Is any energy source really "renewable"?

 Ad Finem (@AdFinem) 7 years, 10 months ago

I got to thinking today about a video interview I saw with Elon Musk about his new company SolarCity.

Is any energy source really renewable (aside from Nuclear Fusion)?

Aren’t there always going to be residual effects to removing energy from any closed system (like the earth)? I know that the sun itself could almost be considered a limitless source of energy, but if humanity were to start harvesting enormous quantites of sunlight that would otherwise have entered into the closed system that is Earth – wouldn’t this affect:

-weather
-chemical balance of earth’s atmosphere
-bacterial and plant life, thus by extension the ecosystem

The same could be said of wind energy. I think it stands to reason that if enough energy were removed from this system, it would have to at some point collapse. As I understand it, nuclear fusion could be a source of energy that avoids these problems, as the energy harnessed is atomic and thus practically limitless (please correct me if I’m wrong).

Are we bound as an intelligent species to just endlessly suck our habitat dry until we are ready to move on to the next one?

December 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm
JonH (1,139)C (@IJesusChrist) 7 years, 10 months ago ago

@adfinem, Yup.

You’re thinking in a good direction. There is really no holy grail of energy, except FUsion. Fusion is what you’d be pleased with.

Wind energy has already been shown to change weather patterns. If we took all of our needs from wind, we would have drought all over the place, especially in land-locked countries/states. It also changes migratory patterns for birds.

Its okay on an individual scale in the country, but sustaining cities and factories is not going to be accomplished by wind.

Solar energy – the amount of energy that hits the Earth’s surface is enormous, all our energy needs could be satiated with a relatively small amount of land (in comparison to the Earth as a whole). However, it would leave surrounding areas to the solar field highly affected. If you put the amount of solar panels to power the US in arizona, the temperature would drop dramatically – its an insane amount of energy being pulled from the Earth’s surface. However, the rest of the country would see no difference (most likely).

Fission is not renewable, as its also a ‘fossil’ fuel – fossils from stars long since passed.

Fusion is the only energy source that would really answer to an infinite source, since all it needs is matter. The matter must be of a particular element, but given the energy output of fusion, creating it and mining it wouldn’t be an issue (given technology catches up).

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In order to get energy you must take it from somewhere.

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Ad Finem (2) (@AdFinem) 7 years, 10 months ago ago

Perhaps we could create orbital solar stations that harvest solar energy outside of earth?

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JonH (1,139)C (@IJesusChrist) 7 years, 10 months ago ago

@adfinem, yeah, there have been plans to do that, the issue is transporting the energy back to earth. One approach was to beam radiowaves back to earth. It’s feasible, but its just at the boarder of actually making any kind of money, and therefore, in capitalism, its not really cared for.

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JonH (1,139)C (@IJesusChrist) 7 years, 10 months ago ago

@adfinem, The other cool thing about interstellar-solar energy is its quite a bit more energetic than what gets to Earth – so the same amount of panels gets more energy if in orbit.

but again, transporting it to Earth is the issue.

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