Renewable Energy: The Future is Now

Solar, geothermal, biomass, bio-fuels, and wind turbines are not science fiction but demonstrative fact. America’s energy dependence is tied to its embrace of renewable energy sources. New renewables are in fact the product of decades of research, mostly state sponsored, that has blossomed into infant renewable energy companies with lofty ambitions if somewhat mixed results. Solar, wind and geothermal have found broad acceptance in Europe. Many countries there have a remarkable renewable energy infrastructure. Biomass, or the combustion of renewable bio fuels has also found wide acceptance, especially in developing countries like Brazil which leads the world in ethanol production.

Hydroelectricity has been around for decades, but the largest growth in hydroelectric is in small units as opposed to large dams and in the inclusion of tidal energy which uses the constant movement of our oceans to generate power. Wind energy has also been producing electricity for decades, as we associate the Netherlands with it’s large slow moving wind turbines. Iceland being a large volcanic island has led the way with geothermal energy, and given it’s unique geology it is no surprise that 89% of homes are heated by geothermal energy. The growth of renewable energy is not only a consequence of ecological concerns, but also economic sense considering the finite supply of fossil fuels. As fuel supplies dwindle their cost will increase, and those who haven’t embraced renewable sources of energy before will be forced into untenable positions.

Many large oil companies are investing in bio-fuels, solar, and wind projects as a means to continue their relevance into the foreseeable future. Renewable energy sources are seen as a bridge between today’s corporate profits and tomorrow’s corporate reality. The companies without a renewable energy presence in the marketplace will quickly become the dinosaurs of energy production, leaving themselves vulnerable to extinction and replacement by smaller more flexible structures with the foresight to embrace renewables.

Modern biomass has the capacity to produce large quantities of bio-fuels. Already sugar cane is being used in tropical countries like Brazil to produce ethanol in sufficient amounts to reduce their reliance on oil. Of greater concern is the production of electricity using modern bio-mass and gasification processes as well as state of the art combustion techniques. This provides a model in which rural counties would be able to become self sustaining without the attendant massive financial outlay to fund additional energy infrastructure. It’s estimated that modern bio-mass derived fuels like methanol, hydrogen, and ethanol, can reach competitive pricing levels within a couple of decades.

Renewable energy is not just the future of energy consumption. Already forward thinking governments are applying their research and development funds to creating the next generation of lower cost new renewables, in hopes of achieving economic independence from importing fossil fuels. Solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and bio-fuels will one day make up the bulk of worldwide energy production. The smart money always looks to the future, and in renewable energy the future is now.