EXPLORING ALTERNATIVE ENERGY RESOURCES
PROF. SAEED AHMAD SIDDIQUI
Jan 9 - 15, 2012
Alternate energy resource refers to every useable source of energy, which can be made the alternative of any fuel source without harming health and environment.
There is a long controversial history of current modern energy sources and their alternatives. The nature of alternate energy sources, as compared to past, has changed in present times. It is because the selection of a specific source of energy, due to availability of abundant sources, has created a serious controversy.
Generally, alternate energy in the present society refers to the energy which, as a result of burning fossil fuel, does not give injurious consequence; excessive release of carbon dioxide which is the basic and important cause of global warming.
Sometime the atomic energy, due to ill information, is considered the cause of rise in global warming. Alternate energy, in brief, is the energy achieved from non-traditional sources like compressed natural gas, solar, hydroelectric, wind etc.
Social historians have studied that how have the non-traditional resources, replacing the traditional sources, revolutionized the society economically.
Alternate source of energy is used when traditional sources fail to cater the energy demand of the society. When the prices of energy, due to its shortage, mount up then the new and alternate sources are searched out.
COAL AS ALTERNATE OF WOOD: Norman F. Factor describes that wood was the dominant source of energy up till the end of Medieval Period. How then coal replaced wood as the alternate source of energy? He says that, "during the whole of medieval centuries European used to live in thick forests. They, after 1250, cut the forests so excessively that acute shortage of wood was faced for heating and cooking purposes in 1500 AD and the entire Europe, in 15th century, was plunged in energy crisis. Europe came out of this crisis with soft coal and growing maize and potato."
PETROL AS ALTERNATE OF WHALE OIL: In the beginning of 19th century, whale oil was used for lubricants and in lamps as fuel. But, availability of whales, due to their excessive hunting, decreased fast thereby, prices of whale oil shot up in the middle of 19th century. Consequently, stage for petrol, as alternate of whale oil was set. Petrol, in this way, was first time commercialized in Pennsylvania in 1859.
Alcohol as alternate of fossil fuel: Alexander Graham Bell, in 1917, suggested to use ethanol extracted from maize, wheat and other food items as alternate of coal and oil. He said that the world reserves of coal and oil would exhaust soon and the traditional sources of energy do not have the capability of renewability. Brazil has been working on ethanol program since 1970 due to which Brazil, after America, has emerged as the biggest producer and exporter of ethanol fuel. In line of Brazil ethanol fuel program, cheap sugarcane and other edible things are used as feedstock. Moreover, the residual cane waste is used for heat and power processing. Light vehicles are not driven exclusively on gasoline. By the end of 2008, there were 35,000 filling stations in Brazil and one ethanol pump was made compulsory by law at every filling station.
For producing cellulosic ethanol, the whole of the crop can be used. Through this new technique, production is increased and carbon elements are decreased because according to this technique energy intensive fertilizer and fungicides remain the same therefore, production of useable material in large quantity becomes possible.
Nine commercial cellulosic ethanol plants have been working in America since 2008. One ethanol plant is working in Inbicon Biomass Refinery in Denmark since July 2010.
COAL GASIFICATION AS ALTERNATE OF PETROL: Administration of American President Jimmy Carter extended the proposal of coal gasification first time in 1970 so that it may be made the alternate of expensive imported oil. This program was abandoned in 1980 because coal gasification, due to high carbon footprints, may be the cause of environmental pollution on the large scale.
Alternate energy can be had in the forms mentioned below:
WIND ENERGY: Achieved in the form electricity through wind.
SOLAR ENERGY: Achieved in the form of electricity through the sun. It can be classified into two kinds: thermal energy; and geothermal energy. It is used for keeping the house warm or producing electricity through hot water or steam from earth interior.
BIO FUEL AND ETHANOL: For getting bio-fuel and ethanol, plant drives are used for running vehicles.
HYDROGEN: Hydrogen is used as refined fuel in airplanes, spacecrafts, and vehicles. Both hydrogen and atomic energy are alternate source of energy. Nevertheless, there are reservations in connection with environmental protection. It can't be said confidently that how long these sources of energy could be used as 'environment friendly energy' as alternate source.
RENEWABLE ENERGY V/S NON-RENEWABLE ENERGY
Renewable energy is achieved through natural sources like sunlight, rain, wind, tides and geothermal heat. These sources are naturally replenished (reformed). When methods of energy production are compared, the basic difference between renewable energy and fossil fuel is that getting energy in the form of oil, coal and natural gas is not only difficult but it requires sophisticated machines and tools and physical and chemical process. Contrary to it, renewable energy can be produced on the large scale by using basic tools and process. Wood is most renewable and abundant alternate source of energy.
ECOLOGICALLY FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVES: Renewable energy source (like biomass) is considered sometimes alternate of ecological harmful fossil fuel. Nevertheless, characteristic of being alternative is not built in renewable sources. For instance, once upon a time, Netherlands which was the world leader in producing palm oil, suspended all type of subsidies given to palm oil producers and the consumers because it was revealed scientifically that sometimes use of palm oil was more injurious for the environment than fossil fuel.
NEW CONCEPTS OF ALTERNATE ENERGY
1. ALGAE: It is the bio-fuel achieved through algae. Photosynthetic and other organisms, during photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide and sunlight transfer them in oxygen and biomass. It is the advantage of algae that it can be produced on industrial level therefore, it can produce soya bean, canola, and palm oil in abundance from the cultivable land and so can produce more oil than other sources of bio-fuel.
2. BIOMASS BRIQUETTE: Biomass Briquettes are developed in the developing countries as alternate of charcoal. The method is that any plant matter is converted into compressed briquette which contains approximately 70 percent calorific value of charcoal.
3. BIOGAS DIGESTION: Biogas generation deals with harnessing the methane gas that is released when waste breaks down. This gas can be achieved from sewerage system and garbage. For producing methane gas, biogas digesters are used that, breaking bacteria, convert into energy. Refined methane gas can be used for any productive purpose.
4. FLOATING WIND FARMS: Floating wind farms are synonymous to the regular wind farms with the difference that floating wind farms float in the middle of the ocean. Offshore wind farms are piled 40 meters deep in water while floating wind farms are piled 700 meter deep in water. The advantage of floating wind farms is that they receive double speed of wind as compared to offshore wind farms free from trees and mountains hindrance.
ENERGY FROM GARBAGE: Projects for using garbage through recycling are under way in many underdeveloped countries and a novel project of producing energy from garbage has successfully been completed in Pakistan.
Fertilizers, in addition to gas, are also produced from garbage. The work is going on in Waste Busters company, Lahore where liquid gas, petroleum and different fertilizers are produced by garbage collected from roads and streets. Gas is produced through organic elements by separating them from common garbage.
Approximately, 50,000 tons of garbage is thrown daily from the houses in Pakistan that can be used for producing energy in the form of gas on very large scale. If projects, following the footprints of the company, are initiated in different cities, petrol and gas crisis can be controlled to a greater extent.