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25 Jun 2022, Edition - 2538, Saturday

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Columns

Energising resources – choose or lose nature

Uma Ram

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Western ethics appear to have left mankind under the pseudo illusion that nature’s resources are infinite, as the eco friendly concepts have not yet reached down fully to many. And with arrogance, some still presume that the resources are in surplus and under their control. There is the tendency to forget the fact that little drops of water make a mighty ocean and assume that a spoonful taken from this bowl is not going to empty it. But it is high time that we need to realize the gruesome threat that we are running out of resources.

Management of natural resources or environment such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, focusing mainly on how to manage the quality of life for the present and future generations is the need of the hour. In the present day scenario, use of renewable energy resources is the only immediate option to conserve natural resources left for future generations.

Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. It replaces conventional fuels in four distinct fields – electricity generation, hot water/space heating, motor fuels and rural (off –grid) energy services. Renewable energy provides 19 per cent of electricity generation worldwide. Solar water heating contributes to renewable heat worldwide with China at number one position, having a share of 70 per cent of global consumption. Renewable biofuels take a share of about 5 per cent of the fuel consumption worldwide.

Simple countermeasures can highly bring down the percentage of the scarcity of natural resources with some mainstream forms of renewable energy.

Airflows can be used to run wind turbines by locating wind farms in sites where winds are strong like off shores and high altitudes Electricity can be generated from an omnipresent renewable source, to a great extent when executed wisely by converting the kinetic energy into electric one.

Since water is 800 times denser than air, energy in water can be harnessed and used, not only from large dam projects, but also from micro hydro systems such as Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) and as run-of-the-river hydro electricity. Such micro hydro systems can produce up to 100 kw of electricity by using just the natural flow of water sources such as streams and rivers. This can meet the energy needs of an isolated home or a small community. They are sometimes connected to even main electricity networks to add on to the production. They are vastly used in developing countries as they provide an economical source of energy without spending for fuels. They complement photovoltaic solar systems, as hydro power is available at the maximum, even in areas where in winters minimum solar energy is available,

The use of solar energy through photovoltaic heat engines and few other applications like solar architecture, day lighting, solar hot water, solar cooking and high temperature for industrial processes can conserve the heat energy extensively. Passive techniques like orienting buildings to the sun, use of materials with thermal mass or light dispersing properties and designing spaces that naturally circulate air can harness the energy to a great extent.

Biomass is a natural battery to store the solar energy as plants when burnt give out the solar energy they consume. As long as only as much as is grown is used, the battery will remain charged. They are mostly derived from plants or plant-based materials called lignocellulosic biomass. As an energy source, it can be either used directly via combustion to produce heat or indirectly after converting it into various forms of biofuels through different processes like thermal, chemical and biochemical.

Bio fuels from biomass, both plant and animal based, derived from agricultural, domestic, industrial/commercial wastes like bio ethanol and biodiesel, if used effectively, can profusely bring down transport fuel consumption. Bio fuels have a share of 2.7 per cent of the world’s total consumption of transport fuels with The European Union, contributing 53 per cent of global production in 2010.

Geothermal energy is generated and stored in earth and originates from the original formation of the planet (20 per cent) and the remainder from radioactive decay of minerals. Geothermal energy from hot springs used for bathing since Paleolithic times and for space heating since the times of the ancient Roman is now better known for generating electricity.

It is time for us to realize that we are just a wavelength away from this mindset to adopt these simple countermeasures. As it is our duty to protect and conserve whatever we have enjoyed from nature and transfer it to our future generations, we should effectively start using the renewable resources to succeed in the mission of conserving mother earth’s valuable treasures.

(The author of the column is Uma Ram, freelance writer from Coimbatore)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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