Between Two Sources: Solar and Biomass

"A transition to clean energy is about making an investment in our future." - Gloria Rueben.

Who's the Beauty and Who's the Beast? Or is there none at all?

During this day and age, we have one goal: to be sustainable; lasting our resources for upcoming future generations and aiming towards a greener and cleaner environment. As the last article from this three-part series, it will be about our last two renewable energy resources, Solar and Biomass. As we know, the most common renewable energy source in households is solar power. However, is solar power the only option out there? Why not consider others, such as biomass?

Starting off with Solar Energy, we are all somewhat familiar with what it is. In a nutshell, Solar Energy is produced from a nuclear fusion which takes place in the sun. This strong energy from this fusion would be then converted to usable electricity and heat through solar panels, and a series of convertors. From this unique way of creating renewable energy, a perk of it would be that it is a clean alternative and does not contribute to pollution or other factors which help progress the escalating rate of climate change. In addition, Solar Energy wastes zero water in the process of conversion and that serves as a benefit for us as we can save more water.

Moving on to the economical and societal aspect of Solar Energy, there are many advantages and benefits, one being that it creates new jobs since more people are deciding to install solar panels. In 2018, the solar industry hired more than 242,000 people, and there is hope that it will increase each year. Although installing solar panels comes with a high initial cost, it lowers the electrical cost of households, as the amount of energy solar panels create can offset average electricity usages.

Entering with Biomass, it is defined as burning organic material from plants and animals, such as wood, manure and crops, and it can be used as fuel directly. In a way, it is similar to Solar power, as both demand energy from the sun, because Biomass from plants get their stored chemical energy from the Sun through photosynthesis. These plants would later be burned to produce heat. Burning is a more conventional way to create Biomass energy, however, there are multiple other ways, like bacterial decay, fermentation, and direct conversion to fuel. To a certain extent, it can be comparable to Solar Energy as it can be regarded as being versatile, since Solar Energy can power up anything at any size. As mentioned previously, Solar Energy is a cleaner energy source when it is compared to Biomass, because burning these materials releases small amounts of greenhouse gases. Although the amount of these gases that are emitted from Biomass are not in big amounts, it can still lead to air pollution and may cause health perils, like asthma and heart attacks. Despite the fact that it does release toxins and cut down trees, it is sustainable, as the materials and resources are renewable. It reduces coal production, and in return, also reduces more carbon emissions. Furthermore, Biomass cuts down on the production of waste too, recycling any agricultural waste. In the aspect of economical factors, likewise, Biomass creates new jobs for locals. It is cost-efficient and energy-efficient, which boosts economic activity. The way of using Biomass Energy to generate electricity is still relatively new, so it can be quite costly. To produce this energy, installing electric plants is necessary, but it can cost up to $4000 per kilowatt.

When we talk about energy, we can also relate to SDG Goal 7, which strives to "ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all." Therefore, how much did we progress globally? From 2001 - 2019, the amount of people who do not have access to electricity went down from 1.4 billion people to 0.7 billion people, and currently 90% of the world’s population are able to afford electricity. However, it does show that there are still many, many people who face physical or economic scarcity with electricity. According to the tracking report, our global energy intensity has decreased and declined which suggests that we had improvements in energy efficiency. The total shares of energy consumption from renewable energy resources are showing a steady increase each year, which implies that more people are switching to renewable energy resources!

Even though there are some forms of progress, the world isn’t on track to achieve SDG Goal 7 in time by 2030. That being the case, we should all unite together, and combat the climate crisis on a huge scale, so that we will be, if not there, at least close to our goal: to provide clean and affordable energy for all.

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