Energy is a point of contention in many interdisciplinary fields because the term has plenty of overlaps. For a quick reminder, think of disciplines such as physics, electrical engineering, water/waterways, engineering (especially fluid energy machines), mining (for fossil fuels and elements for nuclear energy), transportation, and lightning. Additionally, its two sources, renewable and non-renewable, are brought up daily. And, although they’re tied to political frictions, wars, and global panic due to impending shortage, they have also benefitted us immensely. With that, let’s jump straight into energy technology.
What is energy technology?
Energy technology is an engineering science that combines multiple academic disciplines to achieve goals concerning efficiency, especially in conversion, safety, positive environmental impacts, economical benefits, transportation, storage, and utilization of energy. Simultaneously, it seeks to negate or reduce the harmful aspects of energy use on living beings, nature, and the environment, both on the level of a local ecosystem and globally.
Because it’s such as broad field, very few universities and technical colleges offer courses that cover it in its entirety. While this is changing for the better, most educational organizations instead choose to offer apprenticeships and/or specializations in adjacent sciences we mentioned in the beginning.
Examples of energy technology
The following are one of many prominent energy technology examples:
All representatives of transportation technology owe their existence to energy technology. Even if they do not use energy directly, e.g., infrastructure, energy was used to create them. Because there are far too many examples, we’ll delve into the modern technology that’s considered the future.
They’re direct products of electric power engineering, which studies electric motors, batteries, fuel cells, load management, power management, and electric heating. They fulfill multiple tenets of energy technology goals. For one, they extract power stored in the Lithium-Ion batteries. This makes them independent of petrol or gas, e.g., gasoline or natural/liquefied petroleum gas, and thus environmentally friendly.
They’re also emission-free, and less expensive to operate – electricity is often 3 to 4 times cheaper than gas per kWh. Notably, these vehicles break down rarely and are easy to maintain. After all, the few moving parts (if any) require no lubrication. They’re also incredibly efficient – over 77% of the energy translates to power at the wheels. In comparison, gasoline vehicles’ energy conversion efficiency is between 12 and 30%.
2. Solar energy systems
We tallied the pros and cons of solar energy in the past. One thing is for sure – the technology that converts the power of the Sun to electricity is here to stay. While it’s still expensive to install, recent technological advancements have reduced the size of solar panels. They have also increased their efficiency and prolong their lifespan.
Additionally, we plan to exchange regular windows with solar glass, allowing buildings to generate extra energy without design changes. Furthermore, due to low maintenance, solar farms can power private households and entire villages and cities alike, especially those cut off from the grid. Scientists are even exploring space-based solar technology. It would collect solar power in space, then beam it to Earth using microwaves. This substantially boosts collection rates and eliminates energy losses due to atmospheric gasses.
3. Hydropower plants
We also previously analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower plants. They aren’t entirely emission-free if artificial reservoirs are used, and in most cases, they are. However, converting the energy from the water flow to electricity is reliable, adjustable to specific or seasonal needs, and produces no harmful waste. It also plays well with other sources of energy.
To clarify, it can provide backup energy generation when other sources of energy fail to meet the demand. To avoid footing a massive upfront bill for constructions, engineers are starting to dive deeper into tidal turbines, which are currently used on small scale. This type of technology would convert the energy of the tides into electricity.
4. Nuclear power plants
Like the two sources above, we already examined the merits and demerits of nuclear energy. Besides traditional nuclear power plants, which we feel like we investigated in-depth, we’ll mention two other energy technologies that are in the works:
This is a relatively small (about a few tens of meters in length), self-contained unit for nuclear energy generation. It can be flown or shipped to a location, and, at the moment, can produce 10 MW of power yearly, with estimates of 50 MW per year shortly.
Inertial confinement fusion
We already mentioned that nuclear fusion has a few greatly beneficial advantages to nuclear fission. Experts explicitly mention the absence of extraordinarily high radioactivity and minimizing high-degree nuclear waste. While scientists and engineers have been playing with it for decades, this type of energy generation technology didn’t become scientifically sound until 2013. Specialists predict it will become financially viable in the 2020s.
Application of energy technology
Here are some notable areas where energy technology applies:
Powering the world
It’s no secret that our need for energy is constantly rising, and fulfilling it seemed unsurmountable. Scientists predict that, unless we discover new ones, the world’s oil reserves would deplete by 2052, gas by 2060, and coal around 2088. Existing and future energy technologies are hard at work discovering alternatives. Even temporary answers have merit until a permanent solution, such as nuclear fission (in theory), is widely accessible and streamlined.
Positive environmental impact
Another thing that’s no secret is global warming and other climate changes, including pollutions, are intensifying yearly. Slowing the processes down, and, eventually, reversing them, is one of the crucial goals of existing and upcoming energy technologies. Like it or not, our activity is at the forefront, especially that of burning fossil fuels for factory production, agricultural technology, deforestation, transportation, or keeping livestock.
Quality of life
Have you heard of smart houses, buildings, and eventually, cities, that would be remotely or automatically controlled with the help of information technology? Besides benefitting the construction process to make it expend less time, money, and energy, these technologies can provide uninterrupted or on-demand power output. They’ll do it via smart grids and selective power distribution, which can also control connectivity, temperature, lighting, air safety levels, pollution, and much more. Users can even sell excess energy back to the grid, providing a balanced experience to everyone.