The Need for Renewable Energy Sources

Home » News » The Eco- Corner
untitled (16)

To use an old-fashioned expression, electricity doesn't grow on trees. That is, it is not something which is there to be taken without much trouble. It can't be dug out of the ground like coal, or pumped out like oil or gas. It doesn't occur naturally except, most spectacularly as in lightning during a thunderstorm. Nobody has managed to harness lightning for any useful purpose although Benjamin Franklin, one time American Ambassador to the Court of Britain, is reputed to have tried. Static electricity was also known in the 18th century, but only as an interesting phenomenon of Nature.

Not until the industrial revolution, when power was needed to drive all kinds of machinery, was large scale generation of electricity a possibility. The advantages of electricity were clearly demonstrated to me on a visit years ago on the farm where my father grew up. In an old barn there was still the circular track round which a horse paced, harnessed to a pole attached to the upper stone of a grinding mill. There were also the pulleys and shafts of the next generation of power from a steam engine of the type now to be seen at fun fairs. In a corner was the electric motor which was the last mode for driving the now superseded corn mill.

The energy to drive the motor had, of course, to come from a power station which could have been miles away, but still dependent on burning coal to raise steam to drive a turbine which in turn drove the generator, a complex process which still produces most of our electricity today. Sad to relate, the overall efficiency of the system is miserably low at about 32%. Put more bluntly, two thirds of the available energy in the fuel is wasted. Some goes up the tall chimneys and is lost to the atmosphere, and some in the cooling towers.

Something better is surely needed, first because of the waste of heat, secondly because burning coal, gas or oil pours C02 and other pollutants into the atmosphere, and thirdly, because these fuels will eventually become too difficult to extract or come to an end altogether. We need to begin the search for renewables and non-pollutants before it is too late.
Bob Weighton

popular recent storiesAlso in the news

Donkey
Alton Webteam: Thu 02 Apr 11:59am

Dear Friends,One of the highlights of my last trip to the Holy Land was to be taken with our group to the Mount of Olives. It stands 100m above the old city of Jerusalem with spectacular views of the old city walls, the majestic gates and the Temple Mount. Those with donkeys expectantly waited for trade!Like many pilgrims before us we then began to descend on foot down the steep, cobbled...

winter wander
Alton Webteam: Mon 30 Mar 12:31pm

An Unexpected WanderStorms Ciara and Dennis had passed, but the ground was still very wet. Wasn't it a good thing that we had chosen to go to Weaver's Down, which is dry and sandy underfoot, for the Church Winter Wander walk?But when we arrived, we found, much to everyone's surprise, that the area had been closed off by the Army 'for military training exercises'. So there...

Candle and cross
Alton Webteam: Thu 26 Mar 5:22pm

Dear Friends,I am sure that we are grateful for the beautiful spring weather that we have enjoyed this week. It has given us much to be thankful for in this time of uncertainty and anxiety as our daily lives have in many ways been turned upside down.A hymn that brings me reassurance and comfort is:Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,There is no shadow of turning with Thee;Thou...