Changes in Renewable Energy Term Paper

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renewable energy development from the 1970s to present. Historical changes in energy misuses (i.e. pollution) and consumption (oil reserves) have resulted in increased concern regarding the search and use for alternate and/or renewable energy worldwide. The world faces a critical shortage of non-renewable energy sources in the next decades, and something must be done now to combat the rising disappearance of these energy sources that will eventually cripple transportation around the globe if not checked. Renewable energy sources offer hope for the future, but must be supported today to create a future less dependent on high-priced, non-renewable resources.

Renewable energy sources are certainly not a new idea. Solar, wind, hydrogen, geothermal and other renewable energy technologies have been around for decades, even centuries, and many of them have been perfected to be much more reliable and practical than their earlier forms. Renewable energy replaces or supplements non-renewable energy sources such as oil, coal, and natural gas, and makes sense for a number of ecological and economical reasons. Non-renewable fuels will begin to cost more as they are depleted, just as the price of oil has risen in 2004, as oil reserves get lower, the price will go even higher. This will be the case for other fuels as well. America and the world are too dependent on non-renewable fuels, and more reliance on renewable fuels will have to come to continue our energy rich lifestyle.

Wind power is one of the renewable energy sources that have gone through considerable change since it was first introduced. Windmills were known in Persia over 1,000 years ago, and today, large fields of windmills are used to generate electricity. In fact, several of these fields (wind farms) exist throughout California. As with most technologies, wind generation has become cheaper as scientists and researchers understand the problems associated with generation better. In 1981, the cost to generate a kilowatt of electricity by wind was $2,600. By 1998, the cost dropped to $800 per kilowatt, and this makes it quite competitive with coal-generated energy. In addition, "The wind-power market, valued at roughly $2 billion in 1998, has seen annual growth rates of more than 20% during the 1990s, making it the world's fastest-growing energy source" (Flavin & Dunn, 1999, p. 167). Wind farms are used around the world, and they are viable because new windmills (turbines) can be added as needed, and they are extremely portable. However, they do not generate power when the wind is not blowing, and that can be a major drawback to their continued development. One expert notes, "Recognizing that the energy of the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind velocity, a critical criterion in wind project site selection is determination of the long-term wind characteristics of candidate sites" (Rogers, 2000, p. 121). Therefore, the change in wind generated renewable energy has been substantial in the past three to four decades, and it should continue to grow as a viable alternative to non-renewable energy sources.

Solar energy is one of the most well-known and accepted forms of renewable energy. Once bulky and cumbersome, solar collectors have been whittled down to tiny photovoltaic (PV) cells used in everything from calculators to the space shuttle. These cells have made accumulating the power of the sun cheaper and more effective. Because of this, the cost of solar energy has dropped dramatically. In 1975, it cost about $80 to produce a watt of electricity by solar energy and in 1998 that cost had dropped to $4 per watt. In addition, "Recent improvements in cell efficiency and materials are making these modules viable for building-based generation, where they can serve as shingles, tiles or window glass" (Flavin & Dunn, 1999, p. 167). Shipments of these cells have increased around the world, and it is the second fasted growing form of renewable energy behind wind power. Archimedes recorded raising temperatures by using the sun to heat up mirrors (Borowitz, 1999, p. 109), so solar energy has been known and utilized for thousands of years, too.

Besides these two types of energy, there are many other forms of renewable energy that are growing more slowly. Hydroelectric power is a viable source of energy where there is abundant…[continue]

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