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Über dieses Buch

"Energy for a Warming World" challenges the commonplace notion that the amount of power which mankind can potentially harness from renewable resources is more than large enough to assuage future demand levels.

By examining the renewable issue from an electrical engineering perspective, and exercising due regard for the limited capability of current and future electrical generation and transmission systems, this book attempts to provide more realistic statistics for the levels of power which could be extracted from sustainable resources in the critical time frame of 30 to 40 years. The engineering logic leads inexorably to the importance of taking a global outlook on the switch to renewable power supply and transmission – an outlook which has some surprising and uncomfortable ramifications for mankind.

"Energy for a Warming World" provides a new perspective on renewable resources for academics and researchers in environmental or electrical power engineering, as well as to students in related areas.



Chapter 1. The Context and Corollaries

Since before the industrial revolution, mankind has been burning ‘ancient sunlight’ in the form of coal, oil, and gas, as if there was no tomorrow. A considerable body of scientific evidence now exists to suggest that this is upsetting the ecological well-being of the planet. In this chapter the science is reviewed in order to place in context the reported dangers of continuing to rely on fossil fuels to power a global economy that is unsustainably rapacious of the Earth’s resources. If mankind is to wean itself off its addiction to fossil fuels to restore the ecological health of the planet, we will have to overcome our growing resistance to the expansion of renewable sources of energy, and we will have to find a way to deliver renewable power reliably and extensively.

Chapter 2. Energy Conversion and Power Transmission

In order to intelligently examine claims that electrical power from renewable resources can provide the planet’s energy needs once fossil fuels run out, or become too dangerous to burn, we first need to know how it is generated and distributed. A good understanding of the science behind electrical power generation and transmission can be acquired, without undue ‘pain’, by relating electrical interactions to gravitational effects, with which we are all fairly familiar. Energy, work, and power, which can explain everyday activities such as the trajectory of a thrown cricket ball, are shown to have strong analogies in the electrical sphere, and as a result we can gain a valuable insight into the nature of electrical power systems by examining simpler gravitational processes.

Chapter 3. Limits to Renewability

Toward the middle of this century oil and gas will run out, while some time in the next century economically viable coal reserves will disappear, if the exploitation of fossil fuels continues to grow at the rates demanded by our modern economic system, which is now of global reach. However, the greenhouse gas problem may force the abandonment of these fuels much sooner than this. Either way, mankind will have to seek alternative sources of energy, sooner rather than later. In this chapter we review the full range of renewable resources that can realistically be exploited in a 20–30 year time frame, and attempt to gauge how much power will be available from these renewables by 2030 if we follow currently preferred market based initiatives. We also calculate how much power could, in theory, be extracted, if these resources were accessed to their full potential. It is not as much as is often suggested in the media and elsewhere.

Chapter 4. Intermittency Buffers

Possibly the most often repeated argument against the wholesale adoption of renewable power emanates from its intermittency. However, while this may be justifiable for individual renewable power stations, it is less so when many thousands of stations of different types, ranged over a continent such as Europe, are made to deliver power cooperatively by means of a ‘super-grid’ electricity transmission system. Furthermore the capacity of such a system to produce electrical power reliably and efficiently would be greatly enhanced by designing it around massive energy storage facilities. A range of storage methods ranging from compressed air to superconducting magnets are examined in this chapter, with the emphasis on identifying, for the various systems discussed, potential storage capacities, technical maturity, viability, efficiency, and safety. In addition, an ‘eco-grid’, with the capability of integrating a diversity of renewable power stations and massive energy storage facilities, in order to reliably generate electrical power on a global scale, is postulated.

Chapter 5. Known Knowns and the Unknown

There is plenty of evidence, as previous chapters have shown, to suggest that scientific know how, engineering expertise, and technical capability all exist in sufficient abundance around the globe, to enable the ‘building of a bridge’ to a fossil fuel free future. Should the global warming threat become serious enough to impinge on the consciousness of mankind before it is too late to prevent the widely predicted run-away climatic processes, a desperate drive to mobilise and assemble those with the requisite skills to design, develop and construct thousands of renewable power stations could materialise. From a purely engineering perspective this can be done, and how the policy makers could make it happen is discussed in this chapter. The political implications of such a policy of transition would be immense, however, and it seems likely that a lack of political will, and an absence of effective leadership, could easily result in drift towards a global climate that is inimical to the human race and many other species.


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