Renewable Energy Transition

Dr.(Mrs)Menaka Fernando, Phd.

PUBLISHED ON June 10, 2021

People around the world are becoming aware of climate change and the damage it does to the environment, agriculture and human lives. The contribution of greenhouse gases to climate change is significant. Therefore, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions is a must. Fossil fuel combustion produces carbon dioxide, which has been identified as a major greenhouse gas. At the same time, fossil fuels are depleting over time, and it is time to turn to alternative energy sources. There is evidence from all over the world that man is focusing on renewable energy. Renewable energy sources include solar energy, geothermal energy, wind power, methane gas, and hydropower.

Japan is the world's leading producer of energy from floating solar panels. Japan owns 73 of the 100 largest floating solar power plants in the world. The largest power plant is located near the Yamakura Dam. It has the potential to generate enough energy for 5,000 homes and prevent 8,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. These floating solar power plants have the potential to save productive land.

These solar panels have been installed in large reservoirs, tanks and dams. Due to the water-cooled process, these floating panels are 16% more efficient than those installed on land. In addition, water evaporation from the surface of the reservoir is controlled to reduce water loss. It also controls algae that grow in reservoirs, which is harmful to fish. Globally, the production of electricity from floating solar panels has increased 100-fold between 2014 and 2018.

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Figure 1: Floating solar panels installed in Japan

India has become the world's cheapest producer of solar energy. The cost of installing solar panels has dropped by 27% this year compared to last year due to cheaper solar panels, more space and more affordable labor. However, this is not unique to India. The cost of other renewable energy products around the world is also declining.

Larger and more efficient turbines, as well as improved battery technology, have also led to lower prices for wind power and increased demand. Solar power generation grew by 24% last year. Asian countries such as India, China and Japan are contributing to this growth. There is also an awakening in the United States, Australia and Germany.

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Figure 2: A solar power plant under construction in India- Image REUTERS/Amit Dave

About 50 years ago, Sweden's energy needs were met by imported fossil fuels. But that changed with the 1970 fuel crisis. It became a global crisis in 1973 as fuel prices quadrupled. This affected a number of countries, including Sweden. Sweden invested heavily in nuclear power plants to get rid of it, and turned to wind power and hydropower.

Forests across Sweden have become an easy source of biofuels for heating homes for thousands. Renewable energy producers are certified for that. The Swedish government changed the attitudes of the people towards energy. Knowledge and assistance of energy experts was sought to educate the general public about green energy. Sweden's renewable energy consumption has risen from 34% in 1991 to 50% today.

Sweden is Europe 's largest contributor to renewable energy and tops the Energy Transition Index. Their sole objective is to generate all of the country's energy needs from renewable sources by 2040 and make the country greenhouse-free by 2045.

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Figure 3: Sweden wind turbines installed to generate electricity - Image: REUTERS / Fabian Bimmer

Icelandic farmers have found a new answer for growing crops in the Arctic. Used for heating large greenhouses with hot water. Crops such as tomatoes are grown successfully in these greenhouses during the cold winter months in Iceland. In fact, in winter, the sun shines on Iceland for as little as 5 hours a day. Therefore the potential for growing crops in the external environment is very small.

Iceland has been using geothermal energy as a source of greenhouse heating for over 20 years. Greenhouses that were built simply in the past have now been developed with the advancement of modern technology to be able to control the quality of the environment in a subtle way. In these greenhouses, activities such as humidity, lighting and watering can be controlled. Also, 1/4 of Iceland's electricity demand is provided by geothermal energy and the rest by renewable energy sources.

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Figure 4: B. Tomato grown in a greenhouse owned by Hveravellir, Iceland's oldest vegetable farm (Thin Lei Win / Thomson Reuters Foundation)
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Figure 5: A geothermal power plant at C. Nesjavellir

Electric car owners in Norway are exempt from tolls on highways and are exempt from taxes on the purchase and import of vehicles. There is also no charge for parking. Large bridge ferries charge only half of the approved fares for transporting such cars. The speed limit on Austria's highways has been reduced to 100 kilometers per hour on busy days to reduce fuel pollution.

But for electric cars, the speed is 130 kilometers per hour. In France, such cars cost 6 6,000. It also pays an extra 4 4,000 to replace an existing diesel car with an electric one. When purchasing an electric car in China, the customer is entitled to a subsidy of US $ 10,000 and is exempt from paying taxes upon purchase.

Nopal cactus is found in Mexico. They are found in very dry areas where other crops cannot be grown, and are grown for food by many Mexican farmers. In addition, it is used as a traditional medicine and as a substitute for plastics. A cactus company produces car fuel for a company in Mexico. Here the manure is mixed with finely crushed cactus and turned to decompose. The methane gas produced there activates the engine.

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Figure 6: Cactus is a species of noble found in Mexico Image: REUTERS / Tomas Bravo

The Brazilian capital, Rio de Janeiro, has launched a program to produce biogas from waste. 10,000 tons of garbage is brought to the center every day. The manufacturers sell the biogas to companies in various industries. They plan ahead with the lofty goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

Sri Lanka is a tropical island that receives no less sunlight throughout the year. Its location makes it easily accessible to energy sources such as solar power, hydropower, wind power and tidal power generation. It is my view that action should be taken to inculcate public attitudes towards the production and use of renewable energy.

Eng. Lanka Ramanayaka - CEO
Design Knigdom Lk
BSc(Eng), PG Dip.(BSE), CEng., MIE(SL), MEC(SL)
Chartered Engineer