Infinitely Renewable

Well, not quite infinite, but effectively so.  Unless you intend to live for five billion years and see the Sun explode and wreck it all.  Good luck with that, by the way.

What I’m talking about here is the types of resources available to the spaceship Earth that will last effectively forever.  Most of these resources have the added side effect of virtually removing the pollution generally associated with coal, oil, and nuclear power sources.

Why didn’t we start harnessing these resources earlier?  Because we’re stupid, and lazy, that’s why.  Oil and coal were easy, and people like things that are easy.  Doing the easy thing is easier than doing the hard thing.  Inconvenient, but true.  Thing is, the hard things are generally more worthwhile.

Let’s look at some power sources “of the future,” that are sustainable and clean.

Geothermal:  This is a relatively new form of energy, as it’s extremely difficult for low-technology cultures to manage.  This is literally drilling into the ground, down to the regions where the internal heat of the planet is capable of boiling water.  The water, once boiled, spins turbines, creating electricity which is then shunted back up to a surface relaying station that transmits it to nearby communities.  Expensive to start, but relatively cheap in the long run.

Hydroelectric, Standard:  This one’s been around for a long, long time, but it’s limited to the regions where one has a relatively large body of flowing water, at least on a commercial scale.  Watermills have been used for ages to turn gears and grind grains; with the advent of electricity, the same basic concept was applied to create energy.  The flow of water is routed through a series of turbines, then released back into the river from which it came.  The only pollution created by this type of energy is the water’s effect of scouring gunk from the turbines themselves, which can be limited with proper maintenance.

Hydroelectric, Tidal:  Similar in some ways to standard hydroelectric, tidal power is achieved by allowing the rising tide to wash water into a secured basin, then forcing the water through a series of turbines to escape back into the ocean or lake from which it came as the tide falls.  Building a tidal hydroelectric station is expensive and requires advanced engineering, but the pollution produced by the system is similar to that of standard hydroelectric.  That is to say, quite limited.  Problematically, this type of power station is harder to shut down for maintenance than a standard hydroelectric plant.

Solar:  This is one of my favourites.  The Sun is beaming out energy by the bucketload, whether we choose to use it or not.  The down side is that, due to it’s small size, the Earth only collects the barest fraction of the total energy available, and even that can be significantly reduced by things like haziness in the air, or the fact that it’s often night time on the planet.  As technology develops, it may be possible to build orbiting stations that collect vastly more energy than ground-based solar stations could manage; the problem would be transmitting that stored energy down to the planet.  Solar energy is based on voltaic cells gathering energy from the Sun and converting it into usable electricity.

Wind:  Wind power is as old as, or maybe even older, than hydro.  Don Quixote was quite familiar with it, though he, for some reason, thought the windmills were giants.  Or something.  All wind power entails is allowing the flow of air across some type of rotating surface to power a turbine, and the turbine’s motion, in turn, creating electricity.

So, there’s several different methods of creating energy that don’t rely on burning dead things in order to create power.  And they smell better, too!


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