Heat Is A Transfer Of Energy Which Flows Due To Can Industry Rely on Renewable Sources For Its Energy Needs?

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Can Industry Rely on Renewable Sources For Its Energy Needs?

The US is gradually realizing that fossil fuels are no longer a viable energy option, not only because of their impact on the environment, but also on the economy. According to the Environmental Law Institute, fossil fuel subsidies, from 2002 to 2008, totaled a staggering $72 billion. Because the U.S. economy is deeply dependent on fossil fuels, transitioning to cleaner, cost-effective, and sustainable renewable energy sources can be challenging.

Industry needs reliable and affordable energy to remain productive and competitive. At the same time, it needs to balance between its growing demand for energy and the urgent need to protect the environment.

Industry accounts for more than a third of total energy consumption in the US, and 70%-80% of this sector’s energy demand is for heat production. Given the current concerns about global warming, environmental pollution, energy security and industrial competitiveness, there is increasing pressure on industry to use modern, clean and efficient energy sources. By 2007, only 8.5% of total energy demand in the US was met from renewable energy sources. However, technologies based on the sun, wind and biomass have shown considerable potential and are waiting to be used not only for domestic use, but also for industrial energy purposes.


Energy is the largest industry in the world. It drives both the manufacturing and service sectors, and is estimated at about $7 trillion TWh. The consequences of excessive dependence on fossil fuels for energy have an impact on the environment and people. With the growing recognition of the negative effects of fossil fuel use, research and development in the renewable energy sector is receiving serious attention.

According to market studies, investment in renewable energy sources is growing by 45% annually – essentially doubling every two years. Energy produced from alternative sources is expected to become cost competitive compared to energy produced from fossil fuels, especially if the costs of fossil fuel pollution are factored in. This is increasingly the case with the CO2 production tax. Despite the drive toward alternative energy, the US used renewable energy sources such as hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass to meet only 8.5% of its total energy needs in 2007.

Alternative energy sources

Although there are many alternative energy sources, not all of them can be used in large quantities, while others have problems with reliability.

Solar energy

Direct conversion of sunlight into electricity using solar cells is a promising technology and is already widely used. Solar energy is especially useful for remote locations that are constantly off the grid and face constant power outages.

Wind energy

Wind has the potential to be a significant source of electricity. However, its sustainability depends on the location of the windmill. Wind energy development in the US is currently the largest in the world. Wind is also a clean, low-cost, low-maintenance way to generate power, but like solar power, the problems of storing large amounts of wind-generated electricity remain a concern.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal sources enable continuous energy production, which is in contrast to alternative energy sources such as wind or sun. Geothermal energy can boast the best base load percentage, i.e. energy availability 95% of the time. The footprint of a geothermal power plant is minimal, and the resource is long-lasting; the original geothermal power plant, more than a century old, continues to produce electricity to this day. Geothermal energy produces energy with little or no emissions. It is also a proven technology, with low operating costs; there is no need for fuel once the plant is built and it insulates producers from commodity shocks, unlike fossil fuels.

Three aspects of the alternative energy system

While alternative energy seems increasingly feasible, its distribution and consumption cannot become a reality without a certain infrastructure. The first infrastructure requirement is energy storage systems – this is particularly important as renewable energy such as solar and wind is not produced all the time. Another requirement is a smart grid that can be used to distribute not only energy produced from alternative energy sources, but also from fossil fuels. A smart grid must be extremely sensitive to fluctuations in energy supply, transmission leaks and failures. The third infrastructure requirement is a smart meter that allows people to monitor their energy consumption and regulate its use, especially at certain times of the day when the price of energy can change. The fourth infrastructure requirement is energy-efficient transformers that reduce energy wastage during distribution.

Energy storage systems

The concept of storing utility-generated electricity has been tried since the 1960s, however, these large-scale storage projects have been more common in nuclear power plants. From 2005 onwards, American Electric Power (AEP) took the lead in adding large amounts of battery energy storage in substations. A distributed energy storage approach was used to test peak load management and improve system reliability by deploying systems in 2 MW sizes. Battery systems provide a new alternative for power management in a distribution substation, and during outages, power can be restored to customers as the substation runs on battery power.

Smart grid

Simply put, a smart grid is dynamic and has constant two-way communication. It represents a significant departure from the outdated electricity distribution infrastructure owned by utility companies towards a networked infrastructure that directly connects utility companies with customers. The smart grid puts renewable energy on the grid and makes the distribution system efficient, reliable and flexible.

The smart grid introduces a complete change in perspective and moves away from technical things like energy production and distribution to illuminate the human face, the face of the consumer. The consumer becomes part of the smart grid and can use energy more efficiently. Smart Grid also allows consumers to reduce demand, allows utilities to use efficient generators, and enables the use of more renewable energy sources. The smart grid is a key enabler of solutions to reduce global warming.

Smart meters

The heart of a smart grid are “smart meters” that establish two-way communication between utilities and customers. Meters give consumers a wide range of information about their energy consumption – and therefore, some control over their energy savings. Since the utility company has different costs for producing energy at different times, everyone can save if electricity consumption is reduced at times of highest costs. Utilities may transmit different rates/kWh at different times of the day or week, and the customer can use this information to take advantage of the lowest prices.

The smart meter also monitors consumption at different times and totals the bill without a meter reader. Smart meters can notify a utility company when a power outage has occurred at a specific location, so they can know immediately when and where a power outage occurs.

Energy efficient transformers

Old and inefficient power transformers waste hundreds of TWh of energy every year; the reasons for the losses are many, including inefficient cores.

Compliant transformers can maintain a National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Class 1 efficiency level at 35% load. This is achieved by using high-quality grain steel in the core instead of standard non-grain steel. Grain steel offers a thinner thickness and higher quality metal material, reducing the heat caused by eddy currents by limiting the direction in which the current flows. Narrowing the magnetic field into a thinner profile also reduces the effect of canceling opposing currents. Increasing the energy efficiency of the transformer allows the organization to operate at the same level of efficiency with less energy.

Compliant transformers cost more than their lower-efficiency predecessors due to the higher cost of grain-oriented steel, additional labor, and higher raw material costs. While compliant transformers increase construction and maintenance costs, end users save over the lifetime of the transformer.

Can industry rely on renewable sources for its energy needs? The popularity of renewable energy is growing rapidly and prices are falling so that renewable energy will soon be competitive with fossil fuels. Most industries rely heavily on stable energy supplies, and with fossil fuel costs constantly rising and fluctuating, renewable energy seems to be the answer. A number of companies like Pacific Crest Transformers are in the process of creating reliable enough renewable energy for industry.

Similar to rectifier transformers, wind turbine step-up transformers are designed for harmonics, additional load and have electrostatic shields to prevent transmission of harmonic frequencies between the primary and secondary windings.

Renewables still have a long way to go in terms of reliability and cost-effectiveness before the industry can fully rely on its own supply, but until then the industry needs to take small steps to help make a big turnaround. The US is the world leader in wind energy production and it is time for the industry to support these efforts by using wind energy to partially meet its requirements.

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