Which Countries Use & Produce The Most Energy

Which Countries Use & Produce The Most Energy

The energy sector is one of the most important sectors globally for a number of reasons.

It’s important to know which countries are using and producing the most energy, and how they are doing it. This gives us an idea of the impact they might be having on their own country and the world.

In this guide, we look at which countries use the most energy in total, per person, per year, and also which countries produce the most energy.

 

Summary – Countries That Use & Produce The Most Energy

  • As of 2006, the US was the highest user of energy
  • As of 2010, China took over as the country using the most energy globally
  • In 2009, Iceland, Trinidad and Tobago, Qatar, and Kuwait were the countries using the most energy per capita/per person
  • Countries that have used the least energy per capita in the past have mainly been based in Sub-Sahara Africa
  • Trends for energy produced have mimicked energy used i.e. China has overtaken the US in the recent decades.
  • Russia is also a significant energy user and producer

 

Which Countries Use The Most Energy In Total

In 2006, the world’s top energy consumers in % were:

CountryPercent of World Energy Consumed
United States21%
China16
Russia6
Japan5
India4
Germany3

– infoplease.com

 

China has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest energy consumer in 2010. China’s 2009 consumption of energy sources ranging from oil and coal to wind and solar power was equal to 2.265 billion tons of oil, compared to 2.169 billion tons used that year by the United States.

– phys.org

 

In 2012, the countries that used the most energy (in quadrillion BTUs) were:

  • China
  • United States
  • Russia
  • India
  • Japan
  • Germany
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • South Korea
  • France

– e-education.psu.edu

 

Which Countries Use The Most Energy Per Person/Per Capita

In 2009, the countries that used the most energy per capita were (in kg of oil equivalent):

1Iceland16404.7
2Trinidad and Tobago15158.2
3Qatar14911.1
4Kuwait11402.1
5United Arab Emirates8588.0
6Bahrain8096.3
7Brunei Darussalam7971.3
8Luxembourg7934.1
9Canada7534.0
10North America7098.5
11United States7050.6
12Finland6212.9
13Australia5970.9
14Saudi Arabia5888.1
15Norway5849.3
16Oman5554.1
17Belgium5299.7
18Sweden4883.4
19Netherlands4729.2

– economicshelp.org

 

The countries that use the most electricity per capita are:

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Bahrain
  4. Qatar
  5. Canada
  6. Kuwait
  7. Finland
  8. Luxembourg
  9. Sweden
  10. United States

The countries that use the least electricity per capita are:

  1. Haiti
  2. South Sudan
  3. Niger
  4. Eritrea
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Benin
  7. Tanzania
  8. Democratic Republic of Congo
  9. Nepal
  10. Nicaragua

– telegraph.co.uk

 

Which Countries Use The Most Energy Per Year

The total energy consumption per capita in kilogrammes of oil equivalent per year, and gigajoules per year, and in watts, as average equivalent power, were:

200320132014
Country/Territorykgoe/aGJ/aWkgoe/aGJ/aWkgoe/a
 Qatar12799.4537.5817041.219120.3803.0525456.8 
Iceland16882.5709.0622477.418177.3763.4424201.217583.6
Trinidad and Tobago15913.3668.3621187.014537.6610.5819355.3 
Bahrain7753.7325.6510323.210171.7427.2113542.6 
 Kuwait12204.3512.5816248.89757.4409.8112991.1 
United Arab Emirates8271.5347.4011012.67691323.0210239.8 
Brunei Darussalam8308.4348.9511061.97392.9310.509842.9 
 Luxembourg8342.5350.3911107.37310.3307.039732.96812.2
Canada7379.6309.949825.27202.2302.499589.07247.2
United States7164.5300.919538.86915.8290.479207.86917.4
Norway6637.4278.778837.06438.8270.438572.65854
Saudi Arabia6167.9259.058212.06363.4267.268472.2 
Oman7187.7301.889569.76232.5261.768297.9 
Finland6787.2285.069036.56074.7255.148087.96266.9
Australia5593.2234.927446.85586.3234.637437.75484.7
South Korea5059.9212.526736.85253.5220.656994.55262
Sweden5468.2229.677280.45131.5215.526832.14811
 Russia4943.1207.616581.25093.1213.91

– wikipedia.org

You can view the full list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita

 

Which Countries Produce The Most Energy

In 2006, a total of 469 quadrillion Btus (British Thermal Units) were produced. The breakdown of that was:

CountryBtus produced*
United States71 quadrillion Btu
China67.7 quadrillion Btu
Russia53.3 quadrillion Btu
Saudi Arabia24.7 quadrillion Btu
Canada19.3 quadrillion Btu
Iran13.1 quadrillion Btu

“Btu“ is the abbreviation for British thermal unit. One Btu is nearly equal to the amount of energy released when a wood match is burned

– infoplease.com

 

In 2012, the countries that produced the most energy (in quadrillion BTUs) were:

  • China
  • United States
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Canada
  • Indonesia
  • India
  • Iran
  • Australia
  • Qatar

– e-education.psu.edu

 

Sources

1. https://www.infoplease.com/science-health/energy/top-energy-producers-and-consumers

2. https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/5988/economics/list-of-countries-energy-use-per-capita/

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita

4. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/mapped-the-countries-that-use-the-most-electricity/

5. https://phys.org/news/2010-07-china-surpasses-world-energy-consumer.html

Oil Energy Pros & Cons Now & In The Future

Oil Energy Pros & Cons Now & In The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Oil Energy.

 

Summary – Oil Energy Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affordable and cheap
  • Technology is well developed
  • Infrastructure is already in place
  • Widely accessible worldwide
  • A high density form of energy
  • A consistent form of energy
  • Provides a lot of employment
  • Is important for many economies
  • Is a commodity
  • Oil technology is used to create other products and services we relyon

Cons

  • Emits greenhouse gases
  • Causes air pollution
  • Is finite and not renewable
  • Mining and drilling for oil can have significant negative environmental impact
  • The combustion and refining processes can have human health hazards
  • Oil industry overall can be dangerous for workers
  • Is the source of power and wealth battles and inequalities in some countries
  • Pricing can rise and fall

Oil energy is really well established in many countries and has provided much of the growth of developed countries

However, oil is a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gas, and the extraction of and use of oil for energy is damaging to the environment, animals and humans

Oil is cleaner than coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, but is dirtier than natural gas, which means that along with coal, oil will have a short life in the future of mankind

Although it will still be used into the foreseeable future, it seems like it’s in our best interests to transition away from oil energy in the long term to renewable green energy such as solar, wind and water. Natural gas may be a bridge energy source we use in this transition, as it’s cleaner burning, along with nuclear power.

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Oil Energy

There are many utilities to oil energy , particularly when it is in liquid form.

It can be utilized as fuel for common vehicles and in generating electricity.

The process of producing electricity can be done by burning oil in order to run turbines through steam. Oil can also be used for vehicles in the form of diesel and petrol.

Oil is formed when pressure and heat compress remains of prehistoric animals, aquatic life, and plants millions of years ago. Oil is drilled then pumped from underground pockets or oil wells. This will then be distilled, a process that separates crude oil byproducts.

After the extraction of oil from the earth, it will be taken into refineries through various oil tankers. Oil can be processed into several products, such as ethane, diesel, fuel oil, kerosene, jet fuel, liquefied petroleum gas and petrol, among others. Other types of oil can be used as lubricants such as motor oils and grease. Moreover, liquid fuels can be utilized as aviation gasoline, antiknock additives and turbine fuels. Petrol is also useful as it increases engine efficiency.

– greengarageblog.org

 

The term “petroleum” is used to cover both the unprocessed crude oil and the products obtained from refining crude oil.

– alternative-energies.net

 

Oil Energy Pros

  • Oil Is Affordable/Cheap – because oil technology is so well developed.
  • Oil Technology Is Well Developed – because oil has been used for so many years, and the technology has been researched and improved.
  • Oil Infrastructure Is Already In Place – because oil has been used for so long, we have already built
  • Oil Is Widely Accessible – infrastructure and transport  methods make it easy to provide oil for people in most locations.
  • Oil Energy Is High Density Energy – a small amount of oil can product a large amount of energy.
  • Oil Energy Is Consistent – when it is used for energy, the performance is consistent. This is unlike for example solar or wind which can have an intermittent load.
  • Oil Energy Provides Jobs – In 2017, the US Energy and Employment report found that traditional energy and energy-efficiency sectors in the United States provide about 6.4 million jobs. That was an increase of almost 5% from the year before, netting a total of 300,000 new jobs. About 14% of the total job creation that occurred in the US from 2016-2017 occurred in oil energy.
  • Oil Energy Keeps Economies Growing – oil energy helps to create plastics. It helps farmers run their equipment to plant and harvest crops. Up to 10% of crude oil is refined into raw materials that are used for the chemical industry. Dues, shampoos, and even shaving cream is produced through oil energy. Even bandages are created through oil energy. By making it available and affordable, we can keep economies growing because millions of jobs are indirectly linked to this industry.
  • Oil Is A Commodity – can become an investment vehicle. Retirement programs, private investors, and other savings resources can invest into oil energy and build wealth for others.
  • Oil Technology Is Used To Create Renewable Energy Products & Equipment – such as solar and wind equipment. And, most renewable energy products created by oil energy become carbon-neutral in 5 years or less.

– vittana.org, greengarageblog.org

 

Oil Energy Cons

  • Emits Greenhouse Gases – the combustion of oil energy emits greenhouse gases, which goes against the objective to stop the effects of climate change ASAP.
  • Pollutes In Other Ways Too – oil spills are an issue which create wide ranging effects on the environment.
  • Is Not Renewable – there are finite supplies of oil, compared to sun and wind energy which are renewable.
  • Can Damage Human Health – the combustion and refining processes of oil can produce harmful effects to human health. In particular carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide can be released, both of which have an ill-effect on human health. In a high enough dose, these two substances can even be life-threatening.
  • Is The Source Of Power & Wealth Battles & Inequalities – Nations that are fueled by the profits of oil resources have banked trillions of dollars in wealth over the years. That wealth creates socioeconomic groups and divides. This struggle can promote violence, fuel terrorism, and has historically put nations at the brink of war.
  • Oil Drilling Is Damaging – drilling can have a negative impact on land, the environment and surrounding wildlife and ecosystems.
  • Oil Industry Can Be Dangerous For Workers – Although the number of oil energy jobs has risen, these jobs aren’t necessarily safe employment opportunities. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that oil and gas industry workers make up about 1% of the total workers in the United States. About 3% of on-the-job fatalities occurred within the oil and gas industry. In 2014, 4,679 people were killed while working in the US and 142 of them were working in oil energy. That means a worker here is 3 times more likely to die on the job than in other employment fields.
  • Pricing Can Be Variable – Pricing has been variable, because of artificial limitations on supply and demand.

– vittana.org, greengarageblog.org

 

Sources

1. https://vittana.org/12-pros-and-cons-of-oil-energy

2. https://greengarageblog.org/11-crucial-pros-and-cons-of-oil-energy

3. https://www.alternative-energies.net/oil-energy-pros-and-cons/

Coal Energy Pros & Cons: Now, & In The Future

Coal Energy Pros & Cons Now & In The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Coal Energy.

 

Summary – Coal Energy Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Cost effective and provides an affordable electricity source in some places
  • Some coal supply estimates are as high as hundreds of years (based on current known resources)
  • Power supply infrastructure in many cities is currently set up for fossil fuels
  • Not a variable power source like solar or wind for example
  • Has good power density/power per unit (black coal in particular)
  • Technology like CSS can capture air contaminants and emissions from coal
  • Coal can be converted into different types of fuel
  • Coal plants are sometimes cheaper than gas or nuclear plants
  • Currently provides significant jobs and income in major countries like China
  • Has provided economic growth in the past for developed countries
  • Can help countries have better energy independence from other countries e.g. they might become less dependent on natural gas from Russia
  • Some estimates of air pollution from coal burning aren’t as high as what is usually reported
  • Some estimates of mercury emissions aren’t as high as what is usually reported
  • Coal waste by products can be used for other applications

Cons

  • Although cheap on it’s own, coal is heavily subsidised in some countries (which helps keep coal prices competitive)
  • Not a green form of energy > produces greenhouse gas emissions when burning
  • Is finite as a resource – not a renewable form of energy
  • Contributes to outdoor air pollution via the release of various air toxins (and contributes to human health conditions and mortality rates)
  • Can release/emit mercury 
  • Toxins released from coal can be poorly monitored in some regions of the world
  • Air pollution from coal can be very costly to the health system (and can contribute to health conditions like lung cancer and cardiovascular disease)
  • Air pollution from burning of coal can contribute to acid rain
  • Coal supplies at plants need to be topped up, unlike some renewable forms of energy
  • Coal mining can be very destructive environmentally and to local communities
  • Coal burning can produce radiation
  • Clean coal right now isn’t actually ‘clean’
  • Carbon capture technology has it’s flaws, and adds to the cost of coal energy and electricity
  • ‘Clean coal’ technology research and development has cost a lot of money over the last few decades
  • Brown coal is an inefficient form of energy
  • Brown coal can be uneconomic to transport long distances
  • Some ‘Clean Coal’ technology isn’t always effective
  • Coal waste like coal ash can build up, and even pollute the environment (it can also be costly to treat and manage coal waste properly)
  • Thermal coal power plants can use a lot of water for cooling
  • Some argue that coal power plant licenses that don’t regulate emissions allow investors and plant operators a ‘free pass’ to pollute the environment
  • Coal isn’t suitable for ramping up fast 

Coal is cheap, widely available, has infrastructure already in place (for power grids for many cities around the world), and has adequate resources/supplies still left.

It essentially offers a lot of affordable power supply.

However, the carbon dioxide and air toxins it emits during combustion is a huge problem, and mining creates damage and harmful effects (although new more eco friendly coal plants have been designed and constructed in recent years)

Because of climate change and air pollution, countries like China are trying to transition to other forms of energy like natural gas, and renewables such as solar and wind.

Coal may offer several major economic and social benefits right now, and major economies may depend on it, but transitioning to cleaner and less destructive energy sources as soon as feasibly possible seems like a smart strategy.

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Coal Energy

Coal energy or coal power refers to the combustion of a fossil fuel called coal for heat generation that is used to spin a turbine to produce electricity.

Coal is a combustible sedimentary rock having a black or brownish-black color, which can be found in rock strata (layers of sedimentary rock, soil or igneous rock that was formed at the surface of the planet), in veins also called coal seams or layers of underground rock called coal beds.

Coal consists of mostly carbon along with other elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen.

– alternative-energies.net

 

Coal Energy Pros

  • Cost Effective/Can Provide A Cheap Form Of Electricity – usually one of the cheaper forms of energy because of how widely available it is (amongst other factors). Brown coal in particular can be cheap, as well as provide jobs, and support the local economy. When you take subsidies out of the equations, brown coal energy in some places in the world can be about $30 per MWh compared to solar at about $70-$80 per MWh.
  • Some Estimates Indicate A Good Supply Left – The current stockpiles of coal can provide the world with more than a century of energy, while US-based coal reserves could last over 400 years. Beyond the stockpiles of coal that have already been mined, there is an estimated global reserve of this fossil fuel that could be more than 1 trillion tons.
  • Infrastructure Is Currently In Place In Major Cities For Coal – all existing infrastructure is suitable for coal energy delivery.
  • Coal Power Is Not Variable Like Some Renewables – unlike solar or wind which can be a variable power source on days that aren’t sunny or non windy days, coal can be burnt 24/7, and can even be burnt at higher amounts in times of need. This means it doesn’t need back up base load generators or other power sources like wind or solar might.
  • Capture Carbon Storage & Other Technology Is Being Improved To Reduce Emissions From Coal Power Plants – As of 2017, coal energy is responsible for about 50% of the electricity being generated in the United States. Thanks to clean coal technologies, many of the emissions which are released during the combustion phase of this resource can be captured. This limits the potential damage to the environment and atmosphere while maintaining current infrastructures.
  • Coal Can Be Converted Into Different Types Of Fuel – Coal can be converted into a gas or into a liquid. When this process has been completed, coal energy burns cleaner than it would if the natural resource were being burned in its natural state.
  • Coal Power Plants Can Be Cheaper Than Gas Or Nuclear Plants – Energy sector specialists GHD and Solstice Development Services have estimated that building a 1,000 MW ultra-supercritical coal-power plant (USC) would cost about $2.2 billion and the electricity produced would cost about $40-$78 per MWh, while the electricity produced by a gas-fired power plant would cost between $69 and $115 per MWh.
  • Has Helped Grow Economies In The Past – developed countries have benefited immensely from coal in the past. It has been used heavily to grow their economies and progress various industrial sectors
  • Can Provide Energy Independence For Some Countries – brown coal in particular can provide a domestic source of energy, which gives countries independence from foreign energy supply. For example, Germany and Poland can both cut their dependence on Russian gas with the use of their own brown coal
  • Some Estimates Of Coal Air Pollution Emissions Are Lower Than What Is Reported – some coal plants might not be as bad for air pollution as is traditionally thought. For example, emissions from Victoria’s (in Australia) power stations contributed at one point to less than 1 per cent of total mercury concentrations in the Latrobe Valley (abc.net.au). Also, the brown coal at Gippsland (Victoria, Australia) is relatively free of sulfur and nitrogen and produces less than 5% by weight of ash. (dynamicscience.com.au). Cities and places with coal power plants might like to look at the overall air quality and concentration of the main air toxins and contaminants in the area to get an idea of the plants’ impact on how healthy and breathable air is in the area.
  • Some Estimates Of Mercury Emitted By Coal Burning Are Lower Than What Is Reported – mercury concentrations in the [Latrobe Valley] region [in Australia] are dominated by the atmospheric background and natural emissions from vegetation, soil and water. [So, they aren’t influenced as much by coal emissions]. Victorian brown coal actually has very little mercury  … [and] Australian coal-fired power plants [mercury emissions are] quite low compared to others such as the United States (abc.net.au)
  • Coal Waste By Products Can Be Used For Other Applications – such as for bricks, recycled fuel, and a sustainable form of concrete using coal fly ash (sciencedirect.com, and sciencedaily.com). In 1999 the EU used half of its coal fly ash and bottom ash in building materials (where fly ash can replace cement), and it used 87% of the gypsum from flue gas desulfurisation (world-nuclear.org). Captured carbon dioxide gas [from coal] can be used for enhanced oil recovery on a commercial basis where the CO2 acts to reduce the viscosity of the oil, enhancing its flow to recovery wells. It is then separated and re-injected (world-nuclear.org)

– vittana.org, alternative-energies.net, unearthed.greenpeace.org, abc.net.au, dynamicscience.com.au, sciencedirect.com, sciencedaily.com, world-nuclear.org

 

Coal Energy Cons

  • Although Coal Is Cheap, It Has Been Heavily Subsidised and Protected In Some Countries – coal, natural gas and oil have been more heavily subsidised and protected in most countries compared to renewable and cleaner or less destructive forms of energy. This places an asterisk over the price of coal
  • Emits Greenhouse Gases – carbon dioxide greenhouse gas is emitted when coal is combusted for fuel. Additional emissions are released through the mining and delivery processes. These emissions do not line up with the global goal to minimise climate change and global warming. Overall, the burning coal produces over 14 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year (world-nuclear.org)
  • Emits Air Pollutants (and contributes to human health conditions and mortality rates) – such as NOx and SO2, which decreases air quality and can cause human health problems (such as lung cancer and cardiovascular disease), and mortality risks. When brown coal in particular is burnt, it releases a long list of poisonous heavy metals and toxic chemicals like sulphur dioxide, mercury, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. The type of coal being burned can determine the toxins that are released. Winds can carry air pollutants from one region to another as well – so the spread of air contaminants is possible. Just as one example of coal and air pollution – Coal-fired power stations were responsible for 49% of all nitrous dioxide emissions in Australia in 2016-17 and 54% of sulfur dioxide emissions (theguardian.com). Cities should probably look at their overall air quality levels though, and poor air quality levels might be able to be related to coal plants or fossil fuel burning in the area (transport is another common cause).
  • Air Pollutants From Coal Contribute to Acid Rain – When coal is burned the sulfur combines with oxygen and the sulfur oxides are released to the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) becomes sulfur trioxide (SO3) when reacting with oxygen in the air. This reacts with water molecules in the atmosphere to form sulfuric acid, a strong mineral acid. This makes rain acidic. (butane.chem.uiuc.edu)
  • Air Contaminants From Coal Might Not Be Well Monitored – in some regions of the world, poor monitoring and control of air contaminants leads to air quality issues.
  • Air Pollution From Coal Burning Costs The Health System Money – in Australia alone, it’s estimated the health cost is up to $800 million every year.
  • Not Renewable/Has Finite Supplies – supplies are finite and will eventually run out, at which point we have to consider other forms of energy.
  • Coal Mining Can Be Destructive To The Environment – potential pollution of groundwater tables and the removal of trees. There is also the added danger of having a fire begin in a coal mine. Wildlife can be affected, as well as there being permanent land erosion and degradation. On top of this, coal mining can emit methane (a GHG 20 to 25 stronger than C02)
  • Coal Mining Can Also Be Harmful In Other Ways – Byproducts of coal mining including arsenic, sulfur dioxide, selenium, and mercury. Miners who inhale coal dust can develop a condition that is called Black Lung Disease, which can make it difficult for the person to breath and reduce their overall quality of life. In total, several million tons of unusable waste are produced annually because of coal energy and that stuff needs to go somewhere.
  • Coal Burning Produces Radiation – Coal energy, when burned at a coal-fired power plant, produces more outward radiation exposure than a nuclear power plant would produce. The emissions are also linked to increased levels of asthma and lung cancer for local populations compared to other forms of energy.
  • ‘Clean Coal’ Right Now Is Not Actually Clean – it can be a cleaner form of energy than regular coal plants without clean coal technology, but it’s still significantly more dirty in operation than nuclear and renewables right now
  • Carbon Capture Can Be Uncertain – the full risks of capturing carbon from coal and putting it in the ground are still not known.
  • Carbon Capture & Other ‘Clean Coal’ Technology Can Be Expensive – the technologies to convert current coal-fired plants to clean coal could greatly increase the energy costs for individual consumers. LiveScience estimates that some carbon capture and storage technologies could increase the price of energy by up to 75%.
  • Some ‘Clean Coal’ Technology Isn’t Always Effective – bag filters [on coal plants] are less effective for [air pollution] particles referred to as PM 2.5, or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (abc.net.au). Additionally, clean coal plants have had to be shut down before commissioning in several locations worldwide, and haven’t had the most consistent success
  • ‘Clean Coal’ Technology Research and Development Has Taken Up A Lot Of Money Over The Last Few Decades – About $50 billion has been put towards the development and deployment of “traditional” clean coal technologies over the past 30 years (wikipedia.org). Some argue this money could have gone towards renewable technology instead
  • Coal Plants Need To Be Topped Up With Fuel Regularly – coal plants need to be topped up with ongoing coal supplies to burn for energy. Compare this to solar for example which can continually absorb energy from the sun.
  • Brown Coal Is An Inefficient Form Of Energy – BC is wet when it is extracted and burned. So, it takes more brown coal in quantity, and more mining, to produce the same amount of power from less black coal
  • Brown Coal Can Be Uneconomic to Transport Long Distances – Victorian (in Australia) brown coal has a high moisture content, containing more moisture than black coal – it can contain up to 70 percent water. This high moisture content makes long distance transportation uneconomic and so brown coal is not currently used for export markets (environmentvictoria.org.au)
  • There’s A Possibility Coal Plants Might Be Able To Manipulate Emissions Reporting & Auditing – waste incineration plants can do this in some countries when it comes to pollution third party auditing. There’s a possibility coal plants might be able to do this too (bettermeetsreality.com)
  • Coal Waste Like Fly Ash Can Build Up, & Can Pollute – in places like Australia, coal fly ash can make up to one fifth of the total waste stream. It can contain high concentrations of heavy metals that can pollute water sources and seep into soil. Coal waste needs to be managed and treated properly, which can also cost money (abc.net.au)
  • Coal Power Plants Can Be A Major User Of Water – to be fair, it’s not just coal that needs water for cooling purposes, but thermal power plants in general. What type of water is used and whether it is re-used or recycled plays a big role in the water footprint of power plants. But, solar and wind as energy sources can be less water intensive overall. (bettermeetsreality.com)
  • Coal Power Plant Licenses Can Allow Investors & Plant Operators To Pollute The Environment – if licenses are granted for say 20 years at a time without any regulations on air pollution or carbon emissions, this can encourage investment in dirty and cheap coal energy, and puts no eco responsibility on plant operators (theage.com.au)
  • Coal Isn’t Suitable For Ramping Up Fast – Thermally lethargic technologies like coal and solid-fuel nuclear are physically incapable of fast ramping (wikipedia.org). Combined cycle natural gas might be more suitable for this, like for example when fast ramping sources are needed to support variable renewable energy

– vittana.org, energyinformative.org, unearthed.greenpeace.org, environmentvictoria.org.au, wikipedia.org, butane.chem.uiuc.edu, world-nuclear.org, bettermeetsreality.com, abc.net.au, theage.com.au

 

Sources

1. https://vittana.org/13-pros-and-cons-of-coal-energy

2. https://www.alternative-energies.net/pros-and-cons-of-coal-energy/

3. http://energyinformative.org/fossil-fuels-pros-and-cons/

4. https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2014/08/28/five-reasons-expanding-brown-coal-mines-might-problem/

5. https://environmentvictoria.org.au/our-campaigns/safe-climate/problem-brown-coal/

6. http://joannenova.com.au/2019/04/solar-power-at-70-is-still-twice-the-price-of-brown-coal/

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_coal_technology#Clean_coal_and_the_environment

8. http://butane.chem.uiuc.edu/pshapley/Enlist/Labs/AcidRain2/index.html

9. http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/energy-and-the-environment/clean-coal-technologies.aspx

10. https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2019-04-01/coal-fired-power-emissions-mercury/10958128

11. http://www.dynamicscience.com.au/tester/solutions1/electric/powerstation/brown%20coal.html

12. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-waste-incineration-waste-to-energy-benefits-disadvantages/

13. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/03/coal-fired-power-stations-caused-surge-in-airborne-mercury-pollution-study-finds

14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877705816313984

15. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180712100513.htm

16. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-10/coal-ash-has-become-one-of-australias-biggest-waste-problems/10886866

17. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-much-water-different-energy-electricity-production-sources-need-use-water-footprint/

18. https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/nation-s-dirtiest-power-stations-to-burn-brown-coal-for-decades-20180601-p4zix2.html

19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source#Levelized_cost_of_electricity

Hydrogen Energy Pros And Cons Now & In The Future

Hydrogen Energy Pros And Cons Now & In The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Hydrogen Energy.

 

Summary – Hydrogen Energy Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Zero emissions while in use
  • More effective and efficient than gasoline
  • Good energy output
  • Hydrogen fuel infrastructure can be cheaper than crude oil pipes and infrastructure
  • Local production usually means no degradation or transmission issues
  • Fewer installation, maintenance and drop off issues
  • Fewer spatial issues
  • Opportunities to reduce external or foreign dependence on an energy source for some countries
  • Has other benefits other than being used just as energy
  • Low toxicity exposure risks

Cons

  • Not a completely clean/green energy source
  • Is a costly way to actually make energy
  • Has some uncertainties and unknowns
  • Non locally made hydrogen can have energy loss issues
  • Current infrastructure we have in many cities around the world is not compatible with hydrogen fuel
  • Hydrogen doesn’t perform well in certain temperatures and conditions
  • Limited availability and access issues
  • Can have negative environmental impacts
  • Needs a constant fuel source
  • Not yet good for long distance travel

Hydrogen energy has it’s specific uses at the moment. However, most of the way it is created at the moment involves fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions – which is not desirable to minimise the effects of global warming, and also means it’s a finite fuel source. Only when technologies allow for hydrogen energy to be generated from other sources will it become a true green option that is clean burning and renewable. It also has it’s other limitations that impact how effective it can be and to what extent it can be scaled for a wider range of applications. Until further developments and advancements are made with hydrogen, it doesn’t seem to have the long term potential of other energy sources like solar, wind and water.

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Hydrogen Energy

  • Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel when burned with oxygen.
  • It can be used in electrochemical cells or internal combustion engines to power vehicles or electric devices.
  • It has been used in commercial fuel cell vehicles such as passenger cars recently, and has been used in fuel cell buses for many years.
  • It is also used as a fuel for the propulsion of spacecrafts.

– wikipedia.org

 

Hydrogen Energy Pros

  • Zero Emissions While In Use – a clean burning fuel. Once produced, hydrogen gas cells emit only water vapor and warm air when in use. If one vehicle were converted from a standard combustion engine to one powered by hydrogen, it would eliminate almost 5 metric tons of carbon dioxide being introduced to the atmosphere.
  • More Effective As A Fuel & Good Energy Output– Hydrogen energy is more effective as a fuel. If used in vehicles, a driver can achieve a 100% better fuel economy with hydrogen when compared to gasoline. More than 10 million tons of hydrogen are created each year for industrial use because of the energy output that it offers. It can even be used as an energy resource to help refine petroleum.
  • Cheaper Transport & Infrastructure Costs – The cheapest installation of hydrogen transportation networks to-date has been over $210,000 per mile. When the first hydrogen pipelines were installed, it came at a cost of $2 million per mile. In 2014, estimated pipeline costs for crude oil in the United States were much higher, averaging $6.5 million per installed mile. In Massachusetts, installed crude oil pipelines in 2014 were installed at a cost of $17 million per mile.
  • No Degradation Or Transmission Issues When Produced Locally – Once the energy is created from hydrogen, the reliability of that energy remains constant. Other energy resources struggle to maintain transmission levels. The most efficient energy resources come from natural gas, and even then, the fuel is only about 45% efficient. For coal, oil, and nuclear energy, about 65% of the energy produced at the plant is lost in transmission. Hydrogen energy has an efficiency rate of 60% or greater when transmitting energy to a new location. *The exception to this is in transported, stored or non locally generated hydrogen – read more below in the cons
  • Fewer Installation, Maintenance & Drop Off Issues – Hydrogen energy, when incorporated into a fuel cell, can be used at virtually any geographic location. It is a flexible energy resource that can be used in a wide variety of ways. As long as the items being used have a compatible receptor to accept the energy, the fuel cells can even work with other power resources to supplement available power. They also require less maintenance than other fuel sources and there is less of an energy drop-off that occurs as the fuel cell reaches the end of its life cycle.
  • Fewer Spatial Issues – Hydrogen energy can be stored in fuel cells that are extremely small. Think about the size of the average laptop battery and you’ve got a fuel cell that could power almost anything. This sizing advantage allows a fuel cell to be installed almost anywhere, assuming that the energy can be transmitted in some way. There are fewer worries about placing it next to a wall or storing it in a specific environment. The only exception here is that hydrogen energy cannot be stored in extremely hot environments.
  • Opportunities To Lessen Foreign Dependence On Energy Sources – Much of the world’s oil is produced in about 20 countries. The nations without oil access rely heavily on imports to meet their domestic needs. By developing hydrogen energy, these countries can stop putting money towards energy.
  • Has Added Benefits – As an added benefit, the vapor from hydrogen energy can even be condensed into water that is safe to drink.
  • Low Exposure To Toxicity Risks – there are 150+ chemicals in gasoline, and nuclear energy has it’s risks too obviously. Compared to other energy sources, freeze burns and flammability are really the only concerns.

– renewableresourcescoalition.org, vittana.org

 

Hydrogen Energy Cons

  • Not Completely Clean Energy – Steam-methane reforming (from natural gas), the current leading technology for producing hydrogen in large quantities, extracts hydrogen from methane. However, this reaction releases fossil carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere which are greenhouse gases (and air pollution), and thus contribute to global warming which is rapidly heating the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere. The process of electrolysis, which is essential for the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen, makes this less of an issue. However, electrolysis still ranks below the previously mentioned method for obtaining hydrogen, though research continues to make it more efficient and cost-effective.
  • It’s A Costly Way To Make Energy – The U.S. Department of Energy funded a 10-year, $950 million product to create hydrogen energy from a coal-fired power plant. The design of the plant would then remove the carbon created from the energy process by placing it underground. It is billed as being the first zero-emissions fossil fuel energy resource.
  • Has Uncertainties & Unknowns – storing carbon underground from hydrogen energy also creates unknowns, such as how the planet may react with the higher levels of carbon dioxide storage under the surface.
  • Non Locally Made Hydrogen Can Have Energy Loss Issues – When transporting hydrogen, there is an expected 20% energy loss associated with its movement. Hydrogen energy loses an average of 1% of its viability for every day that it is kept in storage for transportation. There are also boil-off losses associated with hydrogen energy that can be as high as 50%. For this technology to be effective, it must be produced locally to minimize energy loss. Otherwise, the actual costs of production for this energy resource will always be higher than other energy types.
  • Current Infrastructure Is Not Compatible With Hydrogen – hydrogen requires the manufacture of fuel cells to store the energy. Although new resources could be developed simultaneously with these fuel cells, the current infrastructure would likely find the energy to be incompatible with what currently exists. Other sources of energy like wind and solar can use the current infrastructure and power grids.
  • Doesn’t Perform Well In Certain Temperatures & Conditions – Hydrogen energy is difficult to use in certain temperatures and environments. With our current technology, this energy resource is ineffective at temperatures where water begins to boil. We currently use polymer exchange membranes to generate the hydrogen energy we use, and these membranes do not perform in high temperature environments. Because of this limitation, it becomes difficult to use hydrogen energy in multiple platforms, including vehicles, because of the heat present in that environment.
  • Limited Availability & Access – Hydrogen energy is not available with easy access. It may be produced on an industrial scale to meet specific needs right now, but it is not produced on a commercial scale, or a residential scale, much at all. In the United States, as of January 2018, there were 39 publicly available hydrogen fuel stations. 35 of those stations were located in California, with most in the Bay Area or the Los Angeles metroplex. The other four stations are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and South Carolina. That makes it difficult to use this energy for anything but local use. 7 of the stations with publicly available hydrogen energy require permission from the original equipment manufacturer to access the fuel, along with a pre-authorization from the fuel provider.
  • Can Have Environmental Impacts – Too much hydrogen is known to interfere with the ozone that is present in our atmosphere. Without adequate ozone, we are subjected to more of the UVA and UVB transmitted by the sun, which could change our environment, endanger our health, and create other concerns of which we do not know of yet.
  • Needs A Constant Fuel Source – One of the primary benefits of hydrogen energy is that it can run continuously. The provision for this benefit is that a fuel source must be available to it for energy to be continually produced. Without that fuel source, the hydrogen fuel cell would run out, just like every other type of energy would. That means a fuel source must be provided at an extra cost or the hydrogen fuel cells must be continually replaced.
  • Not Great For Long Distance Travel – With our current technologies, the average hydrogen fuel cell provides about 300 miles of energy support. Because of the limited availability of retail stations which sell this energy resource, someone using hydrogen fuel cells will find that their mobility is minimal. That issue is further influenced by its overall lack of durability, as contamination from the outside can limit its overall effectiveness to provide energy on-demand.

– wikipedia.org, renewableresourcescoalition.org, vittana.org

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_fuel

2. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

3. https://vittana.org/18-biggest-hydrogen-energy-pros-and-cons

4. https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/pros-and-cons-of-hydrogen-energy.php

5. https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/pros-and-cons-of-hydrogen-energy.htm

Pros & Cons Of Natural Gas Energy (Benefits & Disadvantages)

Natural Gas Energy Pros & Cons Now & In The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Natural Gas Energy.

 

Summary – Natural Gas Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Emits less greenhouse gas than other fossil fuels whilst burning
  • Emits less ambient air pollution whilst burning than other fossil fuels
  • Is inexpensive as an energy source
  • Employs a lot of people
  • Has wide availability
  • Has established distribution networks
  • Can be turned on and ramped up to provide electricity very quickly
  • Biogas (RNG) is renewable

Cons

  • Not a green energy source (still emits greenhouse gases)
  • Not renewable – is finite like other fossil fuels
  • Mining for oil can have massive negative environmental side effects
  • Fracking can have massive negative environmental side effects
  • Gas infrastructure ages and can leak and have explosions or gas fires

Overall, natural gas is a cleaner and cheaper energy source than coal and oil. Major countries like the US and China are increasing their demand for natural gas. It is considered a ‘bridge’ energy source and fuel source between fossil fuels like coal and oil, to renewable energy like solar, wind, water etc. Over the next century or so, natural gas should be a prominent energy source

 

  • Natural gas is a growing industry. Countries with large shale gas reserves, like China, are attempting to replicate the U.S.’s fracking success. Gas companies are looking at ways to make transporting liquid natural gas cheaper, with the hopes of reaching new markets without the need for building expensive pipelines. The use of compressed natural gas as vehicle fuel, though small, is steadily growing in buses, garbage trucks and other kinds of municipal fleets. Researchers are working on ways to extract the potentially vast amounts of natural gas reserves trapped beneath the ocean in gas hydrates.
  • In 2016, the lower 48 states of the United States reached record levels of demand and consumption.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates there are at least 6,800 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of proved natural gas reserves. The world is currently consuming a hefty 120 TCF a year, which means at least another 56 years of reserves.
  • However consumption is growing every year and the EIA projects it will have doubled by 2040.
  • Natural gas companies will need to discover new, unproved reserves and develop new ways to extract the natural gas in order to keep up with the increasing demand.
  • Now considered cleaner and cheaper than coal, it supplies 22% of the world’s energy, used in heating, electricity generation and even as engine fuel.
  • It’s also heavily used in industrial applications, such as producing plastics and fertilizer.
  • The top natural gas producers are the U.S., Russia, Iran and Canada.

– environmentalscience.org, and renewableresourcescoalition.org

 

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Natural Gas

  • Natural gas is a fossil fuel, like oil and coal.
  • It’s formed from decayed organic material transformed by high temperatures and pressures over millions of years into bubbles of methane gas.
  • Conventional sources are found in underground gas fields or oil fields. Unconventional sources are more challenging to extract because the gas is locked inside the sediment.
  • These include coal bed methane (trapped in the coalbed), tight gas (trapped in sandstone), gas hydrates (trapped in ice) and shale gas (trapped in shale).
  • This last source is frequently in the headlines, thanks to advances in hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.
  • Natural gas can be used for households, businesses and vehicles

– environmentalscience.org

 

  • Renewable natural gas (RNG) and conventional natural gas, must be compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG) for use in vehicles.
  • Renewable natural gas (RNG) is essentially biogas—the gaseous product of the decomposition of organic matter—that has been processed to purity standards.

– afdc.energy.gov

 

Natural Gas Energy Pros

  • Emits Less Greenhouse Gases Than Other Fossil Fuels When Burning – Natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, producing half the carbon dioxide as coal and about a third less than oil.
  • Emits Less General Air Pollution Than Other Fossil Fuels – It also emits fewer amounts of toxic chemicals like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.
  • It’s Inexpensive As An Energy Source – In the U.S. market, it is an abundant resource and currently the cheapest source of electrical power (an average of 6 cents per kilowatt hour, vs 9 cents for coal and hydroelectric and 11 cents for solar).
  • The Gas Industry Employs A lot Of People – The natural gas industry employs over 600,000 people. That figure is likely to only go up as more reserves are developed. There’s also additional jobs like engineers, construction workers, service technicians, lawyers etc. that are employed through the oil industry. The natural gas industry in the U.S. supports 2.8 million jobs, according to the America’s Natural Gas Alliance.
  • Wide Availability – Natural gas is available domestically in many countries.
  • Established Distribution Networks – natural gas already has distribution networks built.
  • Can Be Turned On & Provide Electricity Very Quickly – Where it takes hours or even days to cycle coal or nuclear plants up and down, natural gas units can be fired up at will with just minutes’ notice. They can do what no weather-based system can do: be turned on. Which is why, in Texas – which leads the world in wind power capacity – you need to build offsetting natural gas power capacity for every wind turbine or solar array that gets installed. (bseec.org)
  • Biogas Is Renewable – Renewable natural gas (RNG) is essentially biogas—the gaseous product of the decomposition of organic matter.

– environmentalscience.org, afdc.energy.gov, yaleclimateconnections.org, bseec.org

 

Natural Gas Energy Cons

  • Not A Green Energy Source – it emits carbon dioxide during it’s use, which is not desirable for minimising climate change. Also, the extraction process for natural gas can release methane into the atmosphere if done improperly – which is a greenhouse gas 20 times stronger than C02. Flaring at oil fields can also release methane. 33 percent of total methane emissions come from emissions from the natural gas and petroleum industries.
  • Not Renewable – apart from renewable biogas, there are finite supplies of natural gas available. This is in comparison to solar, wind, and water energy for example which are renewable and almost unlimited.
  • Fracking Can Have Big Environmental Issues – There is considerable debate about the environmental damage caused by fracking. While the evidence of groundwater contamination by drilling is mixed, there is more of a danger of contamination from poor transportation, storage and disposal practices of fracking wastewater. Micro-earthquakes are also a side effect of fracking.
  • Gas Infrastructure – infrastructure in the US is aging in the US, with gas pipelines vulnerable to leaks and explosions. A recent LA leak caused the equivalent of annual greenhouse gas emissions from 572,000 cars. Gas pipelines are also not cheap. It’s also worth noting that in countries like China, transitioning to natural gas infrastructure from the current coal infrastructure can be a challenge.

– environmentalscience.org, yaleclimateconnections.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.environmentalscience.org/natural-gas

2. https://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/natural_gas_benefits.html

3. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

4. http://energyinformative.org/fossil-fuels-pros-and-cons/

5. https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2016/07/pros-and-cons-the-promise-and-pitfalls-of-natural-gas/

6. https://www.alternative-energies.net/12-pros-and-cons-of-natural-gas/

7. http://www.bseec.org/the_unreliability_of_renewable_energy_for_baseload_demand

Geothermal Energy Pros & Cons Now & Into The Future

Geothermal Energy Pros & Cons Now & Into The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Geothermal Energy.

 

Summary – Geothermal Energy Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Renewable, unlike fossil fuels which are finite
  • Green energy – doesn’t produce emissions while in operation
  • Large potential for worldwide power capacity
  • Is reliable and not intermittent compared to solar and wind
  • Doesn’t need refuelling like coal for example
  • Is flexible – can be used for either small/household level power supply, or on bigger scales
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of space or land
  • Is progressing well from a technological perspective
  • Good for heating and cooling

Cons

  • High set up costs
  • Not cost effective everywhere
  • Not practical everywhere
  • Some environmental impacts to consider (some risks can be quite large and can also impact humans locally)
  • Can be one cause of natural events like earthquakes

 

Geothermal has good long term potential as a sustainable, renewable energy source. But, it is costly upfront, location dependent, and also depends on technological advancements, energy prices and politics (subsidies). These limitations mean renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydro are probably better sustainable energy sources long term at the moment.

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

  • The World Bank currently estimates that around forty countries could meet most of their power demands using geothermal power [which illustrates the potential in geothermal energy]

– renewableresourcescoalition.org

 

What Is Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is obtained from the ground around us.

Because the earth has a fairly constant temperature within the upper 10 feet of the Earth’s surface (between 50 and 60°F or 10 and 16°C), one can create a water pump system that pushes colder water down into the earth to return warmer in the winter months, or the opposite during the summer months.

The use of a heat exchanger will convert the temperature change into the air, similar to a air conditioner or a heater. On a larger scale, the drilling is done much deeper, or over a geothermal field.

Geothermal energy can be produced in larger amounts with geothermal power plants, and in smaller household applications with ground source heat pumps.

– efficientgreenpower.com

 

Geothermal Energy Pros

  • Green Energy – geothermal energy does not produce greenhouse gases during energy generation
  • Renewable – Geothermal reservoirs are naturally replenished and not finite like fossil fuels. But, they do have to be managed properly to stay sustainable and renewable.
  • Large Potential For Power Capacity – upper estimates show a worldwide potential of 2 terawatts (TW). But, other estimates of geothermal power plants vary between 0.035 to 2 TW. Worldwide energy consumption – about 15 terawatts (TW) – is not anywhere near the amount of energy stored in earth.
  • Is Reliable & Not Intermittent – can meet the base load energy demand unlike wind and solar.
  • Flexibility & Versatility – can be used for larger and smaller scale energy generation. Can be used for small households and residential purposes. Is generally available in most places.
  • Doesn’t Involves Fuels – means less cost fluctuations and stable electricity prices. Also means you don’t have to re-stock a power plant like you do with coal power plants.
  • Doesn’t Take Up Lots Of Space – can be partially built underground and doesn’t require as much above ground real estate as solar and wind farms.
  • Technological Advancements Are Progressing The Energy Source – recent technological advancements (e.g. enhanced geothermal systems) have made more resources exploitable and lowered costs.
  • Good For Heating & Cooling – We need water temperatures of more than 150°C (about 300°F) or greater in order to effectively turn turbines and generate electricity with geothermal energy. Another approach is to use the (relatively small) temperature difference between the surface and a ground source. The earth is generally more resistant to seasonal temperature changes than air. Consequently, the ground only a couple of meters below the surface can act as a heat sink/source with a geothermal heat pump (much in the same way an electrical heat pump works). Geothermal is good for heating and cooling for homes.

– energyinformative.org

 

Geothermal Energy Cons

  • High Set Up Costs – heavy upfront costs associated with both geothermal power plants and geothermal heating/cooling systems. Total costs usually end up somewhere between $2 – 7 million for a geothermal power plant with a capacity of 1 megawatt (MW).
  • Not Cost Effective Everywhere – some resources are profitably exploitable, and some aren’t. This limits practically where you can install geothermal plants. Current technology, level of subsidies and energy prices are issues. Geothermal power plants across the world currently deliver about 10,715 megawatts (MW) of electricity – far less than installed geothermal heating capacity (about 28,000 MW). For residential ground thermal pumps, ground source heat pumps typically costs $3,000 – $10,000 and have a payback time of 10 – 20 years.
  • Not Practical Everywhere – Some countries have been blessed with great resources – Iceland and Philippines meets nearly one third of their electricity demand with geothermal energy. If geothermal energy is transported long distances by the means of hot water (not electricity), significant energy losses has to be taken into account.
  • Minor Environmental Impact – there is some environmental impact with some land use, but nothing major. Also, they are associated with sulfur dioxide and silica emissions, and the reservoirs can contain traces of toxic heavy metals including mercury, arsenic and boron. But, this is nothing compared to fossil fuels.
  • Can Cause Natural Events – in some very rare cases, they can cause earthquakes because they affect the stability of the land. Germany and New Zealand are examples where this has happened. Earthquakes can be triggered due to hydraulic fracturing, which is an intrinsic part of developing enhanced geothermal system (EGS) power plants.

– energyinformative.org

 

Sources

1. http://efficientgreenpower.com/geothermal-energy

2. http://energyinformative.org/geothermal-energy-pros-and-cons/

3. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

Biomass & Biofuel Energy Pros & Cons

Biomass Energy Pros & Cons Now & Into The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Biomass & Biofuel Energy.

 

Summary – Pros & Cons Of Biomass & Biofuel Energy 

Pros

  • Renewable, unlike fossil fuels which are finite
  • Can be carbon neutral
  • Can be cost effective compared to coal and oil
  • Biomass can be available in large quantities in some areas
  • A range of biofuels can be produced

Cons

  • Not ideal as a renewable energy source compared to solar, wind and other renewable sources
  • Can be a huge waste of resources (water, land, fertilizer etc.)
  • Can unnecessarily be the cause of deforestation and land clearing
  • Can cause habitat loss, and negatively impact local species
  • Can cause other environmental problems like land degradation
  • Some biomass is highly polluting to the air
  • Maintenance can sometimes be time and cost intensive
  • Extraction of biomass may not be cost effective
  • Can need a lot of land and storage space
  • Can contribute to water scarcity and water depletion
  • Can be inefficient
  • Is still an energy source that is being developed in some places

Biomass and biofuel is certainly low cost if we are just using biomass waste. However, biomass and biofuels have many potential cons like (in)efficiency, how much development still needs to be done on them, and the resources that are required to to produce biomass (water, land etc.). Growing trees and crops just for biofuel is perhaps worse from a sustainability and environmental perspective than fossil fuel usage.

Overall, biofuels have potential (such as algal and new types of biofuel production), but at the moment, they are perhaps too resource intensive, inefficient and sometimes too expensive to be a significant or effective energy source.

Solar, wind and water energy sources might be better renewable energy options for the medium to long term – at least for electricity production.

 

  • The main contributors of waste energy are municipal solid waste, manufacturing waste, and landfill gas.
  • The future is moving towards algal, or algae-derived biomass because of it’s speed of growth and production rate without compromising food production.
  • Produced at rates five to ten times faster than other types of land-based agriculture, such as corn and soy, and it can be fermented to produce biofuels such as ethanol, butanol, and methane, as well as biodiesel and hydrogen.
  • As of 2015, a new bioenergy sewage treatment process aimed at developing countries is under trial; the Omni Processor is a self-sustaining process which uses sewerage solids as fuel in a process to convert waste water into drinking water, with surplus electrical energy being generated for export.

– efficientgreenpower.com

 

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Biomass & Biofuel Energy

Biomass is organic matter from plants and animals (microorganisms). Photosynthesis is the name of the process that stores the energy from sunlight in plants. Animals get this energy through eating the plants.

Waste such as crops, manure and garbage are all forms of biomass.

Biomass has a wide array of uses such as directly as heat or to generate electricity with a steam turbine.

Biomass can also be used to make methane gas, biodiesel and other biofuels.

Conversion of biomass to biofuel can be achieved by different methods can be categorized into: thermal, chemical, and biochemical methods.

The source of biomass, biofuels can be generally classified into two major categories. First-generation biofuels, sourced from plants such as sugarcane and corn starch, are ferrmented to produce bioethanol. The sugars present are turned into an alcohol fuel which can be used directly in a fuel cell to produce electricity or serve as an additive to gasoline (ethane). Second-generation biofuels utilize non-food-based biomass sources such as agriculture and municipal waste. This low-value industry waste is a favored alternative, although economical production of second-generation biofuel is not yet achieved due to technological limitations with chemical inertness and structural rigidity of lignocellulosic biomass

– energyinformative.org, and efficientgreenpower.com

 

There are five general categories of biomass: industrial waste and co-products, food waste, agricultural residues, energy crops, and virgin lumber

– wikipedia.org

 

Biomass fuels provided about 5% of total primary energy use in the United States in 2017. Of that 5%, about 47% was from biofuels (mainly ethanol), 44% was from wood and wood-derived biomass, and 10% was from the biomass in municipal waste.

– eia.gov

 

In lesser developed countries and regions, they have never had access to fossil fuels, and have been burning mainly wood, and other biomass for centuries.

 

Biomass & Biofuel Energy Pros

  • Renewable – there will always be crops, manure and garbage. Renewal takes as long as those biomasses take to accumulate.
  • Harnessing Energy From Biomass Is Cost Effective – Energy harnessed from biomass is inexpensive compared to coal and oil (where you have to drill for oil or create gas pipelines for gas). Typically they cost about 1/3 less than fossil fuels doing the same job. This means you can spend 1/3 less every year on heating your home and after 10 or 15 years that adds up to a considerable saving
  • Abundant – Biomass is available in large quantities all over the world
  • Biomass Can Be Carbon Neutral – plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and when they decay or are burnt for energy, CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. So, the only CO2 that is released, is what was absorbed in the first place.
  • Can Be Used For A Range Of Biofuels – biomass can be processed to create biodiesel for vehicles, but it can also be used to farm methane gas and a range of other biofuels. Wood can be used to generate heat, while the steam produced by some forms of biomass (like from landfill) can also power turbines to create energy

– energyinformative.org

 

Biomass & Biofuel Energy Cons

  • Growing Trees Or Crops Just For Biomass Is A Big Problem – can contribute to deforestation and destroy wildlife and land/soil. Growing biofuel crops also takes land, water, and fertiliser, and produces carbon emissions (with the off site production of fertiliser itself)
  • Some Biomass Is Highly Polluting – Biomass fuels such as ethanol are no less a pollutant than fossil fuels. Combustion of ethanol is incomplete and this produces the black carbon which is known to increase global warming. Also, if wood is not burned completely, it emits carbon monoxide and particulate matter, which are common air pollutants. There is also machinery that is used to extract and transport biomass that emits CO2 and GHGs.
  • There Is Maintenance Sometimes – crops and trees (for the wood) need to be re-grown and tended to.
  • Extraction Of Biomass May Not Make It Cost Effective – some biomasses are not commercially viable when taking into consideration what it takes to extract them. This is true for the harvesting and storing of some biomasses.
  • Can Need Large Physical Space For Storage & Growing – biomass storage can need large physical areas. Also, the growing of trees and crops takes space and soil/land.
  • Requires Water – for irrigation to grow crops and trees.
  • Has Inefficiencies – compared to fossil fuels, like petroleum and gasoline. Sometimes biofuels are combined
  • Is Still Being Developed – many of the cons of biomass and biofuels are still being worked on and developed
  • Not A Leader For Renewable Energy – compared to solar and water sources, biomass is inefficient and under-researched.

– renewableresourcescoalition.org

 

Sources

1. http://energyinformative.org/biomass-energy-pros-and-cons/

2. http://efficientgreenpower.com/biomass-energy

3. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/biomass-energy-advantages-disadvantages/

4. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

5. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=biomass_home

6. http://www.alternative-energy-geek.com/problems-with-biomass.shtml

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellet_fuel

Hydroelectric & Hydropower (Hydro Energy) Pros & Cons: Now, & Into The Future

Hydroelectric Energy Pros & Cons Now & Into The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the pros and cons of hydro energy (also referred to as hydroelectric or hydropower energy).

Hydro energy appears to not only be a key part of our immediate energy future, but also of our long term energy future worldwide as renewable and clean energy becomes more important.

 

Summary – Hydroelectric & Hydropower (Hydro Energy) Pros & Cons

Some of the main pros and cons of hydro energy might be:

Pros

  • Is Currently The Leading Renewable Energy Source Of Electricity Supply & Consumption Worldwide
  • Is Currently The Leading Energy Storage Source Worldwide
  • Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Can Start Up Quickly
  • Pumped Hydro Energy Storage has a good lifetime
  • Pumped hydro energy storage has potential to power the world
  • Renewable, unlike fossil fuels which are finite
  • Green energy – zero emissions while in operation (however, pumped hydro can use fossil fuels for pumping)
  • Reliable – there’s little inconsistency and fluctuation in water energy compared to sun or wind energy
  • Flexible and adjustable when in use
  • No fuel required (like coal or nuclear for example)
  • Running costs are usually pretty low
  • Can be a cheap way to source renewable electricity
  • Hydropower built with dams provide multiple benefits
  • Can be made on both small and large scales
  • Can be a portable source of energy on a small scale
  • Can give individuals energy independence
  • Can supply energy off grid
  • Can be used rurally or remotely where there are running water sources
  • Pumped hydro be used as a renewable source of energy storage

Cons

  • Damming of water can be environmentally damaging
  • Large scale hydroelectric plants can be very costly to construct
  • The largest scale and highest producing hydroelectricity plants can be limited in terms of growth – there’s only a limited number of places in the world that are suitable
  • Can be sensitive to natural events

Hydropower is already well developed and is the leading renewable energy source worldwide (makes up about 50% of renewable energy at the moment).

It can be used on large scales like dams and major water diversion projects, or on smaller scales in rivers and streams with water wheels and portable water turbine energy generators.

Although it still has long term use because it is renewable and green energy, and it still has potential for expansion left, there are questions over the practical expansion of hydro power because of feasibility questions involved in locating and building new hydro sites (some places like the Grand Inga Dam in Africa for example have huge potential, but face feasibility challenges like being overpriced, funding issues, planning issues and corruption).

It could be used in the future as a complimentary energy source to solar and wind in a renewable energy future.

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Are Hydroelectricity, Hydro Power & Hydro Energy?

Hydro energy is the creation of energy with the use of water.

You can read about the three types of commercial/large scale hydro energy (run-of-river, storage and pumped) in this guide (note that each can often be combines – which is why you get pumped storage hydro power for example).

In reality, they could be separated into hydroelectric dams (that funnel water from a river into big tunnels), and pumped storage hydro projects (that have higher and lower water reservoirs where the water is pumped up and released down between the reservoirs).

However, there is also small scale hydro power and hydro energy systems that use water wheels for example to generate energy on small streams and rivers near farms and in remote areas. 

 

Hydro Energy Pros

  • Is Currently The Leading Renewable Energy Source Of Electricity Supply & Consumption Worldwideproducing and having a consumption share of about 50% compared to other renewable sources (bettermeetsreality.com)
  • Is Currently The Leading Energy Storage Source Worldwide – Pumped hydro accounts for 97 percent of energy storage worldwide (sciencealert.com)
  • Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Can Start Up Quickly – Pumped-hydro energy storage can go from zero to full power extremely quickly – it takes only a few minutes (sciencealert.com)
  • Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Has A Good Lifetime – has a typical lifetime of 50 years and is the lowest cost large-scale energy-storage technology available (sciencealert.com)
  • Pumped Hydro Energy Storage Has Potential To Power The World – new studies indicate that thousands of new pumped hydro energy storage sites have been located worldwide, and only a small % (around 1%) of these sites need to pass final approval factors in order to provide enough stored energy to power the world. Sites were assessed by the algorithm for space, suitable terrain, and the right variations in elevation. They can operate at maximum power for between 5 and 25 hours (sciencealert.com)
  • Renewable – unlike fossil fuels, hydroelectricity is renewable because of  water used from the natural water cycle.
  • Green Energy – hydro electricity does not produce greenhouse gases or pollution whilst in operation. However, the exception to this is pumped hydro which can use fossil fuels for energy for the pump.
  • Reliable – there’s very little fluctuation in terms of the output of hydro electric power plants. All they need is water and they can generate energy as a base load energy source running continuously. This is unlike wind power for example which can be intermittent.
  • Flexible & Adjustable When In Use – adjusting water flow and output of electricity is easy for hydro electric plants. At times where power consumption is low, water flow is reduced and the magazine levels are being conserved for times when the power consumption is high. Likewise with pumped hydro water storage, pumped-hydro energy storage, it can be adapted as electricity demands change.
  • No Fuel Required – unlike a coal power plant which needs to be refuelled with coal, water power plants don’t need to be fuelled. They have access to continuous water flow.
  • Running Costs Are Usually Quite Low – plants do not require a lot of workers and maintenance costs are usually low.
  • Can Be A Cheap Way To Source Renewable Electricity – Historically, hydropower has been the cheapest way to source renewable electricity (cnet.com)
  • Dams Provide Dual Benefits – for hydropower plants built on dams, the dams provide flood control and irrigation techniques, in addition to hydropower.
  • Micro/Small Hydropower Is Available – can be installed in small rivers or streams with little or no discernible environmental effect or disruption to fish migration. These are 10 megawatts, or projects of 30 megawatts in North America. A small hydro plant may be connected to a network or may only provide energy to an isolated community or a single house.
  • Pumped & Storage Hydro Can Store Energy – pumped hydropower has the ability to store energy when water is stored in the lower level, and pumped up to the higher level when needed for energy generation. In the future, pumped hydropower could run with renewable energy like solar and wind power for the pumping – making it cleaner and more sustainable. This also provides another alternative to having to store energy from solar and wind energy in huge and costly storage batteries (sciencealert.com)

– energyinformative.org, efficientgreenpower.com, bettermeetsreality.com, sciencealert.com

 

Hydro Energy Cons

  • Newly Discovered Pumped Storage Hydro Energy Sites Still Need To Pass On-Site Research & Final Approval Tests – at the moment, potential new sites have only been identified by an algorithm, so further on-the-ground research needs to be done. Factors that need to be considered are the ownership of the land, any specific engineering or environmental challenges they might present, availability of upper and lower reservoir locations, potential route for a connecting tunnel, whether the land is located in a national park or urban area, and potential capacity to store energy (which is usually in the 2-150 GWh of energy range) (sciencealert.com).
  • Can Be Environmentally Damaging – damming of water, changed water flow and the construction of roads and power lines can all affect water environments and wildlife, such as fish. Dams or major water diversions with manipulation of water around the generator can negatively impact ecosystems for fish species who rely on certain water levels and other water environment characteristics.
  • Large Scale Hydroelectric Plants Can Be Very Costly To Construct – hydroelectric power plants can be expensive to construct and install.
  • The Largest Hydro Energy Plants Can Be Limited Physically In Terms Of Growth Potential – there’s only a limited number of suitable reservoirs where hydroelectric power plants can be built and even less places where such projects are profitable. As of 2014, there are currently about 30 major power plants that are expected to generate more than 2.000 MW under construction. Only one of these projects was started between 2012 and 2014 (energyinformative.org)
  • Can Be Sensitive To Natural Events – Electricity generation and energy prices are directly related to how much water is available. A drought could potentially affect this (energyinformative.org)

– energyinformative.org

 

Example Of Hydroelectric Energy Being Used In The World 

China is home to one of the largest hydroelectric projects in the world:

  • Hydroelectric power has become China’s main source of renewable energy production.
  • The … Three Gorges Dam [was] completed in 2012 at a cost of over $37 billion [and] is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world and boasts a generation capacity of 22,500 MW.
  • The dam generates 60 percent more electricity than the second-largest hydropower dam, the Itaipu dam in Brazil and Paraguay.
  • Including the Three Gorges Dam, China has constructed 4 of the top 10 largest energy-producing hydroelectric dams in the world.
  • From 2000 to 2015, China increased its hydroelectric energy-generation capacity by an impressive 408 percent. As a result of the Three Gorges Dam and other projects, China became the world leader in hydropower in 2014.

– chinapower.csis.org

 

The Potential Future Of Hydropower & Hydro Energy

Recent studies suggest hydro energy could be one of the keys for a 100% renewable energy future.

Sciencealert.com provides a summary of how thousands of new potential hydro energy sites have been located world wide (and how their potential for energy production and storage could power the world).

Also, various studies that investigate what a 100% renewable energy future might look like for various countries and worldwide, identify pumped storage hydro energy as one of the three main renewable energy sources to potentially make this happen in an energy mix, along with solar and wind energy.

Pumped and stored hydro energy in particular has the ability to compliment the often variable nature of solar and wind energy (whereby energy can be intermittent between times of more and less sunshine and wind).

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity

2. http://energyinformative.org/hydroelectric-energy-pros-and-cons/

3. http://efficientgreenpower.com/hydroelectric-energy

4. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

5. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/hydroadvantages.html

6. https://chinapower.csis.org/energy-footprint/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-types-of-renewable-energy-sources-with-examples/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

9. https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-spot-530-000-potential-pumped-hydro-sites-to-meet-all-our-renewable-energy-needs

10. https://www.cnet.com/news/if-renewable-energy-can-power-entire-countries-why-isnt-everyone-doing-it/

Wave Energy Pros And Cons Now & Into The Future

Wave Energy Pros And Cons Now & Into The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Wave Energy.

 

Summary – Wave Energy Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Is renewable energy – isn’t finite like fossil fuels
  • Is green energy – no emissions when in operation
  • Huge potential for large scale energy supply in the long term
  • Is generally more reliable than wind and solar (because of how wave patterns work)
  • Has a high power output and efficiency
  • Can utilise offshore wave farms as opposed to on-shore ones (which gives it more flexibility and potential)

Cons

  • Huge upfront costs
  • Maintenance could be difficult and costly
  • Needs more funding and research for technology and development
  • Although generally more reliable and consistent than wind and solar, waves can vary in their patterns and intensity year to year, and season to season
  • Onshore wave farms can be damaging 
  • Onshore wave farms can be limiting
  • Less spots overall to put onshore wave farms
  • Offshore wave farms can be costly to install

Wave energy is in a similar position to tidal energy. It is renewable, green, and like wave energy, it has big potential for future energy generation on large scales in the long term. However, at this stage, there needs to be further development and technological advances before it become competitive commercially, and before it becomes feasible and effective on a large scale. It’s more a prospective energy source at this stage (although it could join the likes of solar and wind energy in some countries in the long term with its potential for large scale green renewable energy).

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Wave Energy?

Uses wave energy converters in wave farms installed onshore or offshore in the ocean to create energy.

Wave farms have been created and are in use in Europe, using floating Pelamis Wave Energy converters. Most wave power systems include the use of a floating buoyed device and generate energy through a snaking motion, or by mechanical movement from the waves peaks and troughs.

– efficientgreenpower.com

 

Wave Energy Pros

  • Green Energy – like with tidal energy, there is no greenhouse gases produced from operation
  • Renewable – since waves are created from wind energy, and wind energy is created from the sun – wave energy is renewable. So, we’ve got at least another 5 billion years of wave energy left.
  • Potential For Energy Generation Is Massive – The worldwide potential of wave energy is estimated to be around 2 TW. The energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (2.2 feet) of wave along the shore. As we go further into the ocean 100kW for every meter is not uncommon. Ability to produce energy at scale is a possibility
  • Can Be Reliable – compared to wind and solar. Waves are hardly interrupted and almost always in motion. But, the amount of energy that is being transported through waves does vary every year and from season to season. On the northern hemisphere, the average value of November and May could be different with a factor of two or more. Winter is also usually a better season for waves.
  • High Power Output & Efficiency – A wave farm that is occupying less than a half square mile of an ocean would generate more than 30 MW of power…the equivalent of 20.000 British homes
  • Can Utilise Offshore As Opposed To Shore Based Wave Farms – there is larger potential in offshore waves.

– energyinformative.org

 

Wave Energy Cons

  • Huge Upfront Costs Expected – wave power is in the early stages of development, which makes speculating on costs harder. Wave resources, connections to the power grid and the lifespan of the technology are just a few factors that result in different costs for different projects. Power plants cannot be developed without sufficient funding from the governments.
  • Maintenance Could Be Difficult & Costly – many of the parts that are involved in wave power generation require regular maintenance.  The fact that some of these parts are under the water does not make it any easier – or cheaper
  • Needs More Funding & Research – to develop technology, push prices down and make it easier to use and get data back on.
  • Can Sometimes Be Unreliable – Some reports say that wave energy can be difficult to harness due to the unpredictability of the ocean and wave direction.
  • Onshore Farms Have Limitations – can cause conflicts with tourism and local acceptance. Due to this, coastal installations and facilities on land have to meet higher restrictions in terms of size and location.
  • Onshore Wave Farms Can Be Damaging – to the environment and ocean wildlife during construction and installation. But, more data is needed on this.
  • Offshore Wave Farms Are Expensive – as opposed to onshore.
  • Less Overall, & Less Suitable Places To Put Onshore Wave Farms – as opposed to offshore wave farms.

– energyinformative.org, and efficientgreenpower.com

 

Sources

1. http://energyinformative.org/wave-energy-pros-and-cons/

2. http://efficientgreenpower.com/wave-energy

3. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/

Tidal Energy Pros And Cons Now & Into The Future

Tidal Energy Pros And Cons Now & Into The Future

As part of assessing the best energy sources for the future, we are looking at the pros and cons of these different energy sources.

This is our guide on the Pros & Cons Of Tidal Energy.

 

Summary – Tidal Energy Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Is renewable and sustainable (unlike fossil fuels which are finite)
  • Is clean energy that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases during operation
  • There is no re-fuelling that needs to take place once tidal energy technology is set up (unlike coal plants for example)
  • Huge potential worldwide for large scale power generation/supply
  • Tides are a reliable and predictable source of power (more so than wind or the sun)
  • Effective at low water speeds
  • Life span is relatively long – meaning the return on the initial investment increase with each year of operation
  • Doesn’t take up land space

Cons

  • In early development – technology needs more research and development
  • Final impact on the environment in unclear
  • Limited by how close it needs to be constructed to shore
  • Not an energy source right now for individuals 
  • Not a portable energy source 
  • Currently an expensive energy source for suppliers and consumers – is not yet profitable commercially without larger scales and better technology
  • More of a supplementary power source at this stage

Tidal energy is another green, renewable energy source. Like wave energy, it has big potential for future energy generation on large scales in the long term. However, at this stage, there needs to be further development and technological advances before it become competitive commercially, and before it becomes feasible and effective on a large scale. It’s more a prospective energy source at this stage

*Note – the above pros and cons are broad generalisations. Obviously there are different variables to each specific energy project that impact the final pros and cons (like new technology that reduces emissions for coal power plants just as one of many examples). Each energy project and situation (in different countries and cities) should be analysed individually. Having said that, some broad principles and patterns about the pros and cons of different energy sources tend to stay consistent too.

 

What Is Tidal Energy

The most common form of tidal energy generation is the use of Tidal Stream Generators. These use the kinetic energy of the ocean to power turbine – underwater turbines that look and act much like wind turbines.

Tidal barrages or more the more recent technology, dynamic tidal power (DTP) are also used.

– renewableresourcescoalition.org, and energyinformative.org

 

Tidal Energy Pros

  • Is Renewable – relies on ocean undercurrent and tides for power, and not finite fossil fuels (such as coal). High and low tides are a result of the gravitational fields from both the sun and the moon, combined with the earth’s rotation around its axis
  • Is Green Energy – doesn’t produce any waste or greenhouse emissions
  • Big Potential – A report produced in the United Kingdom estimated that tidal energy could meet as much as 20% of the UK’s current electricity demands. The worldwide potential for tidal power is estimated to be 700 TWh a year
  • Reliable and Predictable – Tidal currents are highly predictable. High and low tide develop with well-known cycles, making it easier to construct the system with right dimensions, since we already know what kind of powers the equipment will be exposed to.
  • Effective At Low Water Speeds – Water has 1000 times higher density than air, which makes it possible to generate electricity at low speeds. Calculations show that power can be generated even at 1m/s (equivalent to a little over 3ft/s).
  • Lifespan Seems Long – The tidal barrage power plant La Rance was opened already in 1966 and still generates large amounts of electricity. A long lifespan means the cost these power plants can sell their electricity at is ultimately reduced, making tidal energy more cost-competitive.

– energyinformative.org, and renewableresourcescoalition.org

 

Tidal Energy Cons

  • In Early Development, & Needs More Research & Development – tidal power is early in the development stages and not able to compete with fossil fuels. It needs more development to realise how effective it can be.
  • Environmental Impact Is Uncertain – Because tidal energy generators rely on ocean levels and current, there’s a possibility they may have similar effects to hydro-electric generators which can impact the ecosystem around them.  Technological solutions that will resolve some of these issues are currently being developed.
  • Currently Need To Be Constructed Closer To Shore – which is a limitation. In the future we’d like to exploit weaker tidal currents, at locations further out in the sea. Technological advancements are being worked on in this regard.
  • Currently Expensive For Suppliers & Consumers – It is projected that tidal power will be commercially profitable by 2020 with better technology and larger scales.

 

Sources

1. http://energyinformative.org/tidal-energy-pros-and-cons/

2. http://efficientgreenpower.com/tidal-energy

3. https://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/alternative-energy-sources/