New Alternative Fuels (Editorial)
The UK government has set a target of 10% for all electricity to be produced by renewable energy means by 2010, with a rise to 20% by 2020. For this to be achievable, one would argue that we would need to look further than the more conventional forms of renewable energy such as wind, and solar energy. Such additional forms of renewable energy, which must not be dismissed, are; wave power; fuel cell technology and biomass.
Wave power is currently in its infancy, indeed, there are currently talks underway for the development of Scotland’s first commercial wave farm engineered by the company "Ocean Power Delivery" and "Ocean Power Technology" have signed agreements to develop wave power stations off the coasts of the US, Spain and France.
Wave power technology harnesses energy through the capture and conversion of wave energy by the use of ocean-going buoys. The technology is efficient in the sense that the source of the energy is always available, easy to predict and the transport of the energy is efficient because many of the world’s most populous areas are coastal. Benefits that wave power has over its close cousin are the fact that energy production via the use of wave power technology is not unsightly, does not prove a threat to any marine life and it does not produce noise.
Fuel Cell Technology
Fuel Cell Technology is a revolutionary type of energy production in that the fuel cells produce electricity and heat from hydrogen fuel and oxygen. Unlike a standard engine, a fuel cell produces energy without carbon emissions and can be more efficient, quieter and certainly cleaner than conventional engines. Fuel cells are an ideal substitute for conventional petrol burning engines in cars, however, progress has been slow in part because fuel cell producing companies are struggling to keep the costs to a viable level for car production and also by the slow uptake of this new technology by the car manufacturers themselves.
Currently much of our production of energy relies on traditional fossil fuels, however, this could change with the promulgation of biomass and biodiesel in particular. The Confederation of Forest Industries (ConFor) have stated that millions of tons of tree tops and chopped branches from UK woodlands are lying wasted, when they could be effectively used to produce biomass energy. ConFor go on to state that 20 million tons of biomass could be available to the UK over the next 10 years. But Chief Executive of ConFor, Mr David Crichton, warns "Britain is way behind other European countries in utilising wood as a major source of energy. Almost two thirds of total renewable energy produced in the European Union, prior to its recent enlargement, came from biomass. In the UK it is negligible."
Biodiesel can be produced from farm crops such as oilseed rape and wheat and is a biodegradable fuel, which can be used, in existing diesel engines without modification. Indeed, the UK government use a 5% biodiesel blend in their London based car and dispatch agency. Cambridge University have made positive steps in helping farmers to utilise their rapeseed oil by turning it into energy by creating the first mobile refinery in the world for this aim.
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