Alternative energy versus fossil fuels has been a big discussion point for years. It is likely to stay this way as governments worldwide want to move from fossil fuels to alternative energy. But what are the different types of fossil fuels and renewable energies? This question will be explored and answered in this article, so let’s begin.
The Total World Energy Consumption
Approximately 80% of the total world energy consumption comes from fossil fuels at the moment and 15% from alternative renewable sources. The other 5% is nuclear power. This imbalance is large despite efforts to convert to alternative sources.
What are Fossil Fuels?
Fossil Fuels were formed from animals and plants that have been buried and fossilised over the space of millions of years. This also means they have an extremely high carbon content, perfect for creating vast amounts of energy. People started to use fossil fuels to generate power in the 1880s when coal was first used to give electricity to homes and factories. They were essential in the Industrial Revolution.
Fossil fuels include:
- Natural Gas – a non-toxic hydrocarbon that is highly flammable, odourless, and colourless. It can be a gas or liquid (LNG standing for Liquefied Natural Gas which has been cooled into a liquid at about -160 degree Celsius)
- Oil (or petroleum) – a liquid once extracted from reservoirs below land or ocean floor which can then be converted into car and airplane fuel, among other things
- Coal – possibly the most harmful to the environment. Coal is a combustible carbon-based black rock that we burn to gain energy
What are Renewable Energies?
Renewable energy is also known as a flow resource that is a natural resource that can refresh itself despite consumption. This can be achieved through natural reproduction or other repeating events. This allows us to use the energy without worrying about the finite resources because they regenerate.
Most people assume that renewable resources are a much newer discovery than fossil fuels, however, solar power was the first to be discovered, back in 1839. Around the same time as fossil fuels, Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist, discovered the photovoltaic effect. This is the generation of voltage and electric current in something upon exposure to light, meaning that solar power is effectively just as old as fossil fuels. By 1908, 72 wind turbines (yes, wind power was discovered simultaneously with fossil fuels) generated electricity for Denmark’s inhabitants. In 1927, renewable energies were finally being recognised for commercial use and being used on a larger scale. However, in the 1970s, people noticed the power source could help the environment. This is where most people assume renewable energy was discovered and used.
Renewable Energies include:
- Wind – the motion is used to generate electricity. Simply put, the wind is created by the heat of the sun and the rotation of Earth, something called the Coriolis Force. A wind turbine is used to draw the energy from air currents.
- Ocean – the rising and fall of the tide can be harnessed to generate electricity. A tidal current turbine (much like a wind turbine) or tidal stream generator is used to collect the energy from the water currents.
- Hydropower – very similar to the ocean, this uses the motion of water to produce electricity. Still, the key difference is any water can be used, and so a tidal current turbine does not need to be used.
- Solar – energy can be collected from the sun’s heat through solar panels to generate electricity, heating, and lighting.
- Geothermal – generates electricity by using heat from underground trapped in the Earth.
- Biomass – this is the most versatile renewable energy source and reliable. Biomass refers to animal and plant material such as wood chips, food waste, or other organic matter. Once energy is extracted from biomass, it can be used for chemicals, fuel to power vehicles, heating, and electricity.
If you are considering switching to a renewable energy source, there are many UK providers to choose from depending on which source you choose from. Whether you want solar panels are wood chips and other organic resources to power your home or business, you will be choosing from an infinite energy source unlike fossil fuels that are still used the most today.
- ‘Fundamentals of Natural Gas Processing’ published in Research Gate (2019) by Arthur Kidney, William Parrish and Daniel McCartney
- Photovoltaic Effect – Wikipedia
- ‘The Coriolis force and the direction of rotation of the blades significantly affect the wake of wind turbines’ published in Elsevier (2020) by Reza Nouria, Ahmad Vasel-Be-Hagha and Cristina L Archerb
- ‘A Preliminary Study and Analysis of Tidal Stream Generators’ published by Acta Energetica (2020) by Saad Bin Abul Kashem, Molla Majid, Mujahid Tabassum, Azad Ibn Ashraf, J. Guzinski and Krzysztof Aleksander Luksza