• Question: Do you know why people don't use solar and wind energy instead of limited energy sources?

    Asked by sambo1112 to David, Rebecca, Simon, Verity, Wei on 23 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by sackman.
    • Photo: David Armstrong

      David Armstrong answered on 16 Jun 2011:

      The big problem with solar and wind energy is that they are intermittent. This means they are not always producing energy as the sun only shines half the time and the wind doesn’t always blow enough to power a turbine.

      We need a constant power supply so using these technologies is difficult, as we need other types of power station (coal, gas or nuclear) to make up the difference when they aren’t producing enough energy. Lot’s of research is being done into technologies to store energy, so we can use it when we need it, but this is very challenging.

    • Photo: Rebecca Handley

      Rebecca Handley answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Also there is the money factor. For things like cars, it would be difficult and expensive to convert them to use electricity generated by wind or solar energy. But I think as the limited energy sources run out, will we start to use renewable energy sources more and more, which can only be a good thing. As well as wind and solar energy, there is geothermal energy – energy from volcanically activate areas, like geysers or warm rocks. There is also hydroelectric power – energy from waves or waterfalls.

    • Photo: Verity Nye

      Verity Nye answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      The problem is that we consume a humungous amount of energy. Solar and wind energy do not provide is with sufficient energy to meet with these demands. Think about where we live, how much sun and wind we get and how many people there are all demanding energy everday. We all want the energy but few people want a windfarm where they live. Alternative energy sources are still being actively researched. Hopefully in the future we’ll achieve a better balance of reducing consumption and using more sustainable energy sources.

    • Photo: Wei Xun

      Wei Xun answered on 17 Jun 2011:

      Good question!

      Sunlight is certainly a very good renewable energy source, a big problem is that it is not distributed evenly across the world. The best places are the areas around the equator which include several deserts.The DesertTec foundation says that 6 hrs of sunlight recieved by the deserts on Earth is enough to power the world for 1 year. http://www.desertec.org/

      But how do we distribute this power? We might need a cable network across the entire Earth to transport the electricity to the different countries. I guess it’s not too different from the oil and gas pipes we have today but it’s a massive investment, and would the countries where the energy is being generated let us just take their energy, are we good enough friends with them?

      And it’s true that we are used to having energy on demand, 24/7, wind will not deliver that and we would need ways to store this energy, which we have no facilities yet.

      But with some serious thinking and planning, I think renewable energy sources could provide quite a big part of our energy needs, scientists need you guys to help by telling your energy companies that you want energy from re-newable sources!

    • Photo: Simon Trent

      Simon Trent answered on 23 Jun 2011:

      People are starting to use the power of the wind and sun, slowly and gradually. Its just not that efficient at converting that energy into electricity yet. From my house I can see 5 wind turbines on top of a hilland they are always turning and therefore generating lots of energy!