Everything that goes on in this business world of ours is dependent on energy production. We need energy to run our hospitals, our Internet, our entertainment industries. We need energy for administrative HR, healthcare contract management, and virtual software. There’s nothing you can think of that doesn’t require energy. That’s why it’s important we invest heavily in renewable energy and why it’s important that we understand the different models of energy production. There are three generations of renewable energy technology and we are on the cusp of entering the third. Let’s break them down:
The first generation came about during the industrial revolution in the 19th century and are used world-over, from big city grids to third world agriculture. They include hydropower, biomass combustion, geothermal power and heat.
-Hydropower—The energy produced by water and in modern times this has been manifested largely in hydroelectric power. You see hydropower in operation every time you see watermills, sawmills, turbines, and hydraulic pumps.
-Biomass Combustion—The energy derived from biological matter, specifically garbage, wood, waste, landfill gases, and alcohol fuels.
-Geothermal power—Geothermal electricity and heating, which is energy derived from the natural heat of the Earth, is used in dozens of countries often in the form of steam power plants.
The second generation of renewable energy is seen largely in solar power, wind power, modern bioenergy, and solar photovoltaics. These technologies are finally hitting the market in a major way right and offer significant benefits to the environment and global security. As these more advanced renewable energies become mainstream, geopolitical tensions over energy, specifically oil, should be reduced, especially after petroleum goes further into scarcity about midway through the century.
The third generation of renewable energy technology is still in development and won’t see significant market investment until more research is done. The primary examples of what will constitute the third generation are biomass gasification (converting organic matter into gas), biorefineries, solar thermal, hot-dry-rock geothermal, and ocean energy. These technologies are heavily dependent on second generation technologies proving their commercial viability.
The evolution of commercial energy production on this planet is fascinating and shows the fortitude of the human race. But the future demands that we up the ante on our innovation and investment. The continued development of second and third generation technologies, which will help to curb global warming, geopolitical tension, poverty, starvation, and disease, requires significant attention from entrepreneurs and businesses in the private sector.