Alternative Energy Sources for Fossil Fuel Independence

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Alternative Energy Sources for Fossil Fuel Independence is a well-researched Physical Sciences and Mathematics Thesis/Dissertation topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.

Abstract

Fossil fuel dependence has caused a massive increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. These gases pollute the environment and warm the planet, resulting in climate change effects that will soon be irreversible. To prevent this, clean alternative energy sources need to be developed further and used to gain fossil fuel independence in the near future.

Possible alternative energy sources to meet this goal are nuclear fission, fusion, solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind. In this paper, the results of an experiment performed to study the relationship between a solar panel’s angle with the sun and its power production will be reported.

It was found that the angle of the sun on the solar panel is a significant factor in its power production ability. A change in the angle with the sun of 82° results in a 47% reduction in power production.

Introduction

Fossil fuel dependence is a big problem. The burning of fossil fuels is polluting our environment and warming our planet, and it is approaching the point in which the effects will be irreversible 1st. A new, clean source of energy needs to replace fossil fuels or the consequences will be dire for all that inhabit the Earth.

The question is, which energy source has the most potential to fulfill this role? Many alternative energy sources are in development and have become more widely used and researched in recent years. Among the competitors, there’s nuclear fission and fusion, solar, hydro, geothermal, and wind.

Each of these sources has their own intricacies and science behind them, so I will focus much on the introduction on solar and nuclear fission and fusion. It is important to find which of these will be able to produce enough energy in a short enough time frame to gain fossil fuel independence before it is too late. Solar has seen a lot of progress lately, and it will likely be an important component of fossil fuel independence.

Nuclear fission power plants have become widespread since the discovery of the reaction, accounting for almost 20% of the United States total electricity generation in 20182. However, nuclear fission involves expensive reactants and produces long-lasting radioactive contaminants.

Nuclear fusion has received an increased amount of attention in recent years, with an international experimental reactor due to be completed soon 3 however it often jokes that nuclear fusion is and will always be 50 years away4.

The time frame of this alternative source leaves its usefulness in gaining independence from fossil fuel small. Research is being conducted on all of these sources, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Human-caused global warming-induced climate change, from here on referred to as climate change, is arguably the biggest problem faced by people in the twenty-first century. climate change has profound effects on ecosystems worldwide. It increases the severity of present environmental issues, causes more issues to develop and animal species to go extinct.

Humans are causing the global temperature to rise through its emission of greenhouse gases, or GHGs. The major GHGs include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluoridated gases1. This can be seen by examining the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change’s Fifth Assessment Report from 20145. This report shows that the globally averaged temperature anomaly has seen a net increase since the late 1900s.

The study goes on to compare this to the human production of GHGs, and there is a direct correlation. As the global temperature rises, the ocean temperatures also rise. This results in thermal expansion causing a rise in sea levels and the melting of ice caps. To support this, the IPCC has observed sea levels to be rising across the globe, with a change of about 5 cm being observed in 2010, with an increasing rate of change being seen each year5.

With the increase in ocean temperatures and the acidification of the ocean due to the formation of carbonic acid from increased ocean carbon dioxide levels, effects are already being seen. 90% of the Great Barrier Reef has died off, and more will follow as these conditions are projected to intensify 6. A major cause for concern with the problem of climate change is the irreversibility of it.

Even if GHG emissions were to cease completely today, lasting effects from GHGs that have been emitted since the industrial age will continue to make themselves apparent. A study performed using advanced modeling techniques showed that the effects of GHGs, carbon dioxide in particular, remain 1000 years after the immediate cessation of emission 1.

The study projected that should Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration exceed 450-600 parts per million by volume, irreversible effects will be seen across the planet. These could range from dry-season rainfall reductions, comparable to those seen in the “dust bowl” era, to a rise in the sea level on the order of meters1.

For some perspective, the current carbon dioxide concentration in parts per million by volume, as of March 5, 2019, at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, is 411.757 and in 2008 it was 3851. The change in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the years can be seen in the graph found in Figure 1 from co2.earth7.

If GHG emissions continue at current rates, only about 20 years remain until atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reach 450 parts per million by volume. At that point, using a conservative modeling technique, there would be a global average warming of more than one degree Celsius, and a sea-level rise of approximately a quarter of a meter, accounting only for thermal expansion.

Should atmospheric carbon dioxide levels exceed 1000 parts per million by volume, a total rise in sea level of 2.5 meters is predicted. Even the conservative estimate of a quarter of a meter, accounting only for thermal expansion, would allow the sea to overtake many important coastal and island locations 1.

Changes to rainfall were modeled by Solomon et al. It was found that should peak carbon dioxide levels reach 450 parts per million by volume, dry-season precipitation decreases of 8-10% would be observed in large areas of southern Europe, western Australia, and North Africa. This would have a profound effect on these regions’ ability to produce food and worsen existing food and water problems in these areas 1.

Other possible results of continually rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels include loss of arctic glaciers, increased hurricane intensity, increases in heavy rainfall and flooding in areas it is already prevalent, and loss of permafrost.

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Additional information

Type

Thesis/Dissertation topic

Category

Physical Sciences and Mathematics

No of Chapters

5

Reference

Yes

Format

PDF

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