What is the energy of the future?

Electricity is one of the phenomena that caused the most revolution when it was discovered and is one of the main responsible for the advance of humanity. Today, electrical energy is fundamental to human beings, it is present in some form almost everywhere. Knowing this importance and even dependence on electricity, many types of research are carried out to improve the performance of the ways to generate energy and even new sources of electric energy. Ideally, energy would be generated without harming the environment in an infinite way and as cheaply as possible.

In addition to these concerns, the search for a new source of energy generation occurs thanks to an analysis of current forms of energy generation. Almost all the energy consumed in Brazil comes from Hydroelectric. However, after being punished by severe drought times and water crises, it became clear how this form of power generation is flawed. The biggest problem with using a hydroelectric as the main source of energy is the dependence on meteorological issues for the full functioning of this plant. In addition to that water is used for consumption in other human activities.

In the situation of lack of hydroelectric plants, thermoelectric plants come into action. They are more complex plants, but very flexible when it comes to “turning the plant on and off”. The problem is that this type of plant emits pollutants, and to be built and put into operation, a series of bureaucratic processes is required, which can take years. The generation of energy through the winds, wind energy, can also be questioned, however, it is not a regular energy source, taking into account that there is no regularity of the winds. From this, the major competitors for the title of the energy of the future are solar energy and nuclear energy.

Solar power plants

Solar plants are referred to as installations that use a large number of photovoltaic solar panels to generate electrical energy. These photovoltaic solar panels are composed of solar cells, which capture solar radiation, which causes a difference in potential, generating electrical energy. Solar cells have the photovoltaic effect to absorb solar radiation and make the electric current flow between two layers with opposite charges.

Operation of a Solar Plant

The direct conversion of solar energy into electrical energy occurs due to the effects of solar radiation on certain materials, usually semiconductors. In the photovoltaic effect, photons contained in sunlight are converted into electrical energy through the use of solar cells. In the photovoltaic effect, electrons transit from the light incidence and are transferred between different energy bands (valence bands for conduction bands) within the solar cell material itself, resulting in a potential difference (voltage).

Descriptive image of a Solar Plant.

Costs of a Solar Plant

Solar energy costs are generally high. But this does not serve as a justification for not applying this energy source, since the expenses with the construction of a hydroelectric plant, for example, are large. In the same way that hydroelectric plants pay for this construction investment in the course of their operation, solar plants are also able to pay their investment cost during operation. In addition, because it is not widely used, there is no competitive market with regard to the prices of components used in the generation of solar energy.

Solar energy as energy of the future

Solar energy is a strong candidate to be the energy of the future because it is very promising. The photovoltaic effect was observed for the first time in 1839, by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel, since then there have not been many studies on this effect. If solar energy were widely used, new studies would appear to increase the efficiency of the use of solar cells. Another favorable point for this type of generation is that the main responsible for the generation of energy is the sun. Solar radiation is found in abundance on the planet, in addition to being an infinite source, a clean energy that does not emit any type of pollutant.

Nuclear or Atomic Thermo Plant

The installation which is dedicated to producing electricity through nuclear energy, characterized by the use of radioactive materials that, through a nuclear action, produce heat. Nuclear power plants use this heat to generate steam and drive a turbine connected to a generator, producing electrical energy. At first it may seem complex, but nuclear power plants use the same principle of operation as thermal power plants.

Operation of a Nuclear Plant 

Nuclear power plants have one or more reactors, which are radiation-impermeable compartments, whose bars or other geometric configurations of minerals with some radioactive elements, usual uranium, are placed inside. In the process of radioactive decomposition, a chain reaction is established that is sustained and moderated through the use of auxiliary elements of the type of technology employed.

Schematic diagram of a PWR nuclear power plant.

Costs of a Nuclear Plant

Today the costs applicable in the construction of nuclear plants are low, less and less is invested in these plants, and one of the main factors that contribute to this is the economic issue. Nuclear power is an expensive way of producing energy. In addition to the great planning, approval and construction time.

Nuclear energy as energy of the future

Nuclear energy can be considered the energy of the future mainly because it uses a renewable source as an energy source. Besides that with a small amount of uranium, for example, it is possible to produce energy for a long time. In France, 80% of the electricity consumed in the country is from a nuclear source. Nuclear plants are less polluting because they do not burn fuels that are focused on the process of obtaining heat and steam, so they do not emit pollutants into the atmosphere.

It is not possible to determine which of these strong candidates will actually be the energy of the future. What is known is that dependence on hydroelectric plants is unfavorable in a scenario of scarcity and water rationing. Therefore, studies must be carried out so that an adequate source of energy can be surveyed, thus providing the continuity of humanity’s development through electrical energy.