Wind Energy Profile: The Big Promise

Theoretically, wind could produce enough energy to meet global demand. In 2006, however, less than one percent of global electricity consumption came from wind. Why such an imbalance?

Worldwide Importance and Future Prospects

Global installed wind capacity in 2006 was around 74 Gigawatts (GW), according to the World Wind Energy Association. This was more than one percent of global electricity consumption, but because installed capacity does not reflect actual production, its contributions to the global energy mix are less than that.

Wind energy capacity is expected to more than double between early 2007 and 2010. Growth will be driven by rapidly developing countries, such as India, Brazil, and China. Several offshore wind parks are being planned in northern Europe and North America. Improving efficiency and falling costs of turbine production and installation will make wind power more price competitive.

Global Resources and Producers

Global land and near-shore wind resources are around 72,000 GW, or five times the world's current energy use, according to a study at Stanford University. But sites convenient for wind power production are limited by factors such as land use for agriculture or living, distance to consumers, and technology. Experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate that only four to ten percent of given resources could be used in an economically viable way.

An entirely wind-powered economy is thus not yet possible. Global growth in wind power, however, is still tremendous. In 2005, markets grew by 41 percent. The value of new generating equipment installed in 2006 was about 18 billion euros.

Energy Output

The amount of wind energy generated depends mostly on the size, height, type, and location of a wind turbine. Some small turbines, such as those fixed on a sailboat, can generate as little as a few hundred watts - enough to power a few light bulbs. On the other side of the spectrum are the large, utility-scale turbines like the Vestas V90 that produces 3 MW. According to the manufacturer, these turbines produce in 2-3 hours the electricity that an average European family consumes in one year. The Enercon E126 turbines installed in Germany in late 2007 will produce 6MW each, making it the most powerful turbine on the market.

Most wind power turbines are still installed on land, but the future could lie offshore. Wind speeds over oceans are on average twice as high as over land, making offshore wind parks an interesting alternative, but technically more challenging alternative.

Specialized in Solar Drying and Solar hot air system


    Since 1989,PEN has Installed 9000 of solar collector for tea leaves drying, spices drying, fruits and vegetables dehydration, dal, leather, ceramics, fish, cloth and salt drying.

  • Using Solar Air Heating technology 12000 tones of Fuel wood equivalent is saved and there is a reduction of 50 tones per year of green house gas emission to the atmosphere.

  • Ministry of New and Renewable Energy S (MNRE) and Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MFPI) both of Government of India, extended their support to Planters Energy Network through Research and Development projects.

  • Successfully conducted three International Conferences to disseminate the applications of Solar and other renewable energy technologies to Industries and agriculture.

  • PEN has the exclusive services of leading solar Scientist Dr.C.Palaniappan.

  • Developed innovative projects in collaboration with leading Institutions and Universities in Germany (Technical University of Munich, Munich & Institute of Agricultural Engineering (ATB), Potsdam, Berlin), Italy (International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Trieste & Ancona University), Netherlands and Australia.

  • Received 2 patents on its Solar Air Heating Technology.

Spain: New Plan for Renewable Energy

Spain's new energy law, passed earlier this summer, is designed to attract 23 billion Euro [approx. USD$27 billion] in investment by improving the legislative environment for renewable energy.

The challenge is to make the renewable energy sector attractive to private investors, and to maintain and strengthen the interest that has been consolidated in some sectors, and extend it to others in which only timid steps have been taken so far.

-- Plan de Energias Renovables

The Energy Context in Spain

One of the characteristics of the Spanish energy system is its high degree of dependence on imports. 80 percent of energy consumption has to be met from imported sources. Spain imports approximately 64 percent of the coal, 99.5 percent of the oil and 99.1 percent of the gas it uses. Moreover, oil accounts for around 50 percent of primary energy consumption.

The strategies defined for the energy sector have been shaped by the international commitments of the European Union as a whole, and those of Spain in particular relating to energy supply and climate change. Promoting the use of energy from renewable sources plays a fundamental role in meeting both commitments.

Clearly, as is necessarily the case, Spain's energy policy objectives coincide with those established by the European Union: a competitive and transparent liberalised market, security of supply, improved energy efficiency and protection of the environment.

In Spain the development of renewable energy sources has been supported by various instruments over the last twenty-five years. A law promoting their use was first passed in 1980.

On August 26, 2005 the Spanish government approved the new Renewable Energy Plan (Plan de Energias Renovables, PER), which supersedes the Renewable Energy Promotion Plan, which dates back to 1999. The overall aim of the new Plan is to make it possible to achieve the target of 12 percent of primary energy being met from renewable sources by 2010 and to do so it sets more ambitious objectives in those areas that have been developing successfully and establishes new measures to support technologies that have not yet managed to take off.

The Renewable Energy Plan for 2005-2010 (PER)

Renewable energy sources contribute to reducing energy dependence and increasing security of supply. Moreover, the development of renewable energy can make an active contribution to job creation, generally in less favored and sparsely populated areas. They can therefore contribute to rural development and stemming the rural exodus.

The PER is an indicative Plan, meaning that it is not binding upon the actors in the energy system. However, it is hoped that slightly more than 97 percent of investments will come from the private sector. The aim is therefore to create a sufficiently attractive framework based on stability and profitability. The contribution of public funds to these investments is estimated to be just 2.9 percent.

The Institute for Diversification and Saving of Energy (Instituto para la Diversificacion y Ahorro de la Energia, IDAE), a public state-owned body, has been entrusted with the task of preparing the PER. The methodology applied during the preparation of the Plan was aimed to ensure the participation of national government, the governments of Spain's autonomous regions, and academic and professional institutions.

In each area an exhaustive analysis was conducted of state of the art technologies together with an evaluation of the requirements to overcome the main barriers to developing renewable energy sources in Spain. Concrete proposals for actions to overcome these barriers were then put forward. IDAE is also the body in charge of the monitoring of the PER.

Forecasts in the PER

In the most likely energy scenario the 2005-2010 Renewable Energy Plan targets will enable 12.1 percent of primary energy consumption to be met from renewable sources by 2010. Within this overall target, in 2010 electricity generation from renewable sources will account for 30.3 percent of gross consumption and liquid biofuels will account for 5.8 percent of petrol and diesel consumption for transport purposes.

The table below gives detailed information on the current situation and the targets for 2010.


Situation in 2004 (average year (1)Target in 2010

Capacity (MW)Energy (GWh)Energy (ktoe)Capacity (MW)Energy (GWh)Energy (ktoe)
Electricity Generation

Hydro-electric (>50MW) (3)13,52125,0141,97913,52125,0141,979
Hydro-electric (10 MW to 50 MW)2,8975,7944983,2576,480557
Hydro-electric (<10>1,7495,4214662,1996,692575
Biomass power stations3442,1936801,3178,9803,586
Wind power8,15519,5711,68320,15545,5113,914
Solar photovoltaic3756540060952
Solar thermoelectric---5001,298509
TOTAL ELECTRICITY GENERATION AREAS27,03360,0975,97342,494102,25913,574
Thermal uses


Low temperature solar thermal







CONSUMPTION OF PRIMARY ENERGY (ktoe) (Energy scenario: Trend/PER)


Energy from renewable sources/Primary energy (%)



(1) Provisional 2004 data. For hydroelectric, wind, solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, the output for an average year has been taken, based on the power output and surface area in operation as of 31 December 2004, according to the characteristics of the installations brought into operation to date, and not the actual 2004 data. Thermal biogas and geothermal energy are not included. In 2004 these produced 28 and 8 ktoe, respectively [toe = tons of oil equivalent].

Technology Targets

As the table shows, a large share of the target is based on the contribution of wind power, which is forecast to reach 20,155 MW of installed capacity in 2010. The starting point is an installed capacity of 8,155 MW at the end of 2004.

This figure has already placed Spain in second position worldwide, just behind Germany, and ahead of the United States. The development of wind power in Spain has been accompanied by the creation of companies that have developed their own technology and who compete successfully on international markets.

By contrast, biomass, which is the other fundamental pillar to achieving the PER's targets, has not developed as fast as expected. The current Plan envisages new mechanisms to overcome the barriers to its development and, as a new feature, it includes the setting up of a co-combustion programme (for the joint combustion of biomass and coal in existing power stations).

Regarding liquids biofuels for transport (LBT) the results achieved so far make it possible to be optimistic about achieving the objectives set for 2010. In the case of bioethanol Spain is the first producer in Europe.

In solar energy, within a short space of time Spain has achieved a position of international leadership in photovoltaics, with three companies in the European top ten. By contrast, one of the challenges in the Plan is to overcome the barriers to the development of solar-thermal energy. Another important innovation envisaged in the Plan is the development of the first 500 MW solar-thermoelectric power stations in 2010.

Alongside these energy targets it is hoped that other social and environmental goals will be achieved. In terms of employment over 1,300 companies are currently registered as being active in the sector. And in terms of the environment, the application of the Plan will avoid 27.3 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2010.

Funding of the Plan

Achieving the goals set implies a volume of investment estimated at approximately 23.6 billion Euros [approx. USD$27.7 billion]. Of this 97.1 percent is expected to come from private sources. Just 681 million Euros [approx. USD$799 million], 2.9 percent of the total, will be in the form of public investment aid.

The challenge is therefore to make the renewable energy sector attractive to private investors, or rather, to maintain and strengthen the interest that has already been consolidated in some sectors, and extend it to others in which only timid steps have been taken so far.

Of the approximately 22.9 billion Euros [approx. USD$26.9 billion] that it is hoped the private sector will attract, it is estimated that 4.7 billion Euros [approx. USD$5.5 billion] will come from direct contributions from developers and the remaining 18.2 billion Euros [approx. USD$21.4 billion], will come from bank loans provided through the usual financial mechanisms.

In addition to the direct investment subsidies already mentioned, there are two other modes of public aid that are fundamental from the economic point of view. These are the premiums paid for electricity generated from renewable sources and the tax exemptions for LBT.

The premiums for electricity generated from renewable sources are fundamental. This system has been used successfully to date and has created the favorable conditions for the spectacular growth of certain sectors, in particular wind power. The premium is a supplement to the price electricity producers can obtain on the market.

The total value of the premiums related to the new generating facilities brought into operation over the period 2005-2010 is predicted to reach 4.9 billion Euros [approx. USD$5.8 billion]. From 2010 the annual premiums are forecast to be worth 1.8 billion Euros [approx. USD$2.1 billion]. It is worth stressing that although the figures are large in absolute terms, the impact on electricity prices of the premium policy is an increase of around 0.6 percent a year.

The tax incentives for the use of LBT consist of an exemption from the tax on hydrocarbon fuels of the retail price. With this measure, the price of biofuels to the final consumer can be brought down to a level that allows them to compete with petroleum derivatives.

About the Authors:
Jose Gil and Hugo Lucas are in the International Relations Department of
The Institute for Diversification and Saving of Energy (Instituto para la Diversificacion y Ahorro de la Energia, or IDAE), a public state-owned body based in Madrid, Spain.

Spain is one of eight donor countries (excluding the European Union) to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program (REEEP). Austria, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union all contribute funds to the REEEP. is seeking both domestic and international contributing newswriters to communicate news, trends, issues and policy on Renewable Energy from their home countries. Please follow this link to indicate your interest.

Renewable energy plan unveiled for 2006-2010

BEIJING -- China's annual consumption of renewable energy will reach the equivalent of 300 million tons of standard coal by 2010, which would be 10 percent of its total annual energy consumption, under the renewable energy development plan for 2006-2010.

The plan was released on Tuesday by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planning agency.

The plan says 2010 renewable energy consumption will nearly double the 2005 level, which was equivalent to 166 million tons of standard coal. That led to a reduction of 3 million tons of sulfur dioxide emissions and more than 400 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Given the dearth of petroleum and natural gas resources and the large share of coal in China's energy production, it is difficult for the nation to sustain its development and protect the environment by relying simply on fossil fuels, the NDRC said.

China boasts abundant renewable resources that could be exploited, the plan says. It says that by 2010:

-- the nation will have hydropower projects with a combined installed capacity of 190 million kilowatts and wind power projects with installed capacity of 10 million kw.

-- the installed capacity of bio-energy projects will reach 5.5 million kw and that of solar energy projects will be 300,000 kw.

-- domestically produced hydropower equipment and solar water heaters should become competitive on global markets.

-- wind power equipment manufacturers should put generating units with installed capacities of at least 1.5 million watts into mass production.

cubic mile of oil (CMO)

I just ran across an interesting article about renewable energy over at the Green Tech weblog. In it, they break down the type of investment that would be required to replace the energy provided by a cubic mile of oil (CMO).

In case you’re not aware (as I wasn’t), a CMO is a measure of energy consumption. Apparently the world consumes slightly more than one CMO worth of energy from oil per year, and the equivalent of three CMOs from all energy sources. Over 80% of this total energy usage comes from fossil fuels, including oil, coal, and natural gas (see graph, below).

So… What would it require to replace just one CMO of fossil energy per year?

Solar panels

Assuming annual electricity capture of 2.1 megawatts per solar panel, we’d have to place them on 4.2 billion rooftops. In other words, we’d have to install on them on 250,000 roofs per day for the next 50 years to have enough solar panels to offset our current annual oil usage (and this ignores things like coal; see below).

Wind power

What about wind power generators? You’d need 3 million to equal one CMO. That would require the installation of 1,200 per week for the next 50 years.

Hydroelectric power

A large hydroelectric dam can generate roughly 18 gigawatts of power per year. Thus, to offset one CMO of energy, we’d have to build 200 major hydroelectric dams. The problem? There aren’t enough rivers left in the world to dam up.

Solar thermal power

It would require 7,700 solar thermal plants to offset one CMO. That would require the construction of 150 plants per year for 50 years. Unfortunately, just one has been built in the past 15 years.

Nuclear power plants

It would take 2,500 nuclear power plants producing 900 megawatts to produce the equivalent of one CMO worth of energy. In other words, we’d have to build one a week for 50 years. It’s also worth noting that nuclear power isn’t exactly renewable.

The future of demand

Even if we decided to pursue one of the above options, it’s important to keep in mind that energy demand is continually increasing. According to Ripudaman Malhotra, a fossil fuels researcher at SRI International, world energy demand is expected to double to six CMOs within the next 30 years.

The good news here is that we still have time. Current estimates show oil reserves of roughly 46 CMOs, natural gas reserves totalling 42 CMOs, and coal reserves of 121 CMOs. These numbers increase further when you add in difficult to extract sources such as tar sands.

The bad news is that, beyond being non-renewable, these sources of energy also have a number of adverse environmental impacts, and burning more of them at a faster rate is just going to create more problems.

The way forward

Clearly, if we’re ever going to come anywhere near freeing ourselves from fossil fuels — an eventual necessity, as we’ll ultimately run out — it will require a tremendous investment, a variety of different technologies (likely including some that haven’t been invented yet), and an awful lot of conservation.

Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a problem on such a massive scale that minor changes won’t be enough. Consider, for example, that replacing 1 billion incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs only saves 0.01 CMOs per year. Yes, it’s important to cut back wherever we can. In this case, however, baby steps won’t be enough.

It’s also important to keep in mind that all of the technologies listed above result in electricity production. Given that a large fraction of our energy consumption is currently non-electric, we’ll need a lot of other infrastructure changes to go along with this.

Future of Renewable Energy

Nanotechnology and the Future of Renewable Energy

Nanotechnology operates at such a fundamental level that there is very little of a technological nature that it will not impact. Thus its effects on energy generation, transmission, storage and consumption are numerous and diverse. Some will be incremental and some quite possibly revolutionary.

So, greenhouse nightmare or an emission-free future? Nanotechnology can enable them both. Barring a global wave of forward planning unseen in mankind's history, economics will probably make the decision for us.

Rather than trying to sketch the whole landscape, a few examples will hopefully illustrate the variety.

At the mundane end of the scale you have anti-fouling paints for wave or tidal power, or materials with a higher tolerance for radiation in nuclear reactors. I did say mundane.

In wind power, the potentially enormous improvements in strength-to-weight ratio of composite materials used in blades could pay back surprisingly well because the relationship of blade length to efficiency is not linear but follows a power law -- though there is much argument about how this pans out in the real world.

At the other extreme of nanotech impact, you have solar energy. We are children in this area, and the playground is built on the nanoscale. Almost any development is going to involve nanotech -- an intriguing recent exception being the use of lenses to focus light on old-fashioned silicon photovoltaics, thus demanding less of this expensive material.

But what makes for a revolution in energy generation? Two things: availability and economics. The fact that solar energy is so bountiful -- enough hits the Earth in a minute to meet our global requirements for at least a week -- makes it potentially revolutionary; it's just the cost of capturing that energy that has been standing in the way. Reduce that enough, or increase the cost of the alternatives, and you have a winning scenario.

One other energy source could, I believe, be equally revolutionary. Not fusion, which, despite the dreams of my youth, I sadly have to relegate to a distant future, not that the ongoing experiments aren't worthwhile. But geothermal energy, boring as hot rocks and steam may sound, has revolutionary potential for the same reason as solar -- an essentially unlimited supply of energy untapped only because of economics.

The nanotech connection is not as direct here as with solar -- you have tougher materials to cut drilling costs or thermoelectric tunneling for efficient low-grade heat conversion -- but it only takes the right conjunction of developments and geothermal power stations will be springing up, or down, all over the place.

I've only considered here principal power generation, but this should already give some sense of the breadth and potential scale of impact. I'd be surprised to find any reader of this unaware of the excitement surrounding developments in fuel cell and battery technology. Nanotechnology figures almost without exception in the cutting edge of both.

So how do nanotechnology-based solutions apply to environmental concerns and energy security issues?

From an energy security point of view, nanotech developments are invariably positive since, at the very least, they can help save energy -- aerogels for better insulation, IR-reflective window coatings, low-grade heat conversion in cars, etc. They also assist to varying degrees in the development of alternatives to the fossil fuels upon which so many of us are now so dangerously dependent. I've already mentioned the potential of solar and geothermal energy.

On the environmental front the answer is not so clear. We live in a world where short-term economics have an overwhelming influence on decision making.

The good news for those who worry about things like global warming, is that the increasing cost of oil -- a long-term trend that will not stop, oil being a finite resource -- and the decreasing cost of alternative sources such as solar energy, give renewables an ever more favorable economic position. When you look at the diverse spread of nanotech-related impacts they are almost always supporting technologies with an improved environmental profile.

Unfortunately, there is a rather big exception to this. Nanotechnology has helped improve the effectiveness of catalysts. Fuel cells and catalytic converters are among the welcome beneficiaries.

But catalysis is also at the heart of gas-to-liquid and coal liquefaction technologies that promise oil independence for those with access to previously uneconomical gas reserves or to coal reserves. Energy security is a big carrot and it so happens that two highly populated countries that rank among the fastest-growing economies in the world, and thus the fastest-growing energy consumers, are coal-rich: China and India. North America too is coal-rich.

If such countries can start to economically run their cars, trucks and buses on diesel made from coal -- which ironically is low-emission compared with normal diesel at the vehicle end but overall produces more CO2 than oil-based diesel -- then we could be looking at a greenhouse gas nightmare scenario since there is enough coal in the world to supply our energy needs for hundreds of years.

So, greenhouse nightmare or an emission-free future? Nanotechnology can enable them both. Barring a global wave of forward planning unseen in mankind's history, economics will probably make the decision for us.

Making the Transition from Old to New Energy

I think that the likeliest difference between "old" and "new" energy, and the generator of greatest debate, will be systemic rather than one particular technology or another. The question of when and how the transition to new energy occurs is also intriguing -- as the coal liquefaction scenario above shows, we could in theory be stuck with the old, or pretty similar, for some time to come.

Only coal and nuclear fission are potential candidates for maintaining the uniform and monolithic energy network we have now in the developed world. There are good reasons to avoid both, if we can -- some would argue that we cannot.

All the alternatives involve a mix of technologies and energy sources, with energy not always being produced where you want and when you want, thus producing a far more complex system than we have now. The phrase 'intelligent grid' is often held up as an example of how this complexity will operate, with buying, selling and saving of energy being possible at many scales.

I'd rather do away with the 'grid' word altogether because it evokes the electricity grid that we in the developed world generally take for granted but which exists only as a consequence of our historical dependence on fossil fuels, and is grossly inefficient.

In a mixed-energy-source scenario, the traditional grid would be challenged by localized generation, the form of which would vary according to location: Saudi, sunshine. Greenland, geothermal.

The off-grid or localized grid scenario begs the question of how large amounts of energy will be transferred from one place to another, which will no doubt continue to be either required or an economically viable activity. The classic answer is hydrogen, but it is unfortunately a lousy way to transport energy, thanks largely to its volatility.

In theory, the development of cheap, high-load superconducting cables -- perhaps made of carbon nanotubes -- might keep the old-fashioned grid alive but it seems to me that an efficient means of converting whatever energy source happens to be available to you into a fuel that is liquid, or close to it, at room temperature -- e.g., methanol -- combined with a fuel cell technology to make good use of it, would be a hard system to beat when it comes to storage and transmission.

As I write, there are at least a few scientists around the world trying to figure out ways to outdo Mother Nature in turning sunlight into a compact, transportable energy source. All of which happens, of course, on the nanoscale.

Ten facts about renewable energy

As the impact of fossil fuels on our environment becomes ever more stark, renewable energy - with its non-polluting qualities and infinite capacity - is just what we need to save our fragile planet. It's thanks to the work of engineers and scientists that we are able to harness the renewable energy available to us and make it useful. Prepare yourself for our top 10 must-know renewable energy facts...

1. There are five main forms of renewable energy: solar, wind, water, biofuel and geothermal (heat from the earth).

2. If it could be properly harnessed, enough sunlight falls on the earth in just one hour to meet world energy demands for a whole year!

3. Ever the innovator, Albert Einstein (left) won the Nobel Prize in Physics 1921 for his ground-breaking experiments with solar power and photovoltaics.

4. The geothermal energy from the core of the Earth is closer to the surface in some areas than in others. Where hot underground steam or water can be tapped and brought to the surface it can be used to generate electricity.

5. A world record was set in 1990 when a solar-powered aircraft flew across the USA in 21 stages, using no fuel at all.

6. One wind turbine can produce enough electricity to power up to 300 homes.

7. The largest wind turbine in the world, located in Hawaii, stands 20 storeys tall and has blades the length of a football pitch.

8. An average wind speed of just 14mph is needed to convert wind energy into electricity; that shouldn't be too hard to come by in breezy Britain!

9. Water is the most commonly used renewable energy resource, providing enough power to meet the needs of 28.3 million people.

10. Those clever old Romans not only gave us the modern drainage system and many of our roads, they were also among the first to use geothermal energy to heat houses.

Fun Facts about Renewable Energy

Fun facts about wind power

In 200 B.C., people in China and the Middle East used windmills to pump water and grind grain.

The first modern wind turbine was built in Vermont in the early 1940s.

Wind farms currently produce enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 600,000 families in the United States.

The largest wind turbine in the world, located in Hawaii, stands 20 stories tall and has blades the length of a football field.

An average wind speed of 14 miles per hour is needed to convert wind energy into electricity.

Wind farm

One wind turbine can produce enough electricity to power up to 300 homes.

Learn more about wind power

Make your own wind power toys

Fun facts about biomass energy

Almost half of the renewable energy produced in the United States comes from biomass sources, li

Switchgrass is a biomass energy crop

ke wood and paper products.

In Iowa and Wisconsin, biomass energy from landfills and dairy farms is being used to make electricity.

In southern Iowa, a power plant is using a crop called switchgrass to make electricity.

Learn more about biomass energy

Fun facts about hydro power

Water power has been used for grinding grain for more than 2,000 years

Water power has been used for grinding grain for more than 2,000 years.

The first U.S. hydroelectric power plant opened on the Fox River near Appleton, Wisconsin, on September 30, 1882.

Worldwide, water is the most commonly used renewable energy resource, providing enough power to meet the needs of 28.3 million consumers.

Hydro power currently provides about 10 percent of the electricity in the United States.

Learn more about hydro power

Fun facts about geothermal energy

Geothermal energy uses heat from under the earth

Volcanoes and geysers are examples of geothermal energy.

In 1864, a hotel in Oregon heated rooms using geothermal energy from underground hot springs.

The first geothermal power plant opened in California in 1921.

A professor at Ohio State University invented the first geothermal heating system in 1948.

Learn more about geothermal power

Fun facts about solar power

More than 10,000 homes in the United States are powered entirely by solar energy.

Enough sunlight falls on the earth's surface every hour to meet world energy demand for an entire year.

Silicon from just one ton of sand, used in photovoltaic cells, could produce as much electricity as burning 500,000 tons of coal.

In the 1830s, the British astronomer John Herschel used a solar collector box to cook food during an expedition to Africa.

Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his experiments with solar power and photovoltaics.

The first big solar power plant opened in California in 1982.

Learn more about solar power

Make your own solar oven

Enough sunlight falls on the earth's surface every hour to meet world energy demand for an entire year

Renewable Energy - Facts

What Is Renewable Energy?

By definition, renewable energy is "clean" - producing few or no hazardous emissions or pollutants, and having minimal impact on fragile ecosystems.

There are five main types of renewable energy: hydro, biomass, geothermal, solar and wind.

While each of these can be used to generate electricity, only hydro and biomass currently provide a significant amount of power [see chart below] - but that fact will change in the coming decades.

In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, green power could have major economic advantages as well:

  • It decreases our dependence on foreign oil imports and the resulting price fluctuations.
  • It reduces the need for costly emissions controls.
  • It provides new energy markets and creates new jobs.

The financial impact could be significant in the Midwest. Switchgrass and other biomass materials provide an alternative crop option, animal waste and crop residues can be sold and reused, and the construction of wind farms or other green power facilities creates jobs and local rural economies.

Sources of Renewable Energy:


During the day, there is a constant supply of radiation coming from the sun. The amount of radiation is considerable, but presently low cost commercial solid state solar cells only convert about 11% of the solar radiation into electricity. There are already laboratory solar cells that are 40% efficient, and in the future even higher efficiencies may be possible. Solid state solar cells are very attractive because they have no moving parts and are very simple. Because sunlight is free, this makes the technology very attractive especially in countries that have difficulty buying fuel. The downside of solid state solar cells is that when the sun goes down, there is no electricity being produced. Batteries can be used, but present batteries are only about 60-80% efficient in storing the electricity. Just as with wind turbines, if solar panels are linked into a large grid system, such fluctuations are not as much of a disadvantage.
A second method of using the sun's radiation is to convert it into high temperature thermal energy and then use conventional steam turbines, gas turbines or Stirling engines to generate electricity. Such methods are already 30-50% efficient in converting the sun's radiation into electricity. There are also efficient solid state thermoelectric converters being researched. If a fluid is heated, a large amount can be stored for operation of the plant during the night or cloudy days. As well, a backup fuel fired heater can be used, but this is only economical when the power plant is highly efficient.
A third desirable method is to use the sun's rays produce a fuel. This fuel could then be used at a later date. Hydrogen could be produced but it is difficult to store. An ideal fuel to produce would be ethanol or natural gas which could be used in a fuel cell at a later date to generate electricity or be used in other applications that require fuel. The solar cell would recycle the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere back into the ethanol or natural gas fuel. Such a solar cell might use genetically engineered bacteria to do the job.
Theoretically much of the thermal energy required in society could come from solar energy. Practically so far it has been considered too intermittent a source. Solar collectors for this purpose can be quite simple, but storage of the thermal energy during periods when the sun isn’t shining has so far been considered expensive compared to cheap fossil fuel. This situation could dramatically change when fuel prices go up in the future.


There is enough energy in the blowing winds to generate a substantial proportion of the electrical energy requirements in the world. In windy areas, the cost to produce electricity is already less than using fossil fueled combined cycle powerplants. One of the major problems with wind turbines in the past has been durability. Often serious wind storms would damage many units. Newer units appear to be built stronger. Another large problem is the extremely variable speed of the wind. Wind turbines may provide peak power in times when the electricity is not required. Storage of the electricity is expensive. If wind turbines are linked into a large grid system, such fluctuations are not as much of a disadvantage. Of course if a major proportion of our electricity would be generated this way, that would create major problems. Wind turbines in the past resulted in bird kills however it appears that with newer one’s this may not be a problem. Wind turbines are also noisy and can be unsightly. Still there are major advantages in tapping into a source of inexpensive power that can be converted into electricity in such a simple device as a wind turbine.


Fuel cells, which can convert chemical energy directly into electricity, have been proposed as a replacement for other methods of generating power from fossil fuels for 100 years. Till recently there have been numerous difficulties in commercializing them however. Will these problems be overcome in the new century? If the problems can be overcome, fuel cells will likely be the favored technology of the future for all CHP as well as large centralized powerplants. Not only do fuel cells produce reasonable efficiencies at the smaller sizes, they will likely be able to run quietly, need infrequent maintenance and emit little pollution.
A fuel cell works similar to a battery. In a battery, electricity is generated as a result of a fixed amount of substance undergoing a chemical change inside the cell. In a fuel cell, a continuous flow of chemical substance flows through the cell and is made into electricity. While a battery has a limited amount of electricity it can produce per cycle, a fuel cell can produce electricity as long as more fuel is pumped through it.
Solid oxide fuel cells will likely be the favored fuel cell for CHP [2]. Small solid oxide fuel cells will be about 50% fuel to electricity efficient, medium powerplants 60% efficient, and large one's up to 70% efficient. Their efficiency is good from about 15%-100% power. Most solid oxide fuel cells utilize both hydrogen and carbon monoxide fuel inside the cell. This means that they can readily operate on hydrocarbon fuels such as coal gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, alcohol, and natural gas. The efficiency of the solid oxide fuel cell used in CHP applications will be higher than the polymer electrolyte fuel cells for two major reasons. The first reason is that the hydrocarbon fuel is reformed into hydrogen and carbon monoxide fuel largely inside the solid oxide fuel cell. This results in some of the high temperature waste thermal energy being recycled back into the fuel. The second reason is that air compression is not required. Especially on smaller systems, this results in a higher amount of net electricity being produced and quieter operation.
Most polymer electrolyte fuel cells that are being developed for automobiles and CHP use hydrogen gas as a fuel. It is not likely that we will have hydrogen pipelines supplying homes and businesses in the near future. This means that hydrogen will often be extracted from hydrocarbon fuels in CHP systems. Because the polymer electrolyte fuel cell operates at a low temperature, there is no waste thermal energy recycling in the reformer. Air compression to about 3 atmospheres or higher must be used to have a reasonable power density [3]. On small systems this results in a substantial loss of efficiency. Small polymer electrolyte fuel cells will be about 35% fuel to electricity efficient, medium powerplants 40% efficient, and large one's up to 45% efficient.
Because of the high temperatures that the solid oxide fuel cell must run , they may not be practical for sizes much below 1,000 watts or when portable applications are involved. Several companies in the world are presently working on direct alcohol fuel cells. In this type of fuel cell, the alcohol is not reformed but used directly in a very simple type of fuel cell. This fuel cell is ideal for portable equipment such as power tools, laptop computers, portable phones, and emergency generators. For more information on fuel cells read the web-booklet "The Future of Fuel Cells"


Electricity and mechanical power are largely used for powering our modern industrialized society. These are not stored in some natural form on earth in any great quantity. Other forms of energy must be converted. Different conversion technologies must be used. With some methods the electricity or mechanical power is produced directly in a single process. In others there are multiple steps involved.

Hydro turbines ..convert moving water from river and ocean dams into electricity
Wave generators ..use floats that move up and down with waves and produce electricity
Solar cells ..solid state materials that produce electricity directly from solar radiation impact
Thermocouples ..also called thermoelectric devices that produce electricity by heating dissimilar metals
Thermionic devices ..turn thermal energy into electricity by solid state means
Vapor turbines ..convert steam pressure into rotary motion then electricity
Piston vapor engines ..convert vapor pressure into rotary motion then electricity
Piston gas engines ..turn expanding gases to motion then electricity, Diesel, Otto, Brayton, Atkinson etc.
Gas turbines ..turn hot expanding gases to rotary motion then electricity
Stirling piston engines ..closed cycle engines turn thermal energy into motion then electricity
MHD ..turn moving charged fluids directly to electricity
Fuel cells ..turn chemical energy directly to electricity by the action of moving ions
Wind turbines ..turn moving air into rotary motion then electricity
Nuclear radiation cells ..solid state materials that produce electricity directly from nuclear radiation impact
Nuclear "ion" cells ..solid state materials that produce electricity directly from nuclear "ions"

 Fig 1 Chart showing projected efficiencies of different future electricity generating powerplants

Fig 1 Chart showing projected efficiencies of different future electricity generating powerplants

Panasonic lights up on Wind power

Spinning light

Tokyo is well known for it’s lights. Blaring ads that rival Time Square and soak up the power grid while doing it. Godzilla stomping on buildings while the Neon lights explode. But over at Panasonic Center, environmentally conscious designers are changing that high powered perception with a design that probably had a kid’s toy as it’s inspiration.

Solar Keyring Torch

solar-keyring-torch.jpgThe Solar Keyring Torch ensures you no longer have to fumble at the door whenever arrive home after a late night date, as it provides ample light from a trio of LEDs to keep your keyhole illuminated. Since it is solar-powered, there is no need to worry about dead batteries as well.

The best things in life are free, and sunlight is pretty well at the top of the list. The only trouble is of course, that the sun has a regular habit of shuffling off to the other side of the world leaving everything a little dark round here. Fortunately this little gizmo ensures that the sun leaves a little light behind that you can carry around with you on a key ring. It’s integral mini solar panel stores up energy from the sun and via it’s three super-bright LEDs becomes a blazing and very useful little torch when night falls. Many of these sorts of solar powered lights can have a tendency to be a tad lame, but this one is not only astonishingly bright, it also lasts for an absurdly long period of time, so long in fact that we don’t know how long it is - we got bored waiting for it to run out of power. It comes in a shock resistant rubber casing, and naturally requires no batteries, ever. Free light for life.

Torpedo Solar Spotlight

torpedo-sunlight.jpgWhat better way to lower your monthly electricity bill than rely on good ol’ solar power that never runs out (at least until our sun decides to explode)? The Torpedo Solar Spotlight makes a good candidate to spruce up your garden long after sundown at an affordable price.

Make a walkway safer, uplight a tree or highlight garden art without the hassle of running extension cords or digging trenches for wiring. These garden spotlights are solar powered! Each 2¼” reflective lens has three bright LEDs that never need replacing, and an integrated solar panel that pivots and swivels to catch the best rays. Lights come on at dusk and shine for up to eight hours.

Keep your car fresh using solar power

Solar Car Air Purifier

Cars tend to attract odors, especially when several people are crammed in one for long trips. Add in a couple of smokers and the smell can become overbearing. Thankfully I don’t smoke, and most of the people that ride with me don’t either, so I just stick with the occasional pine tree air freshener. However, if you want something a little more hi-tech cleaning your air, you might try out this little gadget.

Solar Breeze Pool Skimmer takes some of the work out of pool maintenance

Solar Breeze Pool Skimmer

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have a pool. I was excited when my parents informed me that we would be getting one, and it was awesome jumping in it that first time. Of course it also meant that I had the task of keeping the pool clean. What I wouldn’t have given back then to have a couple of handy gadgets to do my work for me.

Backpack solar heater could help the planet

Backpack solar heater could help the planet

It looks like one of those inflatable pool loungers you use to soak up the sun. However, SolarStore panels are meant for a more practical use. Backpackers can use them to store up to 3 full tanks of water per day while heating the water at the same time. Easy to fold, easier to use, SolarStore panels are now being looked to provide not only heated water, but also solar energy to low income and third world housing.

Solar Powered Cordless Fan uses the sun to keep you cool

Solar Fan

Until this past weekend came, the area where I live was experiencing near summer-like temperatures outside. I was even forced for a couple of days to kick on the old A/C for a little bit. Most of the time I made do with just some fans around the house, which got me thinking about how much power I must be using running those fans all the time. If I had one of these Solar Powered Cordless Fans, I wouldn’t need to wonder.

Solar powered speedboat

Solar power looks like it is here to stay, and we have so far seen solar powered cars being the Holy Grail in the fight to be independent of black gold, or rather, oil. Hybrid cars aren’t exactly catching on as fast as environmentalists prefer, and solar powered cars have not made the impact they were supposed to mainly because the technology is not yet there for a powerful, conventionally shaped vehicle that runs entirely off the sun’s rays. Never mind modes of transportation on land - here we have a solar powered speedboat that will slice through water pretty much in the same way an ordinary speedboat does, save for the fact that this one relies on the sun to power its electric engine instead.

Solar Powered Gear

Most gadgets that we report on require some sort of power source. One of the most techie and ecologically friendly ways of powering gadgets is via the power of the sun. This section of Coolest Gadgets is dedicated to gadgets that get their power from the sun’s rays, be it via solar panels or just simple heating.


There are many sources of energy on earth. The original source of all this energy is nuclear energy in the universe. All other forms of energy are the result of nuclear energy trickling down into lower forms. The following are common sources of energy on earth:

Geothermal ..taking thermal energy from the earth's core
Falling water ..rivers, ocean tides
Wave motion ocean
Thermal cycles water and air
Wind motion ..of air
Pressure changes atmosphere
Solar radiation ..from the sun
Fossil fuels ..coal, oil, natural gas
Biomass ..trees, plants
Fission nuclear energy ..splitting atoms
Fusion nuclear energy ..combining atoms

Solar Energy - Our Future Energy

CO2 - Reduction Part 3

Does your ride have a diesel engine?

If so, then you can likely convert it to run off of biodiesel. Biodiesel is a non-toxic, clean, and renewable fuel made from agricultural products

* Climate Hero

Water heater hot?

Give it a blanket. If your hot water heater feels warm, then additional insulation will help save energy. Wrapping a blanket around your water heater reduces your energy use by up to 9%. A new blanket pays for itself in 1 year.

* Climate Leader

Make your eyes as big as your stomach.

The average family of four wastes $600 of food a year. In addition to the unsavory price tag, food waste also contributes to pesticide pollution, fossil fuel use, deforestation, and water use.

* Climate Friend

Plan driving ahead of time.

Gasoline made from fossil fuels is the largest man-made source of carcinogens and the leading source of toxic emissions, according to the . EPA. Instead of going on several trips, try to combine them. Combining trips can reduce gas consumption and emissions. And added bonus: your car runs most efficiently when it’s warm.

* Climate Friend

Sun likes it hot.

Use the sun to heat living spaces and water with this highly efficient technology . Solar heating works with existing hot water, pool, and forced air systems. Find out who installs systems in your area. Federal and state incentives reduce their price.

* Climate Hero

CO2 - Reduction - Part 2

Go organic.

Besides being good for you, organic produce also helps fight global warming. Organic farms capture carbon dioxide from the air and trap it in the soil. In fact, organic soils contain up to 28% more carbon than other soils.

* Climate Friend

Go on a recycling binge.

Virgin materials require massive amounts of resources and their production generates greenhouse gases. If you’re reading this website, chances are you already recycle. Don’t stop there. Examine ways to increase your recycling rate! Get your friends, family, coworkers, church, community group, and local businesses to recycle, too.

* Climate Friend

Maintain your car.

Pay attention to any strange sounds and smells coming from your car. Regular maintenance can extend your car’s life and improve fuel efficiency. A clogged air filter can increase gas consumption by 10%.

* Climate Friend

Talk to The Man.

Many corporations respond to their customers and provide more environmentally friendly products. Ask your favorite companies to use recycled materials, renewable energy, or to reduce their energy consumption.

* Climate Hero

Is there another way to get there?

Is it within walking distance? Can you carpool or take public transit? Do you enjoy biking? A nationwide 10% increase in transit ridership would save 135 million gallons of gas a year and create fewer greenhouse gases.

CO2 - Reduction


Didn’t your mother always tell you to share? If you only use your tent, ladder, or video player once in a while, consider lending it to others. Some communities have a shared tool shed. Workplaces have book exchanges. Or, you and a friend can team up to buy rarely used items. Sharing decreases the energy and pollution from mining, manufacturing, packaging, and transporting new goods.

* Climate Leader

Get a new A/C filter.

Cleaning or replacing your air conditioner filters increases efficiency and makes it run in peak condition. Filters can be found along the length of the return duct in walls, ceilings, furnaces, or in the air conditioning unit itself. In window units, filters may lie inside of the air conditioner or they may slide out. See this list of helpful tips on buying an efficient air conditioner.

* Climate Friend

Go on a tree spree.

Planting trees removes carbon from the atmosphere, filters air, and prevents soil erosion. It’s best to plant trees native to your area that don’t require heavy irrigation.

* Climate Hero

Lose the heavy stuff.

Each 100 lbs. in your car increases gas consumption by 1-2%. Another great reason to leave all bricks and rocks at home!

* Climate Friend

Practice gas station etiquette.

Handle the pump with care and avoid topping off. Spilled fuel evaporates and causes air pollution. Also, try to buy gas during cooler times in the day or during evening hours when there is less evaporation.

Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) cells

Solar energy can also be used to meet our electricity requirements. Through Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) cells, solar radiation gets converted into DC electricity directly. This electricity can either be used as it is or can be stored in the battery. This stored electrical energy then can be used at night.

SPV can be used for a number of applications such as:
a. domestic lighting
b. street lighting
c. village electrification
d. water pumping
e. desalination of salty water
f. powering of remote telecommunication repeater stations and
g. railway signals.

If the means to make efficient use of solar energy could be found, it would reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy and make our environment cleaner.

Uses of Solar Energy

Solar Energy Uses

We have always used solar energy as far back as humans have existed on this planet. We know today, that there are multiple uses of solar energy. We use the solar energy every day in many different ways. When we hang laundry outside to dry in the sun, we are using the solar heat to do work, drying our clothes. Plants use the solar light to make food. Animals eat plants for food. And as we learned, decaying plants hundreds of millions of years ago produced the coal, oil and natural gas that we use today.

History of Solar Energy

Solar Hot Water
Solar Thermal Electricity
Solar Cells or Photovoltaic Energy

Very often there is confusion about the various methods used to harness solar energy. Energy from the sun can be categorized in two ways: (1) in the form of heat (or thermal energy), and (2) in the form of light energy. Solar thermal technologies uses the solar heat energy to heat substances (such as water or air) for applications such as space heating, pool heating and water heating for homes and businesses. There are a variety of products on the market that uses solar thermal energy. Often the products used for this application are called solar thermal collectors and can be mounted on the roof of a building or in some other sunny location. The solar heat can also be used to produce electricity on a large utility-scale by converting the solar energy into mechanical energy.

So, fossil fuels is actually solar energy stored millions and millions of years ago. Indirectly, the sun or other are responsible for all our energy. Even nuclear energy comes from a star because the uranium atomsused in nuclear energy were created in the fury of a nova - a star exploding. Let's look at ways in which we can use the solar energy.

The Future is Renewable Energy

The Future is Renewable Energy

The Future of Alternative Energy

"The future belongs to renewable energy," said Brad Colllins, the executive director of the American Solar Energy Society, a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit. Scientists and industry experts may disagree over how long the world's supply of oil and natural gas will last, but it will end, Collins said.

While renewable energy is generally more expensive than conventionally produced supplies, alternative power helps to reduce pollution and to conserve fossil fuels.

"People sometimes get caught up in cost-effectiveness," said Paul Torcellini, a senior engineer at the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. "But it can be a question of values and what we spend our money on."

Future Needs

Renewable Energy Act: To meet India's future needs


The need for Community support for Renewable Energy is clear. Several of the technologies, especially wind energy, but also small-scale hydro power, energy from biomass, and solar thermal applications, are economically viable and competitive. The others, especially photovoltaic (silicon module panels directly generating electricity from the sun’s light raher than heat), depend only on (how rapidly) increasing demand and thus production volume to achieve the economy of scale necessary for competitiveness with central generation. In fact, looking at the various sector markets in early 2003, it is probably not over-optimistic to conclude that the lion’s share of remaining market resistance to Renewables penetration relates to factors other than economic viability. This should be seen against the rapidly improving fiscal and economic environment being created in the EU both by European legislation itself swinging into full implementation and the Member States’ own programmes and support measures, which despite the short-term macro-economic background, are accelerating rapidly at the time of publication.

The European Commission's White Paper for a Community Strategy sets out a strategy to double the share of renewable energies in gross domestic energy consumption in the European Union by 2010 (from the present 6% to 12%) including a timetable of actions to achieve this objective in the form of an Action Plan.The main features of the Action Plan include internal market measures in the regulatory and fiscal spheres; reinforcement of those Community policies which have a bearing on increased penetration by renewable energies; proposals for strengthening co-operation between Member States; and support measures to facilitate investment and enhance dissemination and information in the renewables field.

About Renewable Energy

Renewable energy effectively uses natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which may be naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass and biofuels for transportation.


Renewable Energy Technologies bridge the gap between mounting global energy demand and diminishing supply of conventional source of energy. Popular awareness on the need of a cleaner environment and the increasing demand for more healthy and hygienic products encourages the use of RET in agro-industrial production processes. International efforts for maximizing the efficiency and minimizing the cost of RET is slowly enabling this technology to compete with conventional energy technologies. As conventional energy is exhaustible, polluting and responsible for environmental hazards like global warming, the renewable energy technologies are becoming more popular.