Since the beginning of the twenty-first century and even a bit before that, great technological advances have been made which are allowing more and more to extract energy out of naturally occuring phenomenons. These include for example sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. The use of non-renewable energies such as fossil fuels is politically and economically defined just as the use of renewable energies are.
Even though some more environmentally-friendly option might be available to us through renewable energies, our government might still choose to keep using non-renewable energies that are threatening to the environment such as fossil fuels, for political or economical reasons (the two being usually co-dependent). As citizens, it is out of our power which of those two energies our leaders decide to consume first. The fact that renewable energies might be readily available does not necessarily mean that they will be used.
However, the political and economical reasons that can be behind the reason of a choice like this are out of the scope of this essay. The way Europe will use renewable energies in the future and in 2030 will depend on many factors. First of all, technology plays a vital role in this, as without it, renewable energies could not be extracted from the energy sources, or they could but with very little efficiency. The more advanced the technology the more likely we are to turn to renewable energies for our energy needs.
In order for this to be worthwhile, the production cost of the used technologies must be much lower than the value of energy that will be extracted with them. Some of the currently used equipment used to extract energy from the environment are very expensive and must assure an interesting return on investment before anyone will consider using them. Let’s take the example of wind turbines. The usual 2 megawatt commercial turbine costs around 3 million euros per piece, even though they get cheaper all the time.
Considering an annual mean speed of wind of 5 meters per second (pretty low), the traditional 2MW wind turbine will give a return on investment of 3. 8% after a year. This means that there is gonna be profit already less than a year after installation. The average lifep of wind turbines being around twenty years, the return on investment at the end of that period is very profitable. We can understand why Europe has more than one hundred thousand wind turbines in 2013.
In 2013 wind turbine generated electricity is providing more than 8% of the European electricity consumption. A European Environment Agency report shows that wind turbine generated electricity could exceed by three times Europe’s expected demand of electricity in 2020. This shows that the capacity of electricity production with the use of renewable energies is practically illimited, and that by using only wind turbines (provided more are installed) we can easily provide enough electricity to all of earth’s inhabitants.
And this is only through one source of renewable energy (wind). It is important to remember, though obvious, that the amount of wind plays an important role in wind turbine electricity production. That means that windy places with less potential capacity in terms of watts (usually holding less turbines) can produce more electricity than places that hold more turbines but on which there is little wind. Indeed, in 2011, Spain had more electricity production through wind turbines than Germany. This shows that with renewable energies, there is more than the machine we are using.
The environmental condition has to be there as well, and so in the case of an unprobable geological event, some of our means of gathering renewable energies might be rendered inefficient and costly. When it comes to sun and wind, there is little to worry about though. On another aspect, the way humans will relate to nature in the future is also a very big factor of our future use or lack of use of renewable energies. Are we going to constantly grow more respectful of nature of less respectful of nature?
In 2030, what will be more important for us, preserving a clean earth for our future generations or being willing to trade hurting the planet for cash? As mentioned earlier, there may be dozens of political considerations that get in the way of those decisions, and that us as citizens, are not even aware of. However, considering that our technology becomes constantly more efficient and cheaper, the most logical course of action would be that we begin to use it more and more in every area of our life, including in the extraction of renewable energies.
To conclude, there is very little doubt that the situation in Europe concerning renewable energies will have improved much from today. The rate at which technology has evolved in the past years, the rate at which wind turbines and other ecological equipments have been implanted, can only promise a greener future. The numbers are also very encouraging and reassuring, as they seem to show that with the right technology we can almost unlimitedly extract renewable energies.
As the amount of non-renewable and polluting energies will be scarce by 2030, we will be forced to put to use the solutions that we have already found. On top of this, as the people who used to have all of the non-renewable ressources do not have it anymore, they no longer either have the money that went along with it. And without the money, their influence on politicians and governments will be gone as well. Instead, it is likely that the wind turbines, the solar cells, the hydroelectric turbines, and the other devices will be paid and installed by all of us, and then the profit will equally get back to all of us.
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