Climate change is a natural phenomenon in which the weather patterns on earth are altered significantly over the course of time and for an extended period of time (decades to millions of years). The changes can be caused by natural factors or man-made factors. Climate shift has occurred over the years, thus resulting in advancements and recessions in glaciers of the globe. However, in the recent times, it has become a real concern among scientists who have noticed that this time it is primarily attributed to human activity. As such, the climate change’s spread and advancements are proceeding at an unprecedented pace, unlike what has been witnessed or contemplated before. The main driving force of climate change is global warming, which is a steady rise in the surface temperatures on earth resulting in negative effects, such as melting snow caps, increased sea levels, and prolonged drought. These effects have prompted scientists and governments to institute mitigation measures, such as development of alternative, renewable, and clean sources of energy like hydrogen fuels, solar energy, and wind energy. These mitigation measures and areas form the substance of discussion in the subsequent section.
Renewable sources of energy have been recommended by scientists and scholars as the way to go in mitigating and possibly reversing the effects of global warming due to their minimal carbon footprint and energy consumption. These methods include using of wind energy, solar energy, hydrogen fuel, and hydroelectric power. None of these methods involves the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; thus, these measures are recommended as a potential means of replacement for the traditional alternatives such as coal, which have been the biggest culprits in the global warming phenomenon.
However, despite their apparent use in the reduction of global warming, these methods are relatively new and have not been extensively studied unlike the traditional mainstream methodologies of power production. As a matter of fact, they only became a real concern and alternative when scientists sounded the alarm on global warming. Wind energy is best utilized as an alternative in areas where there is plenty of rapidly flowing winds, such as deserts. Wind farms can be large, often taking up several hectares of land; hence, they are optimally located out of residential zones. They use wind energy to turn turbines and produce electricity. In Egypt, several studies have been conducted on the feasibility of harnessing various forms of energy, with wind power being included. They have found that it is indeed possible and feasible to do use wind energy, whereas the country aims at increasing renewable energy contribution to 20 % of the grid. The wind turbines are effective at converting energy into electricity and they rank higher than coal plants, whereas coal plants convert about 29% of the coal to electricity. Wind farms convert approximately 45% of the wind that passes through their blades into electric energy, which can soar to almost 50% at peak efficiency. However, it is mandatory to note that wind energy production is highly location specific; therefore, further studies have to be conducted to determine effectiveness and potential success of wind power.
Solar power is the second alternative source of energy, and it has great rewards and flexibility. This method would help reduce climate change by alleviating the reliability on fossil fuels, thus facilitating the transition to clean energy. To effectively use this method, there must be sufficient and intense sunlight, upwards of 6 hours a day. Additionally, the solar option is flexible in that it can be mounted on rooftops, as opposed to wind farms that must be established on an independent site. Using the previous example, Egypt has been able to successfully implement solar energy projects that should contribute 2.2% to the national grid by 2022. This works for the country due to its 9-11 hours of intense sunlight daily. Such projects have stalled and failed countries such as the Netherlands that can have less than 3 hours of uninterrupted sunlight on any given day.
From this discussion, it is evident that countries are embarking on short and longer strategies of implementing renewable sources of energy. For example in Egypt, there was a need to invest in renewable energy so that it can mitigate the load on fossil fuels and ultimately replace them in the event that it became necessary. The number of urban population in Egypt has grown with the corresponding boost in energy demands, whereas Egypt alone saw a 5.6% increase in the energy consumption in the year 2014. This can be unsettling when looked at from the bigger perspective in terms of urban areas worldwide there seems to be a growing spree as global population rises.
From this standpoint, it is clear that the innovations and investments in renewable energy are fueled by the need to curb global warming and climate change, while also complementing fossil fuels in catering for the rapidly growing global population’s energy demands.
Though there have been rapid advances in the field of alternative energy sources, there have been numerous failures, and ultimately, lessons to be learned. One of the biggest lessons brought out is the need to conduct adequate scientific research to substantiate the implementation of renewable energy projects. A clear example is the Netherlands where the government went to great lengths to promote the solar energy programs, for example, by providing free panels to households and greatly subsiding the cost of solar panels. However, the project was later abandoned due to infeasibility. However, despite the apparent slow progression of technology in terms of efficiency and cost effectiveness in the fields of renewable energies, it is possible that these technologies could help offset the manmade changes to the global climate. In their infancy, they are already contributing significantly, and with the promising research and developments in the fields like hydrogen fuels and tidal energy, their contribution is likely to become significant and noticeable. However, just like the chlorofluorocarbons menace, it shall take several years to see the improvements.
There are a few types of renewable energies, with the ones discussed in this paper being sufficient to demonstrate the viability of the alternative sources of energy, the lessons learned, and their possibility for the mitigation of global warming and climate change. Research in these areas has picked momentum and has seen vast improvements over the past decades. Additionally, countries have realized the need for alternative energy and instituted strategies to make it a possibility. Therefore, further scientific research shall help in the flourishing of the industries of renewable sources and their ultimate leading role in mitigating global warming.
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