubling as a reservoir for irrigation, and leisure activities such as watersports and fishing, for example Kielder Water in Northumberland, UK.

The Adams Power Plant went into operation in 1895 and ran to 1961, being replaced by contemporary plants.
(General view from southeast.)

The construction of a dam and hydroelectric power station can have an environmental impact on the surrounding areas. The amount and the quality of water downstream can be affected, which affects plant life. [note 29] Because a river valley is being flooded, the local habitat of many species are impacted, while people living nearby are impacted also (historically by displacement relocation). Hydroelectricity can only be used in areas where there is a sufficient and continuing supply of water. Flooding submerges large forests (if they have not been harvested). The resulting anaerobic decomposition of the carboniferous materials releases methane, a greenhouse gas.

Dams can contain huge amounts of water. As with every energy storage system, failure of containment can lead to catastrophic results, e.g. flooding. Dams create large lakes that may have adverse effects on Earth tectonic system possibly causing intense earthquakes.[110] Hydroelectric plants rarely can be erected near load centers, requiring long transmission lines.

See also: History of hydroelectricity


The Nellis photovoltaic solar power plant in the United States. Completed in 2007.
The CIS Tower, Manchester, England, was clad in PV panels at a cost of £5.5 million. It started feeding electricity to the national grid in November 2005.

Solar (primary renewable natural) power involves using solar cells to convert sunlight into electricity, using sunlight hitting solar thermal panels to convert sunlight to heat water or air, using sunlight hitting a parabolic mirror to heat water (producing steam), or using sunlight entering windows for passive solar heating of a building. It would be advantageous to place solar panels in the regions of highest solar radiation.[111]

At the end of 2011, cumulative global photovoltaic (PV) installations surpassed 69 GW[74][112][113] and PV power stations are common in Germany, Italy, and Spain.[75] Solar thermal power stations operate in the USA and Spain, and the largest of these is the 354 megawatt (MW) SEGS power plant in the Mojave Desert.[76]

China is increasing worldwide silicon wafer capacity for photovoltaics to 2,000 metric tons by July 2008, and over 6,000 metric tons by the end of 2010.[114] Significant international investment capital is flowing into China to support this opportunity. China is building large subsidized off-the-grid solar-powered cities in Huangbaiyu and Dongtan Eco City. Much of the design was done by Americans such as William McDonough.[115]

Many solar photovoltaic power stations have been built, mainly in Europe.[116] As of April 2012, the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plants in the world are the Charanka Solar Park (India, 214 MW), and the Golmud Solar Park (China, 200 MW).[116]

Solar installations can operate for many years with little maintenance or intervention after their initial set-up, so after the initial capital cost of building any solar power plant, operating costs are extremely low compared to existing power technologies. Solar power is a renewable resource. As long as the Sun exists, its energy will reach Earth. Solar power generation releases no water or air pollution, because there is no combustion of fuels. In sunny countries, solar power can be used in remote locations, like a wind turbine. This way, isolated places can receive electricity, when there is no way to connect to the power lines from a plant. Solar energy can be used efficiently for heating (solar ovens, solar water and home heaters) and daylighting. Coincidentally, solar energy is abundant in regions that have the largest number of people living off grid — in developing regions of Africa, Indian subcontinent and Latin America. Hence solar, when available, allows for enhanced global electricity access, and in a relatively short period.[117] Passive solar building design and zero energy buildings are demonstrating significant energy bill reduction, and are variously cost-effectively off the grid. Photovoltaic equipment cost has been steadily falling and the production capacity is rapidly rising. Distributed point-of-use photovoltaic systems eliminate expensive long-distance electric power transmission losses. Photovoltaics are variably efficient in their conversion of solar energy to usable energy than biofuel from plant materials.[118]

Solar electricity is currently more expensive than grid electricity. Solar heat and electricity are not available at night and may be unavailable because of weather conditions; therefore, a storage or complementary power system is required for off-the-grid applications. Solar cells produce DC which must be converted to AC (using a grid tie inverter) when used in currently existing distribution grids. This incurs an energy loss of 4–12%.[119] (For more, see below) The chemicals used to manufacture cells, and byproducts can be extremely hazardous. The energy payback time — the time necessary for producing the same amount of energy as needed for building the power device — for photovoltaic cells is about 1–5 years, depending primarily on location.

Agricultural biomass[edit]

Sugar cane residue can be used as a biofuel

Biomass (primary renewable natural) production involves using garbage or other renewable resources such as corn or other vegetation to generate electricity. When garbage decomposes, the methane produced is captured in pipes and later burned to produce electricity. Vegetation and wood can be burned directly to generate energy, like fossil fuels, or processed to form alcohols. Brazil has one of the largest renewable energy programs in the world, involving production of ethanol fuel from sugar cane, and ethanol now provides 18% of the country's automotive fuel.[78] Ethanol fuel is also widely available in the USA.

Vegetable oil is generated from sunlight, H2O, and CO2 by plants. It is safer to use and store than gasoline or diesel as it has a higher flash point. Straight vegetable oil works in diesel engines if it is heated first. Vegetable oil can also be transesterified to make biodiesel, which burns like normal diesel.

Biomass production can be used to burn organic byproducts resulting from agriculture. Biomass is abundant on Earth and is renewable. Biomass is found throughout the world, a fact that should alleviate energy pressures in third world nations. When methods of biomass production other than direct combustion of plant mass are used, such as fermentation and pyrolysis, there is little effect on the environment. Alcohols and other fuels produced by these alternative methods are clean burning and are feasible replacements to fossil fuels. Since CO2 is first taken out of the atmosphere to make the vegetable oil and then put back after it is burned in the engine, there is no net increase in CO2. However, there is still the emissions due to fossil fuel used in growing and producing biofuel. Vegetable oil has a higher flash point and therefore is safer than most fossil fuels. Transitioning to vegetable oil could be relatively easy as biodiesel works where diesel works, and straight vegetable oil takes relatively minor modifications. The world already produces over 100 billion gallons a year for the food industry, so we have experience making it. Algaculture has the potential to produce an increase of vegetable oil per acre than current plants. Infrastructure for biodiesel around the World is significant and growing.

Direct combustion of any carbon-based fuel leads to air pollution similar to that from fossil fuels.[120] With biomass crops that are the product of intensive farming, ethanol fuel production results in a net loss of energy after one accounts for the fuel costs of petroleum and natural-gas fertilizer production, farm equipment, and the distillation process.[121] Direct competition with land use for food production and water use. As this decreases food supply, the price of food increases world wide.[note 30] Current production methods would require enormous amounts of land to replace all gasoline and diesel. With current technology, it is not feasible for biofuels to replace the demand for petroleum. Even with the most-optimistic current energy return on investment claims, in order to use 100% solar energy to grow corn and produce ethanol (fueling machinery with ethanol, distilling with heat from burning crop residues, using no fossil fuels at all), the consumption of ethanol to replace only the current U.S. petroleum use would require three quarters of all the cultivated land on the face of the Earth.[122]

See also: History of vegetable oil used as fuel and History of biodiesel


Global geothermal electric capacity.[123][124]
     Installed capacity;      Realized production

Geothermal (primary renewable natural) energy harnesses the heat energy present underneath the Earth, and is capable of supplying all of our energy.[125] Two wells are drilled. One well injects water into the ground to provide water. The hot rocks heat the water to produce steam. The steam that shoots back up the other hole(s) is purified and is used to drive turbines, which power electric generators. When the water temperature is below the boiling point of water a binary system is used. A low boiling point liquid is used to drive a turbine and generator in a closed system similar to a refrigeration unit running in reverse. There are also natural sources of geothermal energy; can come from volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and steam vents.[126] The world's largest geothermal power installation is The Geysers in California, with a rated capacity of 750 MW. Geothermal power has the advantage that it is not variable, like most of the other renewable sources.

There are four factors to consider in providing a country's energy from renewable sources - transmission when local resources are greater or less than needed, storage for the same reason, excess capacity to provide sufficient demand, and use of biomass or geothermal to fill in for when wind and solar are insufficient. While the solutions are not fundamentally different from those used with conventional non-renewable sources, the technology is. For example, transmission lines and storage have been used almost since the beginning of electricity use, but as late as 2008 wind power and solar power provided less than 0.25% of total energy (1/400th).[127] A study in Germany by the University of Kassel showed that a combination of wind, solar, storage, and biomass could supply all of Germany's electricity.[128]

Geothermal energy is base load power.[129] Economically feasible in high grade areas[129] and low deployment costs.[129] Geothermal power plants have a high capacity factor; they run continuously day and night with an uptime typically exceeding 95%. Once a geothermal power station is implemented, there is no cost for fuel, only for operations, maintenance and return on capital investment.[130] Since geothermal power stations consume no fuel,there is no environmental impact associated with emissions or fuel handling. Geothermal is now feasible in areas where the Earth's crust is thicker. Using enhanced geothermal technology, it is possible to drill deeper and inject water to generate geothermal power.[131] Geothermal energy does not produce air or water pollution if performed correctly.

Geothermal power extracts small amounts of minerals, including sulfur, that are removed prior to feeding the turbine and re-injecting the water back into the injection well. Geothermal power requires locations that have suitable subterranean temperatures within 5 km of surface. Geothermal stations have created geological instability, even causing earthquakes strong enough to damage buildings.[132]


The world's first commercial-scale and grid-connected tidal stream generator – SeaGen – in Strangford Lough.[133] The strong wake shows the power in the tidal current.

Tidal (primary renewable natural) power can be extracted from Moon-gravity-powered tides by locating a water turbine in a tidal current, or by building impoundment pond dams that admit-or-release water through a turbine. The turbine can turn an electrical generator, or a gas compressor, that can then store energy until needed. Coastal tides are a source of clean, free, renewable, and sustainable energy.[134]

Tidal power is free once the structures are built. This is because tidal power harnesses the natural power of tides and does not consume fuel. In addition, the maintenance costs associated with running a tidal station are relatively inexpensive. Tides are reliable because it is easy to predict when high and low tides will occur. The tide goes in and out twice a day usually at the predicted times. This makes tidal energy easy to maintain, and positive and negative spikes in energy can be managed. Tidal energy is renewable, because nothing is consumed in the rising of tides. Tidal power relies on the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun, which pull the sea backwards and forwards, generating tides.

Tidal installations can operate after their initial set-up. After the initial capital cost of the structures, they can provide power for around 10 hours each day when the tide is moving in or out of the basin. The construction can affect the transportation system in waterways.[note 31] The erection of the structure may affect the ecosystems surrounding it. Maximum energy production is limited to terawatts.[citation needed] This is the total amount of tidal dissipation or the relative motion measured of the lunar orbit.[citation needed]

Alternative energy[edit]

Alternative energy is any energy source that is an alternative to fossil fuel.[135] The nature of what constitutes an alternative energy source has changed considerably over time, as have controversies regarding energy use. Today, because of the variety of energy choices and differing goals of their advocates, defining energy types as "alternative" is highly controversial.[136] These alternatives are intended to address concerns about power sources with research and development.[note 32]

Power kites (traction kites) are large kites designed to provide significant pull to the user. Both air and hydro kites are used to generate electricity; various designs are used to extract from the atmospheric flow energy and possess means for converting that energy into electricity. Turbosail systems are based on an application of the Magnus effect.

Jacques Cousteau spoke of using the salinization of water at river estuaries as an energy source, which would not have any consequences for a million years, and then stopped to point out that since humanity will be on the planet for years to come, society should be looking into the future. Artificial photosynthesis is an energy technologies being researched. Self-winding mechanisms have also been developed.[note 33] A mechanism mainspring is wound automatically as a result of natural motion. The Cox's timepiece, Beverly Clock, and Atmos clock are wound by changes in atmospheric pressure.

Cost by conventional reserve[edit]

Cost by source

Chart does not include the external costs of using fossil fuels.
For definition of price of oil per barrel (bbl), see: Oil barrel and Barrel of oil equivalent.
Cost estimations as of 2008-12-22; See Cost estimate for general details.

Conventional oil Unconventional oil Biofuels Coal Nuclear Wind
Colored vertical lines indicate various historical oil prices. From left to right:
1990s average January 2009 1979 peak 2008 peak

Price of oil per barrel (bbl) at which energy sources are competitive.

  • Right end of bar is viability without subsidy.
  • Left end of bar requires regulation or government subsidies.
  • Wider bars indicate uncertainty.
Source: Financial Times (edit)
Based on': Cambridge Energy Research Associates, IHS Herold, International Energy Agency, Wood Mackenzie and industry estimates.

For current data on coal, petroleum, natural gas, electric, renewable and nuclear energy,
see: Energy Information Administration. (Short-Term Outlook; Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update )

Large energy subsidies are present in many countries (Barker et al., 2001:567-568).[137] Currently governments subsidize fossil fuels by $557 billion per year.[27][138] Economic theory indicates that the optimal policy would be to remove coal mining and burning subsidies and replace them with optimal taxes. Global studies indicate that even without introducing taxes, subsidy and trade barrier removal at a sectoral level would improve efficiency and reduce environmental damage. Removal of these subsidies would substantially reduce GHG emissions and stimulate economic growth.

Further information: Energy commodity market

Increased energy efficiency[edit]

A spiral-type integrated compact fluorescent lamp, which has been popular among North American consumers since its introduction in the mid-1990s.[139]

Although increasing the efficiency of energy use is not energy development per se, it may be considered under the topic of energy development since it makes existing energy sources available to do work.[140]:22

Efficient energy use, simply called energy efficiency, is the goal of efforts to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. For example, insulating a home allows a building to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature. Installing fluorescent lights or natural skylights reduces the amount of energy required to attain the same level of illumination compared to using traditional incandescent light bulbs. Compact fluorescent lights use two-thirds less energy and may last 6 to 10 times longer than incandescent lights. Improvements in energy efficiency are most often achieved by adopting an efficient technology or production process.[141]

There are various motivations to improve energy efficiency. Reducing energy use reduces energy costs and may result in a financial cost saving to consumers if the energy savings offset any additional costs of implementing an energy efficient technology. Reducing energy use is also seen as a key solution to the problem of reducing emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world's energy needs in 2050 by one third, and help control global emissions of greenhouse gases.[142]

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are said to be the twin pillars of sustainable energy policy.[143] In many countries energy efficiency is also seen to have a national security benefit because it can be used to reduce the level of energy imports from foreign countries and may slow down the rate at which domestic energy resources are depleted.


An elevated section of the Alaska Pipeline.

While new sources of energy are only rarely discovered or made possible by new technology, distribution technology continually evolves.[144] The use of fuel cells in cars, for example, is an anticipated delivery technology.[145] This section presents the various delivery technologies that have been important to historic energy development. They all rely in way on the energy sources listed in the previous section.

Shipping and pipelines[edit]

Shipping is a flexible delivery technology that is used in the whole range of energy development regimes from primitive to highly advanced. Currently, coal, petroleum and their derivatives are delivered by shipping via boat, rail, or road. Petroleum and natural gas may also be delivered via pipeline and coal via a Slurry pipeline. Refined hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline and LPG may also be delivered via aircraft. Natural gas pipelines must maintain a certain minimum pressure to function correctly. Ethanol's corrosive properties make it harder to build ethanol pipelines. The higher costs of ethanol transportation and storage are often prohibitive.[146] Geomagnetically induced currents, seen as interfering with the normal operation of long buried pipeline systems, are a manifestation[147][148] at ground level of space weather that occur due to time-varying ionospheric source fields and the conductivity of the Earth.

Wired energy transfer[edit]

Electric Grid: Pylons and cables distribute power

Electricity grids are the networks used to transmit and distribute power from production source to end user, when the two may be hundreds of kilometres away. Sources include electrical generation plants such as a nuclear reactor, coal burning power plant, etc. A combination of sub-stations, transformers, towers, cables, and piping are used to maintain a constant flow of electricity. Grids may suffer from transient blackouts and brownouts, often due to weather damage. During certain extreme space weather events solar wind can interfere with transmissions. Grids also have a predefined carrying capacity or load that cannot safely be exceeded. When power requirements exceed what's available, failures are inevitable. To prevent problems, power is then rationed.

Industrialised countries such as Canada, the US, and Australia are among the highest per capita consumers of electricity in the world, which is possible thanks to a widespread electrical distribution network. The US grid is one of the most advanced, although infrastructure maintenance is becoming a problem. CurrentEnergy provides a realtime overview of the electricity supply and demand for California, Texas, and the Northeast of the US. African countries with small scale electrical grids have a correspondingly low annual per capita usage of electricity. One of the most powerful power grids in the world supplies power to the state of Queensland, Australia.

Wireless energy transfer[edit]

Wireless energy transfer is a process whereby electrical energy is transmitted from a power source to an electrical load that does not have a built-in power source, without the use of interconnecting wires.


Methods of energy storage have been developed, which transform electrical energy into forms of potential energy. A method of energy storage may be chosen on the basis of stability, ease of transport, ease of energy release, or ease of converting free energy from the natural form to the stable form. Energy can be stored in mechanical systems, such as flywheels.[note 34] Flywheel energy storage is currently being used for uninterrupted power supplies.

Natural forms of energy are found in stable chemical compounds such as fossil fuels. Most systems of chemical energy storage result from biological activity, which store energy in chemical bonds. Man-made forms of chemical energy storage include hydrogen fuel, synthetic hydrocarbon fuel, batteries and explosives such as cordite and dynamite.

Gravitational and hydroelectric storage[edit]

Water is commonly stored by dams and transported through canals and aqueducts to where it is needed, converting annual rainy seasons to year round water availability.[149] The most common form of utility electricity storage is pumped-storage hydroelectricity, where excess energy pumps water into a higher elevation reservoir. When electrical energy is required, the process is reversed: falling water turns a turbine, generates electricity, and returns to the lower reservoir. The motor used to pump the water up operates in reverse as a generator and the pump operates in reverse as a turbine. Hydroelectric power is currently an important part of the world's energy supply, generating one-fifth of the world's electricity.[150]

Gravitational potential energy can be stored by lifting a heavy object vertically using a cable and winch system. Energy can be harvested again by lowering the weight against a dynamo.[note 35] Large-scale implementation of such devices has the potential to serve as a method to store generated energy for when other sources are not available. The costs associated with this form of energy storage are low since the weight can consist of a wide variety of materials[note 36] and also due to the extremely accessible technologies used.

Most hydro-storage facilities were developed so that baseload power plants could run continuously, and use hydro-storage to store the night time excess for use during day time peaks. When most of electricity comes from wind power and solar power, the reverse will be needed - hydro-storage will be used to store excess generation during periods of wind and sunshine for use in times without wind or sun.

Thermal storage[edit]

A variety of thermal energy storage technologies allow heat or cold to be stored for periods of time ranging from diurnal to interseasonal, and can involve storage of sensible energy (i.e. by changing the temperature of a medium) or latent energy (i.e. through phase changes of a medium, such between water and slush or ice). Energy sources can be natural (via solar-thermal collectors, or dry cooling towers used to collect winter's cold), waste energy (such as from HVAC equipment, industrial processes or power plants), or surplus energy (such as from hyropower projects or wind farms). Thus, these storage methods are enabling technologies that allow the uses of renewable energy or waste energy that otherwise would not be possible. The Drake Landing Solar Community (Alberta, Canada) is illustrative. borehole thermal energy storage allows the community to get 97% of its year-round heat from solar collectors on the garage roofs, with most of the heat collected in summer.[151][152] The storages can be insulated tanks, borehole clusters in substrates ranging from gravel to bedrock, deep aquifers, or shallow pits that are lined and insulated. Applications require inclusion of a heat pump.

Compressed air storage[edit]

Energy may also be stored in pressurized gases or alternatively in a vacuum. Compressed air, for example, may be used to operate vehicles and power tools. Large-scale compressed air energy storage facilities are used to smooth out demands on electricity generation by providing energy during peak hours and storing energy during off-peak hours. All storage systems save on generating capacity since primary energy sources only need to meet average consumption rather than peak consumption.[153] A critical factor in design of compressed-air storage systems is the heat evolved during compression; a large amount of heat is given off when gases are compressed, and subsequent expansion requires the gas to resorb this heat. In spite of the large cyclic efficiency loss in simple schemes, compressed air storage has still been applied in electrical grid applications, where low-cost off-peak baseload energy can be stored for later release during peaks.

Electrical capacitance[edit]

Electrical energy may be stored in capacitors. Capacitors are often used to produce high intensity releases of energy (such as a camera's flash).

Hydrogen storage[edit]

Hydrogen technologies are technologies that relate to the production and use of hydrogen. Hydrogen technologies are applicable for many uses. A fuel cell is a device that converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent.[154] Hydrogen is the most common fuel.[note 37] Some hydrogen technologies are carbon neutral and could have a role in preventing climate change and a possible future hydrogen economy. Fuel cells are different from batteries in that they require a constant source of fuel and oxygen/air to sustain the chemical reaction, they can however produce electricity continually for as long as these inputs are supplied.

Hydrogen is colorless, odorless and entirely non-polluting, yielding pure water vapor (with minimal NOx) as exhaust when combusted in air. This eliminates the direct production of exhaust gases that lead to smog, and carbon dioxide emissions that enhance the effect of global warming. Hydrogen is the lightest chemical element and has the best energy-to-weight ratio of any fuel (not counting tank mass). Hydrogen can be produced anywhere; it can be produced domestically from the decomposition of water. Hydrogen can be produced from domestic sources and the price can be established within the country.

Other than volcanic emanations, hydrogen does not exist in its pure form in the environment, because it reacts so strongly with oxygen and other elements.[155] It is impossible to obtain hydrogen gas without expending energy in the process. There are three ways to manufacture hydrogen; by breaking down hydrocarbons — mainly methane (steam reforming). If oil or gases are used to provide this energy, fossil fuels are consumed, forming pollution and nullifying the value of using a fuel cell. It would be efficient to use fossil fuel directly. By electrolysis of water[note 38] — The process of splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen using electrolysis. By reacting water with a metal such as sodium, potassium, or boron. Chemical by-products would be sodium oxide, potassium oxide, and boron oxide. Processes exist which could recycle these elements back into their metal form for re-use with additional energy input, further eroding the energy return on energy invested. There is currently modest fixed infrastructure for distribution of hydrogen that is centrally produced,[156] amounting to several hundred kilometers of pipeline. An alternative would be transmission of electricity over the existing electrical network to small-scale electrolyzers to support the widespread use of hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen is difficult to handle, store, and transport. It requires industrial tanks when stored as compressed hydrogen, and complex insulating bottles if stored as a cryogenic liquid hydrogen. If it is needed at a moderate temperature and pressure, a metal hydride absorber may be needed. The transportation of hydrogen is also a problem because hydrogen leaks effortlessly from containers.

Hydrogen can be manufactured at roughly 77 percent thermal efficiency by the method of steam reforming of natural gas.[157] When manufactured by this method it is a derivative fuel like gasoline; when produced by electrolysis of water, it is a form of chemical energy storage as are storage batteries, though hydrogen is the versatile storage mode since there are two options for its conversion to useful work: (1) a fuel cell can convert the chemicals hydrogen and oxygen into water, and in the process, produce electricity, or (2) hydrogen can be burned (less efficiently than in a fuel cell) in an internal combustion engine.

Vehicular storage[edit]


Main articles: Battery, Battery electric vehicle, Vehicle-to-grid

Batteries store energy in a chemical form.[158] Prior to the rise of electrical generators and electrical power grids from around the end of the 19th century, batteries were the main source of electricity. Successive improvements in battery technology permitted the rise of major electrical advances[note 39] leading eventually to the information age, electric cars and contemporary electrical devices. As an alternative energy, batteries can be used to store energy in battery electric vehicles. Battery electric vehicles can be charged from the grid when the vehicle is not in use. Because the energy is derived from electricity, battery electric vehicles make it possible to use other forms of alternative energy such as wind, solar, geothermal, or hydroelectric.

Contemporary lead acid battery technology offers in excess of an hour of travel range on one charge.[159] Batteries make it possible for stationary alternative energy generation such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, or nuclear. Electric motors are 90% efficient compared to about 20% efficiency of an internal combustion engine,[160] including torque transfer.[note 40] Battery electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, thus improving the reliability of the vehicle. Battery electric vehicles are quiet compared to internal combustion engines. Operation of a battery electric vehicle is approximately 2 to 4 cents per mile, about a sixth the price of operating a gasoline vehicle.[161] The use of battery electric vehicles may reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, depending on the source of the electricity.

Battery packs in a modified Prius.
A solar-powered charger can be used to recharge automotive energy cells.

Current battery technology is expensive. The principal materials required in battery production, such as Lithium, are becoming increasingly scarce [162] Battery electric vehicles have a relative short range compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, and recharge times are longer than the time to fill a conventional fuel tank. Batteries[note 41] are highly toxic. Spent vehicle batteries present a potential environmental hazard. They are all best recycled at end of life. Grid infrastructure and output would need to be improved significantly to accommodate a mass-adoption of grid-charged electric vehicles, although the problem is less if electric vehicles will recharge primarily at night, when electricity demand is currently lowest. Batteries perform less efficiently in cold weather, and a battery electric vehicle lacks a convenient source of waste engine heat to warm the passenger compartment. Accordingly, the test-marketing of electric vehicles such as the General Motors EV1 took place in warm-weather parts of Arizona and California. Batteries perform poorly in hot weather.

Compressed air vehicle[edit]

Compressed air vehicles would be propelled entirely or partly by energy stored in compressed air. However, cyclic efficiency is low since it is difficult to store the heat of compression and return it to the air during expansion. Certain specialized vehicles, for example, mine locomotives, have been built and used for many years.

History of energy development[edit]

Energy generators past and present at Doel, Belgium: 17th century windmill Scheldemolen and 20th century Doel Nuclear Power Station

Since prehistory, when humanity discovered fire to warm up and roast food, through the Middle Ages in which populations built windmills to grind the wheat, until the modern era in which nations can get electricity splitting the atom. Man has sought endlessly for energy sources[note 42] from which to draw profit, which have been the fossil fuels, on one hand the coal to fuel the steam engines run industrial rails as well as maintain households, and secondly, the oil and its derivatives in the industry and transportation (primarily automotive), although have lived with smaller-scale exploitation of wind power, hydro and biomass. This model of development, however, is based on the depletion of fossil resources from periods of millions years without possibility for replacement as would be required to maintain. The search for energy sources that are inexhaustible and utilization by industrialized countries to strengthen their national economies by reducing its dependence on fossil fuels,[note 43] has led to the adoption of nuclear energy and those with sufficient water resources, the intensive hydraulic use of their waterways.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the question of the future of energy supplies has been of interest. In 1865, William Stanley Jevons published The Coal Question in which he saw that the reserves of coal were being depleted and that oil was an ineffective replacement. In 1914, U.S. Bureau of Mines stated that the total production was 5.7 billion barrels (910,000,000 m3). In 1956, Geophysicist M. King Hubbert deduces that U.S. oil production will peak between 1965 and 1970 (peaked in 1971) and that oil production will peak "within half a century" on the basis of 1956 data.[note 44] In 1989, predicted peak by Colin Campbell[163] In 2004, OPEC estimated, with substantial investments, it would nearly double oil output by 2025[164]

See also: Energy crisis (Historical energy crises)
See also: History of nuclear power, History of nuclear fission, and History of fusion research
See also: History of fossil fuel, History of vegetable oil used as fuel and History of biodiesel
See also: History of geothermal power, History of wind power and History of energy storage
See also: History of electromagnetism and Electrification
See also: History of perpetual motion machines


Energy consumption from 1989 to 1999

The environmental movement has emphasized sustainability of energy use and development.[165] Renewable energy is sustainable in its production; the available supply will not be diminished for the foreseeable future - millions or billions of years. "Sustainability" also refers to the ability of the environment to cope with waste products, especially air pollution. Sources which have no direct waste products (such as wind, solar, and hydropower) are brought up on this point. With global demand for energy growing, the need to adopt various energy sources is growing. Energy conservation is an alternative or complementary process to energy development. It reduces the demand for energy by using it efficiently.


Energy consumption per capita (2001). Red hues indicate increase, green hues decrease of consumption during the 1990s.

Some observers contend that idea of "energy independence" is an unrealistic[note 45] and opaque concept.[166] The alternative offer of "energy resilience" is a goal aligned with economic, security, and energy realities. The notion of resilience in energy was detailed in the 1982 book Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security.[167] The authors argued that simply switching to domestic energy would not be secure inherently because the true weakness is the interdependent and vulnerable energy infrastructure of the United States. Key aspects such as gas lines and the electrical power grid are centralized and easily susceptible to disruption. They conclude that a "resilient energy supply" is necessary for both national security and the environment. They recommend a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy that is decentralized.[168]

In 2008, former Intel Corporation Chairman and CEO Andrew Grove looked to energy resilience, arguing that complete independence is unfeasible given the global market for energy.[169] He describes energy resilience as the ability to adjust to interruptions in the supply of energy. To that end, he suggests the U.S. make greater use of electricity.[170] Electricity can be produced from a variety of sources. A diverse energy supply will be less impacted by the disruption in supply of any one source. He reasons that another feature of electrification is that electricity is "sticky" – meaning the electricity produced in the U.S. is to stay there because it cannot be transported overseas. According to Grove, a key aspect of advancing electrification and energy resilience will be converting the U.S. automotive fleet from gasoline-powered to electric-powered. This, in turn, will require the modernization and expansion of the electrical power grid. As organizations such as the Reform Institute have pointed out, advancements associated with the developing smart grid would facilitate the ability of the grid to absorb vehicles en masse connecting to it to charge their batteries.[171]

Present and Future[edit]

World Primary Energy Outlook (c. 2011)
Energy Consumption
     Liquid fuels (and Biofuels);      Coal;      Natural Gas;      Renewable fuels (excluding Biofuels);      Nuclear fuels
World energy consumption outlook from the International Energy Outlook, published by the U.S. DOE Energy Information Administration.
An increasing share of world energy consumption is predicted to be used by developing nations.
     Industrialized nations;      Developing nations;      EE/Former Soviet Union
Source: Energy Information Administration: "International Energy Outlook 2004".

Extrapolations from current knowledge to the future offer a choice of energy futures.[172] Predictions parallel the Malthusian catastrophe hypothesis. Numerous are complex models based scenarios as pioneered by Limits to Growth. Modeling approaches offer ways to analyze diverse strategies, and hopefully find a road to rapid and sustainable development of humanity. Short term energy crises are also a concern of energy development. Extrapolations lack plausibility, particularly when they predict a continual increase in oil consumption.[citation needed]

Energy production usually requires an energy investment. Drilling for oil or building a wind power plant requires energy. The fossil fuel resources (see above) that are left are often increasingly difficult to extract and convert. They may thus require increasingly higher energy investments. If investment is greater than the energy produced, than the resource; It is no longer an effective energy source.[173][note 46] This means that resources, the wasteful ones, are not used effectively for energy production.[note 47] Such resources can be exploited economically in order to produce raw materials;[note 48] They then become ordinary mining reserves, economically recoverable are not a positive energy sources. New technology may ameliorate this problem if it can lower the energy investment required to extract and convert the resources, although ultimately basic physics sets limits that cannot be exceeded.

Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation.[174] The peaking of world hydrocarbon production (peak oil) may lead to significant changes, and require sustainable methods of production.[175] One vision of a sustainable energy future involves all human structures on the earth's surface (i.e., buildings, vehicles and roads) doing artificial photosynthesis (using sunlight to split water as a source of hydrogen and absorbing carbon dioxide to make fertilizer) efficiently than plants.[176]

With contemporary space industry's economic activity[177][178] and the related private spaceflight, with the manufacturing industries, that go into Earth's orbit or beyond, delivering them to those regions will require further energy development.[179][180][181][182] Commercialization of space includes satellite navigation systems, satellite television and satellite radio; investments estimated to be $50.8 billion.[183] There are the spaceports of Sweden's gateway, Curaçao's gateway,[note 49] Malaysia's gateway, and America's gateway[note 50] that plans to make personal and commercial suborbital spaceflight for space tourism, space hubs,[note 51] space research, and science education, in-addition to contribute to Earth-based cross-industry innovation. Researchers have contemplated space-based solar power for collecting solar power in space for use on Earth.[note 52][note 53] Space-based solar power only differ from solar and other similar radiant energy collection methods in that the means used to collect energy would reside on an orbiting satellite instead of on Earth's surface. Some projected benefits of such a system are a higher collection rate and a longer collection period due to the lack of a diffusing and refracting atmosphere and nighttime in space.[note 54]

See also: Asteroid mining and Earth tether (Space elevator construction)[note 55]

See also[edit]

Energy policy, Energy policy of the United States, Energy policy of China, Energy policy of India, Energy policy of the European Union, Energy policy of the United Kingdom, Energy policy of Russia, Energy policy of Brazil, Energy policy of Canada
Seasonal thermal energy storage (Interseasonal thermal energy storage), Geomagnetically induced current, Energy harvesting
Raw material, Material, Biomaterial, Commodity, Materials science, Recycling, Upcycling, Downcycling
Background radiation, Energy policy of the Soviet Union, Energy Industry Liberalization and Privatization (Thailand)

References and citations[edit]

  1. ^ Also known as heat loss inefficiency
  2. ^ See also: Fuel efficiency and Energy efficiency in transportation
  3. ^ See also: Energy conversion efficiency
  4. ^ For small-scale generation, see: Microgeneration.
  5. ^ Including oil companies, petroleum refiners, fuel transport and end-user sales at gas stations
  6. ^ Including natural gas extraction, and coal gas manufacture, as well as distribution and sales
  7. ^ Including electricity generation, electric power distribution and sales
  8. ^ Such as the physical jargon of "power", can be seen in the following:
  9. ^ See: thermodynamics open system
  10. ^ Providing the day and the habitable zone the Earth is in.
  11. ^ See also: Matter and Energy
  12. ^ Or those pertaining to the cosmos.
  13. ^ See also: velocity of wind
  14. ^ petroleum products (fats), Hydrogenated vegetable oil (vegetable shortening), Brown grease, and Yellow grease
  15. ^ human, donkey, mule, elephant.
  16. ^ from shale slate
  17. ^ Or, moreover, the mass and energy coupling, as Albert Einstein states in the equivalence between these two concepts in his formula, E = m\cdot c^{2}.
  18. ^ See: Oil reserves, Petroleum formation, and Pyrolysis.
  19. ^ Much like steam released from a cylinder of a steam engine.
  20. ^ See also: Exhaust system (Exhaust manifold), Exhaust velocity, Exhaust brake.
  21. ^ See also: Exhaust gas ((Flue gas) Emission of greenhouse gases), Emission factor, and Emissions trading.
  22. ^ More liberally, oil has or will peak between 2010 to 2025. One out of several estimations state that there will be no peak. The timing of worldwide peak oil production is being actively debated, but may have already happened in countries. For more, see: Congressional Record, Volume 151-Part 19: November 8, 2005 to November 16, 2005 (Pages 25297 to 26552). Government Printing Office, 2010. p26524-26525.
  23. ^ About 10 million kilowatt hours per day; Roughly, 420000 kilowatt hours per hour.
  24. ^ According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary cause of global warming. 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), the leading cause of acid rain. 500 tons of small airborne particles, which result in chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, in addition to haze-obstructed visibility. 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx), (from high-temperature atmospheric combustion), leading to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning lung tissue making people susceptible to respiratory illness. 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), resulting in headaches and additional stress on people with heart disease. 220 tons of hydrocarbons, toxic volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone. 170 pounds (77 kg) of mercury, where just 170 of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre (100,000 m2) lake can make the fish unsafe to eat. 225 pounds (102 kg) of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion. 114 pounds (52 kg) of lead, 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.
    For more, see: "Environmental impacts of coal power: air pollution". Union of Concerned Scientists. 08/18/05. Retrieved 2008-01-18. 
  25. ^ "Non-renewable energy". DOE. Retrieved 2008-05-09. . According to Bernard Cohen (1983), it was thought sustainable. (See:
  26. ^ See also: Nuclear Liability Act of India.
  27. ^ water dropper microgeneration
  28. ^ Renewable energy is an alternative to fossil fuels and was commonly called alternative energy in the 1970s and 1980s. Such usage has been to an extent deprecated.
  29. ^ Both aquatic and land-based.
  30. ^ See Food vs. fuel
  31. ^ Boats may not be able to cross, and commercial ships, used for transport or fishery, would need alternative routes or systems to go through.
  32. ^ Including consideration of possible harmful side effects.
  33. ^ In principle similar to automatic watches.
  34. ^ Also, springs can store energy.
  35. ^ By using the formula Ug = mgh where 1 Ug is equal to 196 J, and since 1 watt hour = 3600 J it can be determined that an object weighting 1 ton lifted 1 m into the air can store approx. 533 watt hours of energy. Increasing the vertical lift distance to 100 m and the weight to 200 tons leads to a device capable of storing approx. 10.67 mWh of energy.
  36. ^ Building rubble, for example.
  37. ^ But hydrocarbons such as natural gas and alcohols like methanol are sometimes used.
  38. ^ See also: Water splitting
  39. ^ From early scientific studies to the rise of second industrial revolution
  40. ^ See also: Electromagnetic clutch, Friction-plate electromagnetic couplings, and Spin-transfer torque
  41. ^ Like the Gel battery and the Lead-acid battery
  42. ^ All terrestrial energy sources except nuclear, geothermal and tidal are from current solar isolation or from fossil remains of plant and animal life that relied directly and indirectly upon sunlight, respectively. Ultimately, solar energy itself is the result of the Sun's nuclear fusion. Geothermal power from hot, hardened rock above the magma of the Earth's core is the result of the decay of radioactive materials present beneath the Earth's crust, and nuclear fission relies on man-made fission of heavy radioactive elements in the Earth's crust; in both cases these elements were produced in supernova explosions before the formation of the solar system.
  43. ^ Concentrated in foreign territories after the exploitation and exhaustion of their own resource.
  44. ^ See Hubbert peak theory.
  45. ^ Said in relation with Liquid metal fast breeder reactor. For more, see: United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975. Page 7349.
  46. ^ See: Energy returned on energy invested and Fuel efficiency.
  47. ^ See: Waste minimisation
  48. ^ For plastics, fertilizers, etc.
  49. ^ Having the Lynx rocketplane, Insel Air, and Dutch Antilles Express.
  50. ^ Having Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, UP Aerospace, and Armadillo Aerospace.
  51. ^ See also: orbital station
  52. ^ Using solar power satellites and satellite power systems, such as the electrodynamic tether.
  53. ^ Space-based solar power has been in research since the early 1970s.
  54. ^ Though, Earth based receiving structures of radiant electromotive forces are not beyond conception.
  55. ^ See also: Lunar space elevator and Lunar outpost
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