Energy

The Energy sector is a key player in our daily lives. One that brings a lot of good things for all of us, but also one that has to change it's fundamentals. My goal is to identify the options we have. What can we do best? What are the pro's and con's for each option?

As a first step I have generated a list of the most relevant go-to options we have. For now I will strictly focus on The Netherlands. As a general guidance I will use the book 'Drawdown - The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to roll back global warming' by Paul Hawken.

 

Together with experts in the field I am going to challenge this list. It is therefore an ongoing framework. You will find all the updates below, specified for each specific source of energy.

01. Solar

There are multiple solutions based on the power of the sun. All of them are used for the creation of electricity. We have:

1. Solar farms

Drawdown: 'Solar farms take advantage of that resource, with large-scale arrays of hundreds, thousands, or in some cases millions of photovoltaic (PV) panels. They operate at a utility scale like conventional power plants in the amount of electricity they produce, but dramatically differ in their emissions.'

2. Rooftop Solar

Drawdown: 'Small-scale solar systems, typically sited on rooftops, accounted for roughly 30 percent of PV capacity installed worldwide in 2015. Rooftop solar is spreading as the cost of panels falls, driven by incentives to accelerate growth, economies of scale in manufacturing, and advances in PV technology.'

3. Solar Water

Drawdown: 'Water heating is a major energy use. Hot water for showers, laundry, and washing dishes consumes a quarter of residential energy use worldwide; in commercial buildings, that number is roughly 12 percent. Solar water heating—exposing water to the sun to warm it—can reduce that fuel consumption by 50 to 70 percent. Payback periods are as short as two to four years, depending on specifics of system and location.'

02. Wind

Wind is a strong driver for green energy (generation of electricity). Obviously this depends on the exact location of the turbines. There are:

1. Wind Turbines - onshore (on land)

Drawdown: 'The wind industry is marked by a proliferation of turbines, dropping costs, and heightened performance. In many locales, wind is either competitive with or less expensive than coal-generated electricity—and it has no fuel costs and no pollution. Ongoing cost reduction will soon make wind energy the least expensive source of electricity, perhaps within a decade.

 

Onshore wind farms have small footprints, typically using no more than 1 percent of the land they sit on, so grazing, farming, recreation, or conservation can happen simultaneously with power generation. What’s more, it takes one year or less to build a wind farm—quickly producing energy and a return on investment.'

2. Wind Turbines - offshore (on water)

Drawdown: 'The wind industry is marked by a proliferation of turbines, dropping costs, and heightened performance. In many locales, wind is either competitive with or less expensive than coal-generated electricity—and it has no fuel costs and no pollution.'

3. Micro Wind Turbines

Drawdown: 'With capacity of 100 kilowatts or less, micro wind turbines are akin to the windmills of yore—standing solo in a cornfield, capturing the wind’s kinetic energy to meet the electricity needs of a family or small farm. Experts estimate that a million or more micro wind turbines are currently in use around the world.'

03. Biomass

Drawdown: 'Biomass energy is a “bridge” solution—one that can help the world transition from fossil-fuel power to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Until energy storage grows and the grid becomes more flexible, it can help meet electricity demand, complementing variable wind and solar power.

Carbon-rich biomass can be harvested to produce heat, create steam for electricity production, or be processed into oil or gas. Doing so trades in carbon that is already in circulation, cycling from atmosphere to plants and back again. Grow plants and sequester carbon. Process and burn biomass. Emit carbon. Repeat. It produces net zero new emissions, so long as use and replenishment remain in balance.

Biomass energy is a true solution only if it uses appropriate feedstock, such as waste from mills and agriculture or sustainably grown perennial crops. Using annual grain crops like corn and sorghum depletes groundwater and requires high inputs of energy. Using native forests is nothing less than an atrocity. It is crucial to manage the drawbacks of biomass energy through regulation. Most important to bear in mind is that biomass—carefully deployed—is a means to reach a clean energy future, not the destination itself.'

04. Geothermal

Drawdown: 'The heat energy contained below the earth’s surface is about 100 billion times more than current world energy consumption. Geothermal power—literally “earth heat”—taps into underground reservoirs of steamy hot water, which can be piped to the surface to drive turbines that produce electricity. 

Prime geothermal conditions are found on less than 10 percent of the planet, but new technologies dramatically expand production potential. One new approach targets deep underground cavities and adds water to create hydrothermal pools where they do not currently exist. Care must be taken, as the means to access these cavities can create micro-earthquakes.

With subterranean resources flowing 24-7, without interlude, geothermal production can take place at all hours and under almost any weather conditions. Geothermal is reliable, abundant, and efficient. While drilling is expensive, the heat source itself is free. According to the Geothermal Energy Association, 39 countries could supply 100 percent of their electricity needs from geothermal energy, yet only 6 to 7 percent of the world’s potential geothermal power has been tapped.'

05. Nuclear

Drawdown: 'Nuclear plants use fission to split atomic nuclei and release the energy that binds protons and neutrons together. It is the most complex process ever invented to boil water, which powers steam turbines that generate electricity. Greenhouse gas emissions are calculated to be ten to a hundred times higher for coal-fired plants than for nuclear.

Currently, 29 countries have operative nuclear plants; they produce about 11 percent of the world’s electricity. Nuclear is expensive, and the highly regulated industry is often over-budget and slow. While the cost of virtually every other form of energy has gone down over time, nuclear is four to eight times higher than it was four decades ago.'

06. Wave and Tidal

Drawdown: 'Wave- and tidal-energy systems harness natural oceanic flows—among the most powerful and constant dynamics on earth—to generate electricity. A variety of companies, utilities, universities, and governments are working to realize the promise of consistent and predictable ocean energy, which currently accounts for a fraction of global electricity generation.

While the ocean’s perpetual power makes wave and tidal energy possible, it also creates obstacles. Operating in harsh and complex marine environments is a challenge—from designing systems to building installations to maintaining them over time. It is more expensive than producing electricity on solid ground.

Despite decades of work, marine technologies are still in early development and lag well behind solar and wind. Tidal energy is more established than wave, with more projects in operation today. Across the world, a variety of wave-energy technologies are being tested and honed, in pursuit of the ideal design for converting waves’ kinetic energy into electricity.

Wave and tidal energy is currently the most expensive of all renewables. Still, the opportunity of marine-based energy is massive. Proponents believe wave power could provide 25 percent of U.S. electricity, for example. Realizing it will require substantial investment and expanded research.'

07. Cogeneration

Drawdown: 'Coal- and gas-fired power plants produce large amounts of waste heat. Cogeneration systems, also known as combined heat and power (CHP), capture excess heat from electricity production and put the otherwise-forfeited thermal energy to work. It can be used at or near the site for district heating or to create additional electricity. Cogeneration avoids greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that it reduces reliance on fossil fuels for heating and electricity.

Many of the cogeneration systems currently online are found in the industrial sector. In countries such as Denmark and Finland, cogeneration makes up a significant part of the energy mix largely because of its use in district heating systems. In Denmark, around 80 percent of district heating and more than 60 percent of electricity demand is met by CHP.

The opportunity to reduce emissions and save money through cogeneration is significant because of the inherent low efficiency of electrical generation. From a financial viewpoint, adoption makes sense for many industrial and commercial uses, as well as for some residential uses. Cogeneration makes it possible to produce more energy with the same amount, and cost, of fuel.'