Environmental Protection

The Evolution and Future Growth of Renewable Energy

Attention to the idea of finiteness in energy resources came about as the reliance on vehicles using combustion engines created a focus on the location and quantity of resources such as oil. Stemming from this shift in thought, solar power was first developed in the 1950s and 1960s in attempts to find less expensive and more sustainable ways to power the world's growing usage of cars, planes and other business needs.

Real interest in this area began with the 1972 report by the Club of Rome. This group demonstrated that Earth's finite resources were bound to diminish in the near future. Interest in the limits of important resources grew throughout the next few decades. It was the culmination of high gasoline prices during the last decade and nuclear power plant disasters, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, which spurred significant interest in a new form of energy that is both safer and cheaper. Now it is a part of public policies around the world to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and seek renewable energy sources.

A Closer Look at Positive Trends
Inspiring trends are noticeable at the national level in the United States, which uses more non-renewable energy than much of the rest of the world, and on the global level. Energy imports as well as greenhouse gas emissions are down across the board in the United States. In addition, renewable energy is responsible for an increasing portion of electricity generation. In 2012, 13 percent of American electricity was generated by businesses using renewable sources.

In the global arena, things look even better. More than 30 countries rely on renewable energy for more than 20 percent of their total usage. More than 1,470 GW are generated each year through renewable sources such as wind, solar and other green forms of power. Overall, 19 percent of global energy consumption in 2011 was derived from renewable supplies of energy.

Technological Advances in Production and Storage
None of these improvements could have been made without significant technological advances. When solar power was first proposed in the 1950s and 60s, storage issues hampered transition to this form of energy production. Difficulty in storing renewable power has continued right up until the present. However, research teams have recently discovered new ways to store such power in batteries that will last much longer than former methods.

Advances have also been made in solar-power efficiency. Recently, an unmanned aircraft, powered entirely by the rays of the sun, sustained flight for more than two weeks. New techniques in garnering tidal power and new carbon blades for windmills have also allowed these alternate methods of renewable energy generation to create energy under less than optimal conditions.

Renewable Job Growth
A transition to a world that is characterized by energy- efficiency and sustainable usage but marred by poverty is not a viable alternative. Fortunately, renewable energy has also been good for job creation. Solar power and renewable energy have and will continue to create jobs. As of 2012, there were more than 80,000 wind energy workers employed in the United States. Biopower has created 70,400 jobs and expects to require 400,000 more in the near term. As a whole, the industry has experienced more than 15 percent job growth throughout the present year. Even in non-renewable sources of energy, workers in efficiency have increased to 380,000 and will probably number in the millions on the next decade or two.

The future is brighter on all fronts for everyone, especially those directly involved in the business. President Obama has announced that he is using his executive authority to move forward with a number of energy policies including a strong drive in building the solar workforce and promoting energy efficiency. It is time for a strong push toward renewable energy, not only in the United States, but around the world.

The Online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology has constructed a captivating infographic describing this topic in detail. Please share and enjoy The Evolution and Future Growth of Renewable Energy. NJIT, located in Newark, N.J., was founded in 1881 as the Newark Technical School. Sponsored by the Newark Board of Trade with a matching grant from the New Jersey state legislature, it offered non-degree training in science, mathematics, and drawing.

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:05 AM


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