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Energy

The survival of the human race or any other living organism is dependent on energy. Man has engaged in intensive technological advancement leading to an increased reliance on energy for survival. Currently, most of the energy requirements are satisfied using refined fossil fuels in the form petroleum products. This has overstretched stretched the available resources leading to price increases, political instability and future uncertainties since the resources for fossil fuels are scarce, non-renewable and limited. This has led to the need for more research into alternative viable sources of energy that are more reliable, eco-friendly and renewable to reduce the current over reliance on fossil fuels. These alternatives include wind energy, solar energy, and nuclear energy.

Wind energy.

The principle of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can be changed from one form into another. The utilization of wind energy involves the conversion of the kinetic energy in wind into other forms such as mechanical and electrical energy. This form of energy is readily available since it only requires a substantial amount of wind, the technological know how and the funds. The availability of wind energy varies from one place to another. The utilization of wind energy is most feasible in areas experiencing a steady supply of air breezes. Geographical and climate studies indicate that most countries have multiple sites suitable for the harnessing of wind energy.

Wind energy is considered as a renewable resource since the wind being used is not depleted with time. This ensures reliable supply in the near future unlike fossil fuels, which are bound to be depleted in the near future. The generation of electricity from wind power is dependent on the quality and quantity of the wind in contact with the turbines’ blades. The more and better quality of the wind hitting the blades, the more power will be generated. The power generated is increased by a cube of the wind speed. This means that when the wind speed increases by two, the electricity generated will increase by eight. However, turbulent wind caused by obstructions is unfavorable since it ends up reducing the power output as the turbine circles right and left in search of he wind. The underlying principle in the utilization of wind energy is very simple and straightforward. The wind turns the strategically positioned blades. The turning blades spin a shaft located in the structure of the turbine. The shaft is connected to a generator to produce electricity.

The utilization of wind energy is however still plagued by several environmental issues. These impacts are however, minimal as compared to those caused by fossil fuels. The various environmental impacts are noise pollution, visual impacts and threat to the lives of birds and bats. The wind turbines have an inherent noise issue common in all mechanical systems. The turning effect of the wind turbines usually causes noise. This noise effect is compounded by the fact that the wind energy projects usually comprise of several turbines in one area to maximize the electricity produced. However, the noise produced is masked by the sound of wind while the blades will only turn when there is wind. Current technological advancements have led to the efficient utilization of the wind power where much of the power is converted into rotational torque with little remaining for the creation of acoustic noise. Proper sitting and insulating material is used to minimize the noise pollution.

Concerns have been raised on the visual impacts of the wind turbines. The turbines are usually placed strategically in high and visible areas thereby raising the aesthetic issues. This issue is avoided by constructing the wind turbine away from the human population. The selection of multiple locations as opposed to the usual setting up of many turbines in one area usually lessens this impact. The wind turbines have often been the cause of death to bats and birds. The birds and bats are usually struck whey they fly too close to the turbine blades. The blades cannot be covered since they have to be exposed to the wind. Careful site selection and research into animal behavior is necessary in the mitigation of this impact.

Nuclear energy

The use of nuclear energy is another alternative to fossil fuels. This process is often used by industrialized nations for the production of substantial quantities of electrical energy suitable for their high-energy demands. The process involves the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat, which is converted into other forms of useful energy. Uranium, which is the main raw material in nuclear energy production, has an availability of 2 – 3 parts per million in the Earth’s crust. However, supply price is limited or controlled by the word prices in accordance with the current demand and supply. Currently, the cost of uranium stands at $165 per kilogram. This price is very small in comparison to the value of the electricity produced by the nuclear power. This means that the price of uranium would have to triple for it to have a substantial effect on the cost of electricity generated through nuclear energy.

The process involves the generation of nuclear power inside a reactor. This is done through controlled nuclear fission chain, which produces heat and later into electrical power. Naturally, occurring uranium occurs in two isotopes, U-235 and U-238. U-235 is unstable and can fission in a reactor. However, it only composes the natural uranium to only 0.7 percent. The natural uranium is therefore enriched whereby the concentration of U-235 is increased to about 7 percent. The enriched uranium is struck by an electron or splitting. This results in the creation of radiations, smaller atoms as well as more neutrons. These neutrons are accelerated to strike other uranium atoms resulting in a chain reaction. Heat energy is produced from the fission, which is used to turn turbines of a generator, which converts into electrical power. The chain reaction is controlled into safe levels using graphite rods or water.

The generation of nuclear energy ha often been misconceived as renewable source of energy. This concept is derived from the concept of splitting uranium into indefinitely smaller particles. By definition, nuclear energy is not renewable. The process is reliant on a finite source of raw material that can be exhausted with time. The uranium used is a natural occurring mineral, which is limited and can be exhausted with time.

Nuclear energy is considered as one of the safest forms of energy production. The process involves minimal impacts on the environment in comparison with other energy sources because it does not emit air pollution, the process also involves the safe isolates of its waste products from the environment and it utilizes a very small amount of land. Nuclear power is deemed safe to the environment because of the safe waste disposal measures employed by the system. The process involves the production of waste that is radioactive that cannot be recycled or disposed off in the usual means. One method involved in the disposal of such waste is through storage in long-term facilities.

However, this situation is altered in the case of accidents. Nuclear reactors can bring devastating environmental effects in the case of disasters. One in particular is the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine in the year 1986. The disaster led to deaths amounting to over 5000 persons. There were large amounts of radioactive emissions spreading across Europe.

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