For the first time in a million years humans can stop burning rocks for energy, heat and work. Most of the energy we consume today (coal and gas) comes from the sunshine that was buried inside the earth’s crust long before any one of us was born. All prehistoric forms of life on earth was sequestered underneath land and ocean, and after undergoing millions of years of chemical reaction got transformed into hydrocarbon, fossil fuels.
Renewable energy is not fuel. Solar panels, wind turbines , batteries and hydro power generation are technology. The enable the capture of the nuclear fission and fusion in the Sun, but they are not consumed. Unlike coal, gas, nuclear that have to be extracted, burnt and then the waste dealt with.
Burning Rocks is Extreme Consumption
Today, we consume 500 years of this photosynthetic energy in a span of 1 year. This has led to a surplus stock of energy at our disposal, using which we have created the architecture of current industrial civilization. Few realize that the foundation of this architecture is based on a one time gift, fossil fuels, which will run dry during the lifetimes of most of us alive today. We burnt rocks for heating and for cooking, but ~236 years ago the invention of the steam engine by James Watt in 1786 and subsequently George Stephenson development of a steam train. Humans used heat to create steam to create motion (work). Coal has a high thermal value and it was more effective than wood. Prior to this invention, humans used windmills and water mills for energy.
The design of current architecture is very energy-intensive. The transfer and timely availability of food, medical facilities, technology know-how, internet and communication and much more has made it possible for us to accommodate close to 7 billion people. During Pre industrial era, before we had harnessed fossil energy, this figure had never crossed 1 billion. To sustain the current size of human population we have stripped earth’s resources using the surplus stock of fossil energy available, especially oil and coal. We have less than 100 years left. Some say even less.
Oil is finite; someday we will run out of oil, because the time-frames over which it regenerates itself is not useful for human consumption. But not before it has put the climate cycles out of its dynamic equilibrium. Climate Change and resource depletion are the twin challenges facing humans.
The industrial age is built on Ancient Sunshine. That sunshine which got buried inside the earth’s crust long before any one of us was born. All prehistoric forms of life on earth, got sequestered underneath land and ocean, and after undergoing millions of years of chemical reaction got transformed into hydrocarbon, fossil fuels. Today, we consume 500 years of this photosynthetic energy in a span of 1 year.Mithi Matur 2012 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/261452125_Carbon_Climax_End_of_Hydrocarbon_Legacy
Burning Rocks For Energy Versus Solar Panels
Silicon produces 6,570 times more energy than coal
|Burning Coal||Mining Silicon|
|Dig up 1 kg of coal||Dig up 1 kg silicon|
|Burnt in 0.01 seconds||Silicon wafer = 43 @441 cm2 and makes 0.25kW of panels (6 panels)|
|Energy = 1 bar heater for 2 hours||1 hour, captures 0.25kWh. 6 hours per day. 30 years lifetime|
|Cost of Coal = was $60, now $200 per tonne||Cost of sunlight = free.|
|Waste = 22kg CO2, methane, mercury, uranium and thorium||Fully recyclable|
|Energy = 2.5kWh energy||Energy = 16,425 kWh|
One billion Humans in Energy Poverty
The current electricity and gas system globally has resulted in over 1 billion humans in energy poverty. In 2010, World Economic Forum defined energy poverty as the lack of access to sustainable modern energy services and products. But it is not only a matter of sustainability: energy poverty can be found in all conditions where there is a lack of adequate, affordable, reliable, quality, safe and environmentally sound energy services to support development. Without electricity, cooking, heating and communication is difficult. The internet provides full access to education and commerce. (Habitat for Humanity definition)
Renewable Energy is technology that can provide free energy.
Women Bear the Majority of Labour With Fuel
Over 50% of the women of the world still have to burn wood or fuel for cooking. In many countries, they have to go and azuire the fuel, the water and use it to cook food. Electricity from renewable energy will free up billions of hours of work. See United Nations Women Issues
Peak Oil – We are Running Out
Various researchers and commentators say that peak oil is running out.