No sin­gle solu­tion can meet our society’s future ener­gy needs. The solu­tion instead will come from a fam­i­ly of diverse ener­gy tech­nolo­gies that share a com­mon thread – they do not deplete our nat­ur­al resources or destroy our envi­ron­ment.” – The Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists, 2005

We may be greedy, but we are also inven­tive and inge­nious. We could find many renew­able alter­na­tive ener­gy sources that are more in tune with nature to replace our reliance on the fos­sil fuels, and there­fore reduce the effect of glob­al warming.

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Fuel prices will con­tin­ue to rise as oil reserves dry up

Every year, oil com­pa­nies pro­duce more oil than the year before to meet increas­ing demand. But one day, per­haps in the next 10 years, oil pro­duc­tion will peak and then begin to decline, becom­ing more expen­sive as the resources dry up. This real­i­ty is forc­ing coun­tries to begin adopt­ing new ener­gy sources or face future eco­nom­ic disaster.

Bio­mass

Bioen­er­gy is the ener­gy stored in liv­ing things, even after they die. Wood is a good exam­ple of bioen­er­gy and has been used to make fires – a source of heat – since humans first learned how to con­trol it.

Bio­mass is usu­al­ly burned to release ener­gy. But the car­bon diox­ide released is the same as the car­bon diox­ide that the plant took from the atmos­phere while growing.

Thus, bioen­er­gy is con­sid­ered envi­ron­men­tal­ly friendly.

We con­sid­er bioen­er­gy prod­ucts renew­able because they can grow back. Trees and grass can grow back quick­ly, where­as fos­sil fuels usu­al­ly take mil­lions of years to develop.

Wind pow­er

Ener­gy can be extract­ed from the wind using wind tur­bines – large blades that are spun by the wind and gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty through tur­bines. Wind pow­er is the fastest grow­ing renew­able ener­gy source. 

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Wind and solar pow­er could be effec­tive alter­nate ener­gy sources

Today, less than 1% of the world’s ener­gy is pro­duced by wind pow­er, despite the fact that it is in con­stant supply.

Solar pow­er

We are able to extract ener­gy from the sun’s rays using pho­to­volta­ic cells, ther­mal tur­bines or solar water heating.

South Africa has one of the high­est lev­els of sun­shine in the world. In South Africa, Eskom plans to build a 100MW solar ther­mal plant in the North­ern Cape. The Uni­ver­si­ty
of Stel­len­bosch has plans for a solar tow­er con­sist­ing of a large chim­ney with a mas­sive green­house at the bottom.

When the green­house heats the air inside it, the hot air ris­es through the tow­er, spin­ning tur­bines as it rises.

But these ideas are far from what is now the norm. Today, we con­tin­ue to burn fos­sil fuels, which is ulti­mate­ly unsustainable.

If you were in gov­ern­ment, would you pro­mote expen­sive, clean solar pow­er or cheap­er coal, which is a finite resource and which emits car­bon emis­sions that are dan­ger­ous to the environment?

Return to the Exhi­bi­tion Guide.