Total world energy consumption by source 2010

IEEE Energywise – energy, power, and green tech blog, featuring news and analysis about the future of energy, climate, and the smart grid.

Sustainable energy (categorization)

  • Energy conservation – Cogeneration. Energy efficiency. Heat pump. Green building. Microgeneration. Passive solar.
  • Renewable energy – Anaerobic digestion. Biomass. Geothermal. Hydroelectricity. Solar. Tidal. Wind.
  • Sustainable transport – Carbon neutral fuel. Electric vehicle. Green vehicle. Plug-in hybrid.

Renewable energy comes from resources which are continually replenished such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.

These energy sources are also called “alternative energy” (solar power, wind power, etc.) or “green energy”

Heating, electricity, transportation are the major uses of energy. Renewable energy sources are still not contributing much to meet energy needs, but there is a lot of interest in “going green”.

Unlike fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear), which are exhaustible, renewable energy sources regenerate and can be sustained indefinitely. The renewable sources used most often are:

  • Biomass — including: wood and wood waste, municipal solid waste, landfill gas and biogas, ethanol, biodiesel
  • Water – hydropower, tidal
  • Geothermal
  • Wind power
  • Solar – photovoltaic, passive solar
  • human power

Cost and availability are important considerations. As new technologies are introduced, the amount of energy from each source will change

  • 16% of electricity come from hydroelectricity and 3% from new renewables
  • Onshore wind power is currently the cheapest source of renewable energy.
  • Geothermal and tidal power are two other sources of renewable energy that are gaining popularity.
  • Tidal power – Renewed interest in tidal impoundments is being driven by the global push for renewable energy. Tidal power is an especially attractive option given its predictability, and impoundments are proven technology. Whereas freestanding underwater turbines designed to capture tidal currents are still being tested at the megawatt scale, La Rance has delivered 500 to 600 gigawatt-hours annually since 1967, reliably generating power for more than 15 hours per day.

Engineers can make a difference. Tanya helps the Mi’kmaq Indians and other communities expand their renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy – Top 5 Trends to Watch – While early adopters were quick to jump on the renewable energy bandwagon for sustainability reasons, the rising cost of traditional energy has spurred growth in wind and solar.

What’s the problem?

  • Ask – How is engineering helping create more sustainable energy? What are some of the sustainable energy challenges that need engineering solutions right now? How quickly can renewable sources of energy be renewed from trees? Cow poo? Wind? Rivers flows? Ocean tides?
  • Imagine – If scientists come up with good ideas for new sources of sustainable energy, why do they need engineers to work with them? What are some ideas for capturing renewable energy to light a city? To heat your house? Power delivery trucks moving freight across the country?
  • Plan, Create
  • Improve

That’s engineering

  • fossil fuel – fuel made from the compressed remains of ancient animals and plants. It includes coal, gasoline, natural gas and diesel fuel. These fuels are non-renewable forms of energy (i.e. once they are used they can never be replaced).

Engineering ideas

  • production, delivery, turbines, sustainability, conservation, efficiency, scalable, production

Do it
Now it is your turn. Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • PowerUp – Save Planet Helios from ecological devastation
  • use solar energy to produce heat for cooking. Make a solar oven to cook S’mores

Learn more…