In physics, energy is loosely defined as the ability to do work. This definition often takes into assumption that energy can’t be directly observed but only its effects can be observed. Therefore, energy can only be defined by what it does not what it is. From this definition, it is clear that energy is used to do some work. From the definition of work, it is also clear that energy is the ability to exert a certain force on a body or particle of mass.
Sources of energy can be broadly divided into two categories. The major categories are the renewable and the non-renewable sources. The renewable sources can be replenished once they run down thus they can be claimed to be virtually inexhaustible. These sources include:
- The sun.
- Geothermal energy.
The non-renewable sources run down with time and the energy content is reduced and finally the energy becomes exhausted. These energy sources can’t be refilled once they run down thus call for a new energy source. A good example of a non-renewable source of energy is a dry cell. Once the chemical reactions occur in the cell to produce the energy, the reaction is irreversible thus once the cell runs down, its energy can’t be refilled.
Our paper focuses more on the renewable sources of energy which follow the trait of energy refilling once they run down thus are virtually inexhaustible. To begin with, renewable sources of energy are found freely in nature. Therefore, most of the scientists tend to overlook these sources as they creatively think of energy sources. The largest source of renewable energy is the sun. It produces or emits energy in form of electromagnetic radiations. These radiations have each a specific role to play in the existence of life in the world and some reactions in the atmosphere.
As statistics indicate, by the year 2010, 16% of the total energy consumption in the world is from natural sources but this is not enough to cater for the entirely increasing energy requirement. The energy requirement in the world is increasing on daily basis thus there is great need to look for alternatives sources of energy in addition to the non-renewable sources. This has led to great exploitation of the solar energy from the sun. Care should also be taken so as to avoid over exploitation of this natural source of energy renewable energy exploited is the solar energy which is converted directly to electrical energy ((Joanna, 2007)). This has been commercialized in industrialized countries like Japan and France. As an example, some locomotives in France are solar powered while some industries in Japan run on solar power. Though there is great use of natural sources of energy (renewable sources), most of the countries especially in Africa have not adapted on the technology necessary to tap the natural energy. Most of these countries have set development goals with which they gauge how the necessary technology to tap the solar energy will be attained. From research by an American based Astronomy firm, the sun releases more than 10000 times the energy that is used by human beings. This shows that a lot has to be done for more energy to be tapped (Jameson, 2009).
Another way in which solar energy is used though in small scale is heating. In this form of energy tapping, the solar energy is trapped used for domestic and industrial heating. One device mostly used for this form of energy tapping of solar energy is the solar microwave heater. This equipment has a parabolic reflector which concentrates the sun’s rays on a single point (focal point). The energy contained in the rays is concentrated on that spot making the temperature to be higher. This is the principle applied by all microwave heaters. The element to be heated is placed at the focal point for maximum energy absorption in form of heat. The other upcoming form of heating but is currently used in small scale is the use of a solar heater to warm domestic and industrial water. This is still on the rise leading to reduced use of non-renewable sources of energy.
Another source of renewable energy is the wind. From the basic definition, wind is moving air. In the action of motion, this air can exert some force on an appropriate surface transmitting its kinetic energy (energy possessed by particles in motion) thus can be used to do some useful work. In most countries, this source of energy has been ignored. It is viewed as a much older form of natural energy to be exploited compared to solar energy. In one of the oldest technologies, it was used in Mesopotamia to drive the irrigation equipment used (Jameson, 2009). Wind energy requires to be converted to mechanical energy before being converted to any other form of energy. The mechanical energy can then be used to drive the required device to output the required energy form.
In some western countries, wind energy has been harnessed and used to drive wind mills. These wind mills are used to drive electrical generators thus the wind mills are used to generate electricity. In some countries, wind energy has been used to pump water from deep boreholes and wells.
The third yet common source of natural energy is the geothermal energy, as the name suggest, the energy is generated deep within the earth in form of heat (roughneckchronicles.com/energy/). The immense heat within the earth can be attributed to the intense pressure within the earth’s inner layers due to the pressure of the upper layers. The heat energy then makes a way to a point that is close enough to the surface. In most cases, it comes into contact with ground water heating it to very high temperatures. With the high pressure, the superheated water finds its way up into the upper layers of the crust and finally though faults reach the earth’s surface. It appears as steam or hot springs. The steam is mainly used to drive generators leading to production of energy. This form of natural energy is rarely exploited due to lack of the necessary technology and equipment.
A fourth and also rarely exploited source of energy is water (roughneckchronicles.com/energy/). In most of the countries water is only used to produce the largest proportion of the national electricity. Therefore, exploitation of water as a source of energy is common. The only proportion utilized is the moving water in form of rivers but the ocean currents are rarely used.
Advantages of exploiting natural and renewable sources of energy over the non-renewable sources.
The sources are virtually inexhaustible. This would help conserve the environment. As an example, exploitation of wind energy will reduce the speed of winds across any surface. As a result, there would be less destruction in human features like large and tall buildings.
The sources are self replenishing. Energy sources are usually exhausted in the process of conversion thus a source has to be replenished (Joanna, 2007).
Exploitation of non-renewable resources usually causes some environmental degradation. Therefore, these sources of energy have adverse effects on the environment.
According to the current debate on energy exploitation and usage, the scientists are trying to find alternative sources of energy that are environmentally friendly. As a result, they have turned to appealing to energy users to turn to exploitation of natural resources and energy sources and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. In their argument, they depict that energy got from exploitation natural resources would reduce environmental degradation. In return, there would be reduced o-zone depletion which is caused by excessive release of carbon (IV) oxide from the non- renewable sources of energy.
Another advantage of using these sources of energy according to the debate is the reduction of green house effect. The green house effect brings about global warming which is a new threat to the world currently. The excessive release of carbon dioxide also results in formation of acid rain. Therefore, in order to avert all these problems, use of environmentally friendly sources of energy should be one of the first steps.
Considering the philosophical relationship between mankind and nature, mankind should get the basic requirements from nature while nature gets protection from mankind. Therefore, this relationship should be symbiotic and not parasitic as it is currently. By exploiting natural resources for natural sources of energy nature and environment are conserved unlike when exploiting minerals to produce non-renewable sources of energy that will eventually deplete the resources leading to environmental degradation.
Though natural resources are economical and worth exploiting, exploitation has remained low. The main obstacles facing the exploitation include:
- Inadequate technology for the exploitation. The current technology in the world is insufficient of exploiting the natural energy. This is because the equipment used in the exploitation is sophisticated and its technology out of understanding for most of the countries.
- Uncertainty in some natural sources. Sources like wind and ocean currents are unpredictable thus an attempt to exploit these resources can turn out to be a white elephant. Therefore, most governments remain reluctant to these projects.
- Most countries also have some complex and costly factories working on production of energy using non-renewable sources already running. If the resources are changed, then the factories which are already a big investment go into waste. Therefore, the exploitation is low even in presence of all the existing advantages of natural sources (Joanna, 2007).
The main recommendations that I would present to this proposal is the exploitation of the natural resources instead of the governments expanding the non-renewable resources. This can be mainly attributed to the future of the world that we anticipate for the coming generation. According to a current campaign on making the world green again a bid to conserve a good habitat for life, most of the countries should put in place strategies that will help ensure that the natural resources are exploited responsibly so as to ensure over exploitation does not occur. Such a strategy of exploitation of natural resources for energy production by environmentally friendly processes is the vision 2030 in Kenya which outlines the ways by which the set objectives will be achieved.
In conclusion, the total natural energy exploitation is still in the infancy stage (Wikipedia.org). Considering the overall natural energy exploitation, traditional biomass leads with 16%. This is the highest followed by hydro power (water) with 5 % with solar energy having the highest untapped potential. This shows that the natural energy exploitation is still below the anticipated levels.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World energy consumption
Joanna, K. 2007 Are Support Schemes for Renewable Energies Compatible with Competition Objectives? An Assessment of National and Community Rules, Yearbook of European Environmental law.
Jameson K, 2009. Benefits of Renewable Energy Use | Union of Concerned Scientists. Princeton Inc.