One of the ways in which we can save our oceans is by availing ourselves of renewable energy, which is also sustainable. We have learned by our experience that the energy resources like coal, natural gas, heavy oils, fossil fuels, etc have seriously harmed our environment and brought about environmental disasters such as
- Acidification of ocean waters that directly impacts their ecology
- Rising water levels in the seas &
- Increasing tempests
It is a foregone conclusion that some of the problems like the rising water levels and turbulence in the seas and oceans would bring about the problem of environmental refugees. It is just a matter of time before we see it happening right before our eyes. The present generation is already witnessing increasing instances of different kinds of storms across the globe. Almost every day we hear about them, and the damage they are causing.
Such backlash from nature should make us change our attitude toward preserving her from any further damage. Saying ‘good bye’ to fossil fuels and choosing renewable energy would be considered a very sensible response.
Even the use of nuclear power as an energy resource has its own problems. This is because the process of mining for uranium, thorium, etc releases a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere. Another problem is posed by nuclear disasters such as the one that took place in Chernobyl and at Fukushima in Japan. Whenever a nuclear disaster takes place, its effects last longer and the damage it causes can be unimaginable and even irreparable. The issue of disposal of nuclear waste too is no small one.
Types of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy comes in the form of
- Solar power
- Wind energy
- Ocean waves
- Ocean thermal energy &
- Geothermal energy
These are freely available in nature for all to use. The biggest advantage of these resources of energy is that they are inexhaustible. The oceans and seas will keep on rolling, the winds will keep on blowing, the heat will remain intact both on the earth and in the oceans, and, of course, there is the sun…It will keep on shining forever.
As it is, in different parts of the world, the availability of the kinds of natural energy may vary, but they are never absent anywhere in the world. In one form or the other, it is there for us.
Ways in Which Renewable Energy Can be Used
There are many ways in which we can use renewable energy. We have made enough technological progress to be able to do so.
Ocean Currents & Tides
The places where the coastlines are extensive, they have the benefit of the availability of ocean currents and tides for producing energy that is environmental-friendly. Because it is not inimical to the earth’s environment, the environment enthusiasts are quite vocal about it.
But the problem of using these as a source of energy has encountered technological challenges, and we are yet to see truly viable breakthroughs in this area. America, Australia and some European countries have made some advances in developing technologies and these could be seen as attempts at laying foundation for what is to come.
The technologies that have been tried so far include offshore creation of wave farms and tidal turbines which are similar in nature to wind turbines, which are spun by the tidal currents and their motion is converted into electricity by generators.
The facilities which are already at work in Europe show how they are designed to match with different types of ocean waves. Types of ocean waves are one of the factors that contribute to the production of energy. The gaining and losing of kinetic and potential energy is connected to this very motion. The problem with this is that the kinetics involved in the formation of ocean waves does not suffice to produce the required frequency of waves which is needed for generating electricity. This is how there is the need for different devices and differently designed devices to lend required pace to the rotating shafts of generators.
Producing energy through this method has shown a mark of advancement by 2016, making use of tidal turbines having the capacity to produce up to 13MW of energy. 20 more turbines are planned to be installed there to raise the production of energy up to 12MW.
Apart from technological challenges, there is also a question regarding the cost of building such facilities. The largest system of this kind is to be found in the waters near Scotland. The project is named MeyGen and the turbines used in it have the capacity to produce 1.5MW energy. Not so large but similar in nature is the facility that the Netherlands has put in place.
The use of ocean waves to generate electricity involves a different kind of technology that makes use of the motion of devices that are moved up and down by the waves. The other technologies include OWC, Wave Surge, Attenuators, etc.
In the same way, there is the potential source of energy in the difference that exists between the surface water temperature and the cold depths of water.
This type of renewable energy is produced from the motion of the turbine blades through electrical generator. Just as wave farms are built into oceans, here we build wind farms and connect them to the power grids in order to supply electricity from there.
The wind farms may vary in size and consist of turbines located several hundred feets above the sea level on poles which are driven into the floor of the sea. These turbines are interconnected using cables and altogether they are connected to onshore electricity transmission facility via cable.
To cut the cost of installing such a facility in deep waters, the idea of floating wind turbines is gaining momentum.
As it is, unlike the wave farms, the wind farms are comparatively quite cost-effective and they also have proven efficacy. Therefore, they are much in use all over world.
This is one of the most commonly used sources of energy in the world. Especially in regions where the light of the sun is available all through the year, it is quite popular. Also, it is extremely eco-friendly. According to one report, the impact of using solar system for catering to the energy requirement of just one house is equivalent to planting 100 trees! That’s something indeed!
What’s more, the solar system is one of the simplest and easiest to install for domestic use, and it is not much expensive either. The time is coming fast when we shall see ships running on solar power. The wheels of automobile industry have already started running on it.
This type of energy is derived from the heat that is contained in the subsurface of the earth. It is brought to the surface through water or steam, which, then, is converted into electricity. The advantage that this particular energy offers is that it does not depend upon weather conditions. It is available at all times.
There are a number of technologies available to make use of it in greenhouses, district heating, etc. There are also systems using dry steam plants, binary cycle technology, and Enhanced Geothermal Systems which are in a testing stage.
From the above discussion, it is quite clear that the idea of using renewable energy is the need of the time. We have already hurt our environment enough. This is one of the ways in which we can repair it NOW. If we are able to do this, we shall save our climate from getting worse. Saving climate would mean saving oceans as well. It is also our duty to do so. In this regard, it would be very much relevant to quote these famous lines from Coleridge’s Dejection: An Ode:
“O Lady! We receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does Nature live…”
Whatever we do for Nature, we do for our own ‘self’.