Everything runs on energy, living things take it from food and everything else runs on electricity. Computers, mobiles, vehicles, bulbs, fans and the companies which produce computers, mobiles, vehicles, bulbs, fans, everything needs electricity. To make sure that everything keeps running, electricity is produced in many ways, but today’s most preferable types of power generation has negative impact on the environment. Here, let’s study only the complications arrived by major power generating operations.
Energy resources can be categorized into two types, renewable and non-renewable. As the name suggests non-renewable sources are finite resources, which means they come with the time period and will get exhausted, and this is the main reason why we can’t rely on them. In addition to this, the sources like fossil fuel, Crude Oil or Petroleum, Natural gas, Coal, etc. produces elements like Sulfur oxides, Nitrogen oxides, Carbon monoxide, Volatile organic compounds, Toxic metals like lead and mercury, etc. These compounds damage the planet and eventually the living organisms. Instead of producing methods which will reduce the emission of toxic elements from these resources; because of their finite age, scientists and researchers are focusing on finding new energy resources.
Nuclear energy is a renewable type of energy, but currently nuclear power plants use Uranium, which is a very rare element, thus nuclear energy is often considered as a non-renewable source of energy. The energy produced by the emission of radioactive elements is very high, but the complication here is to control that energy. Also, there always remains the risk of radioactive leakages, which is the most destructive thing to the nature.
Considering the effects of non-renewable sources on the environment, the most common solution we often collide with is to lower the use of non-renewable source of energy and produce energy from sources like solar, hydro, wind, etc. But the fact is more than 70% of energy is generated by non-renewable sources. The main issue with the non-renewable sources is they are exhaustible and will be depleted one day. But some major issues are also related to conventional sources. For hydroelectric power, they can be generated at limited places, when the season is favorable and as they are located far from the industrial or domestic areas, transmission losses are non-negligible. The intensity of solar energy produced is very low and hence they require a lot of space to generate a significant amount of power, also, it cannot be produced everywhere. The other popular source, which is the wind energy, encounters similar complications. Wind turbines also cause major environmental issues near the wind farm.
Efficiencies of Engines
With all the issues related to current major sources, researchers are constantly finding new sources. Well research is not only going on to search new resources, but also how to use current resources, as a notable part of energy get wasted even before using it. To understand this phenomenon, let us study the energy loss in two ways. If one barrel of crude oil is drilled, a major part of it is refined into gasoline and diesel, and the other part stays as a low grade fuel. For this process, there is not much scope as the low grade fuel cannot be converted into high quality fuel. Now in the next process, the extracted gasoline or diesel is converted into energy. In this conversion, the energy is not totally obtained as some of the energy is lost during the process. Now in the second process, the scope to save energy is very high. For example, internal combustion engine (ICE), the engine on which vehicles are driven loses about 62 % of the total energy available. This means it uses about 38-40% of energy from the available reserve. This ability of engines is also called as their efficiency, and here the efficiency of ICE is 38%.
Using the Available Resources More Effectively
Now, the prices of gasoline and diesel are increasing every single day. So if we consider that an average car runs 25 miles per gallon, and considering that one gallons costs 2$, then in easy words we can state that our car runs 25 miles per 2$. Now, every one of us is expecting the price of gasoline to get lowered, so that our car runs 30 miles per 2$. But, just consider what if we maximize the efficiency of our engine. If we, out of miracles, successfully invent an engine having 80 % efficiency, then with current gasoline prices, our car will run 50 miles for every 2$.
Considering the power plants, coal based power plants has an average efficiency of 35-38%. Natural gas fired power plants has 32-38% and diesel engines has 35-42% of efficiency. In the renewable type of generation, wind turbines has 30-45% and hydro power plants has highest of them all, 85-90 % efficiency.
After doing a lot of research you will understand that there are reasonable factors that lower the efficiencies, but if a part of focus–that is being put in finding new resources–is dedicated in maximizing the efficiencies, then we may get an appreciable period to find new resources or to develop techniques to produce more energy from the renewable sources.