The hindrance to renewable energy
OTEC ??? What the hell is that ?
The world is reeling under a huge energy crisis. All are aware of this plight. Simply ask a student about this and he/she is bound to give you an elaborate answer about the hybrid solar-wind-coupled geothermal-plant-integrated-with-biogas-supply-from-organic-waste-recovered-from-garbage-dumps. A very optimistic reply indeed. But such answers might only fetch one an award in creative writing contest. While the fact that the awareness about the need for sustainable energy has reached the masses is great news, the bad news is that such ideas have been simply confined to decoratively titled environment education text books. The sarcasm apart, the issue is of serious concern.
Across the world, many intelligent minds are trying to come up with solutions centered round renewable energy to tackle the energy crisis. Countless prototypes have been and are being developed across the world to deal with the energy problem in an ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘cost effective’ manner. Eco-friendly is a very important key word. You must produce energy, but the slightest damage to the environment arising from it and the idea is as good as trash. Please note – even solar energy is not eco-friendly…well not exactly. The manufacturing process of the panels involves a lot of pollution. The toxic factory waste is dumped directly on to the lands of neighboring villages. Wind and Hydro energy harvesting are devoid of such criticism, but the initial cost involved is very high. Likewise there are a lot of hindrances to new ideas centered round renewable energy. While a few find faults in the cost, some will question its environmental impact and the rest will simply say it is IMPOSSIBLE.
Here let us take a peek into a few causes that have hindered the development of renewable energy….
- The capital and infrastructure. Some may say only money. To build a fully working prototype involves hell a lot of money primarily because first time success is only a dream. You have to go through countless stages of rebuilding, fine tuning, error correction routines before you have a proper model at your disposal. Lack of funds can cause this process to halt in an intermediate stage. This is a serious roadblock to the team developing the idea and can also affect their morale.
- To patent the idea is another big problem. To bring the product to market is a path laden with loads of permission, cost and sadly corruption. The investor must be assured of a huge profit from the idea. Only if he is sure of the big money, will the idea even go half the way down the path. If another guy is able to convince the investor about a new soap formula that has a lot of potential in the market, then the renewable energy idea is a closed chapter.
- The non-feasibility of the idea. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is one of those elusive renewable energy techs that can produce electricity from difference in ocean water temperature. Suppose Max gets a brilliant idea to improve OTEC efficiency, he will have a research paper in two months… no doubt…. But what about the feasibility of the idea ? The idea of OTEC is almost a hundred years old and still it is not economically viable in spite of lots of engineers trying hard.
- While the awareness has been instilled in students, the same cannot be said about the drive to take an initiative towards sustainable energy development. Most students can easily fill answer sheets with the contents from websites and books on this sensitive topic. But how many actually come out with ideas…. Only when the ideas start pouring in there will be a forward leap in the renewable energy sector.
We have a huge mountain left to scale. While solar energy continues to promise us with bright prospects in the near future, we should never be dependent on one source of energy. In a nation such as India, that has 6000 km of coast line, tidal energy is a lucrative option. Every energy source has its share of pros and cons. To black list a resource, unless it has an irreversible impact on the environment, is not a good idea at this stage. Investors must weigh the option of sustainable development along with profit.
Right now, we can list the existing renewable energy sources with our fingers. In the future this list is bound to extend. But is that really what we really look forward to ? The better approach would be to improve the efficiency of existing harvesting methods and pump in a lot of cash into the smart grid idea. Without any doubt, the future holds a lot of surprises, hopefully a few of them bring relief to this energy crisis…..