There has been a lot of talk lately about renewable resources. Most of the discussion has been about how we can take advantage of these resources, but before that happens we need to understand what these renewable natural resources are.
When we talk about renewable natural resources, we are talking about five specific technologies. There are more than just those five, but when it comes to large-scale use, these five really are the only viable options today.
The first option is solar. We have been hearing about solar technology for years and it is probably the most recognized renewable natural resource. What most people don’t understand is the solar blanket of any technology that uses the sun. For example, solar heating towers are a technology that is starting to take off. There are currently four very large projects underway to try to use this technology. Another type of solar energy is liquid thermal energy. With this technology, the sun is used to heat a liquid, and then this heat is transferred to a thermal battery for later use. This is just to name a few, but keep in mind that solar power is a broad category.
The second option is the wind. Wind is another technology that has been around for a very long time. We have all seen the pictures of farms with windmills to bring water up from the well. Although it is not about electric generation, it is the same as the general idea. Many large wind farms already exist and this technology is used all over the world. It is widely recognized and a perfect complement to solar technologies.
The third option is wave technology. It’s a very new idea, but it shows incredible potential. One thing that never changes and is as constant as the sunset is the tides. This new technology uses waves as a recycling lever to generate electricity. There are very big projects on the table to try to exploit the natural resource.
The fourth option is the production of alcohol from biomass. It is also a technology that has been around for a very long time. It consists of using organisms or enzymes to transform bio matter (corn, grass, wood, etc.) into ethanol. While this is an option for replacing petroleum products, it has many drawbacks to being a viable option for complete replacement of fossil fuels. It has its place, but it will never be a major player in the production of alternative energy.
Finally, the fifth option is geothermal energy. It’s a little ironic that just below our feet is an almost unlimited source of thermal energy, but it is one of the least used natural resources. The main reason is the difficulty of accessing it. We just don’t have the technology today to drill to the depths necessary to make it a major option. There are examples of using shallow boreholes for use in single-family home solutions, but as a large-scale option there is still work to be done.
As I said before, there are plenty of other options out there, but these 5 options are the ones with the most potential for long term solutions. For the average person looking to offset ever-increasing energy costs, there are many options that are cost effective solutions. Wind and solar are the most obvious.