Water, Wind, Solar, and Nuclear Power Technologies

Hydropower

Hydropower dams have a significant impact on the environment. According to Sørensen (2011), dams affect the migration of aquatic animals such as fish hence affects their population and distribution in their natural habitats. The scholar also notes hydropower dams also change the water temperatures, making the environment unsustainable for some of the living organism. The changing nature of the habitat eliminates some of the aquatic life. Komor (2004) also says that the new nature of the dam may inhibit the normal growth of plants that require specific temperatures, pH, and other environmental factors affected by the dam. A strong greenhouse gas known as methane is often produced in dams, and when it is emitted into the environment, it may contribute to the problem of global warming.

According to Quaschning (2005), dams often have a serious impact on the settlement of people around the area of construction and in lower areas of the dam. When constructing a hydropower dam, it may be necessary to relocate some people to get enough space for the construction of the dam. It may not be easy for the displaced persons to get back to their normal lives even if they are adequately compensated.

Sørensen (2011) says that dams often break their banks during heavy rains when there are excessive amounts of water. When this happens, it causes heavy flooding in the lower regions. People and animals can be killed by such floods or sustain serious injuries. Such floods may also cause massive destruction of property in the lower regions. Hydropower dams may be of benefit to the agriculturalist as the reservoirs can be used for irrigation.

Wind Power

Pros of wind energy

  • It is cheap;
  • It is clean;
  • It is easy to install and manage.

Cons of wind energy

  • Dependent on weather;
  • Subject to vandalism;
  • Needs regular maintenance.

Viability of utilizing wind energy

Wind energy is one of the best renewable sources of energy, especially in regions that experience strong winds. In Europe, countries such as German have come up with effective ways of tapping wind power for both commercial and domestic use. Utilizing wind energy is viable. Wind energy can be a perfect alternative energy source, especially during seasons when strong winds are common.

However, it is important to note that one can only use wind energy alongside other renewable sources such as solar power or hydropower because during less windy periods, then the generation of wind energy becomes almost impossible. As mentioned above, wind energy is dependent on the weather. As Da (2013) says, wind energy can only be viable if it is used alongside other alternative sources of energy because of its dependability on natural environmental factors. For domestic use, wind energy can be a viable option because consumption is relatively low. However, for large industrial sectors that consume more energy, wind energy may not be very viable.

Solar Power

Concentrated solar thermal systems technologies have marked differences from photovoltaic solar panels based on the concepts used to tap solar energy (Tiwari & Mishra, 2012). In CSP, power is produced when the sun’s radiation is used in a heating liquid substance which then drives a heat engine. The heat engine drives electric generators to produce electric power. The chain of reactions from the solar power, to steam, to the engines, and the electric generator must be complete for electric power to be generated. This technology produces an alternating current which can easily be distributed on the power network without the need for further conversions (Craddock, 2008).

On the other hand, PV uses sunlight in direct current through the photovoltaic effect. The direct current can then be converted into alternating current using inverters to make it possible for it to be distributed in a given power network.

Nuclear Power

Sustainability of nuclear fission

Nuclear fission has become one of the emerging ways of generating alternative sources of energy in many countries around the world. However, the sustainability of this form of energy is still debatable. Technologically, it is possible to say that nuclear fission is sustainable. Modern technologies have made it possible to produce nuclear power. Economically, nuclear power is one of the most reliable sources of energy because of the reduced cost compared to that of oil and gas. Environmentally, the sustainability of nuclear fission is still questionable (Kalogirou, 2006). Since it does not contribute to the massive emission of greenhouse gases, any leakage may have a devastating impact on the environment.

According to Quaschning (2005), the main concern for most of the opponents of nuclear fission as a source of energy is the health and safety issues. The Chernobyl power plant accident is a clear reminder of the devastating consequences that an accident at a nuclear power plant can have on the workers within the plant, people within the immediate community, and other living things. The same accident was witnessed in Japan when a nuclear power plant was affected by the cyclone. Many people still believe that the threat to health and safety that nuclear plants pose to humanity makes it less sustainable.

Socially, nuclear fission may be considered viable because of the expanding size of the middle class, which increases the need for power. Politically, nuclear fission power production is unsustainable. Countries such as Iran and North Korea are now making nuclear weapons at the power production plants because of political ambitions. From ethical grounds, nuclear fission power production is not sustainable because of the massive threat it poses to humanity and other living organisms.

Differences between nuclear fusion and nuclear fission

Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion are two opposite ways of producing energy from atoms. In nuclear fission, energy is produced by splitting an atom into smaller and lighter atoms. On the other hand, energy is produced in nuclear fusion by fusing two or more atoms to create a larger and heavier atom. In both cases, the presence of atomic bonds is primarily the cause of the production of energy. According to Chambers (2004), the energy that is released by fusion is over three times as great as that released by fission.

The Tragedy of the Commons

What Hardin means by the tragedy of the commons

According to Garrett Hardin, the tragedy of the commons is a situation where common resources are overused due to overpopulation (Benjamin, 2012). In his article in 1968, this ecologist lamented that lack of governments around the world to control overpopulation was contributing to the tragedy of commons because shared resources are overused.

The tragedy of the commons as an example of a problem with no technical solution

I strongly agree with Hardin that the tragedy of the commons is a perfect example of a problem with no technical solution. Population growth must be sustainable. However, in cases where the growth of population is not matched with the available resources, then it may not be possible to avoid this tragedy (Sumner, 2007). The problem of overpopulation can only be solved through education and not through technical processes.

Reference

Benjamin, R. W. (2012). The new limits of education policy. Cheltenham, England: Edward Elgar.

Chambers, A. (2004). Renewable energy in nontechnical language. Tulsa, Okla: PennWell Corp.

Craddock, D. (2008). Renewable energy made easy: Free energy from solar, wind, hydropower, and other alternative energy sources. Ocala, Fla: Atlantic Pub. Group.

Da, R. (2013). Fundamentals of renewable energy processes. London, England: McMillan.

Kalogirou, S. (2006). Artificial intelligence in energy and renewable energy systems. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Komor, P. (2004). Renewable energy policy. New York, NY: I Universe, Inc.

Quaschning, V. (2005). Understanding renewable energy systems. London, England: Earthscan.

Sørensen, B. (2011). Renewable energy: physics, engineering, environmental impacts, economics & planning. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

Sumner, J. (2007). Sustainability and the civil commons: Rural communities in the age of globalization. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Tiwari, G., & Mishra, R. (2012). Advanced renewable energy sources. Cambridge, England: RSC Publishing.