Onshore and offshore wind farms may represent the vast majority of wind produced energy, but a number of initiatives around the world are examining the potential of high-altitude solutions to global energy concerns. PES takes a look at the innovative ideas…
The problem of sustainable energy generation is one of the most urgent challenges that mankind is facing today. On the one hand, the world energy consumption is continuously growing, mainly due to the development of non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, and an increase of about 45 – 50 per cent in energy consumption, with respect to the actual value, is estimated for the year 2030.
On the other hand, the problems related to the actual and projected distribution of energy production among the different sources are evident and documented by many studies. Most of the global energy needs are actually covered by fossil sources (i.e. oil, coal and natural gas). Fossil sources are supplied by few producer countries, which own limited reservoirs, and the average cost of energy obtained from such sources is continuously increasing due to the increasing demand, related to the rapid economy growth of the highly populated non-OECD countries. Moreover, the negative effects of energy generation from fossil sources on global warming and climate change, due to excessive carbon dioxide emissions, and the negative impact of fossil energy on the environment are recognised worldwide and lead to additional indirect costs. Such a situation gives rise to serious geopolitical and economic problems, affecting almost all of the world’s countries.
One of the key points to solve these issues is the use of a suitable combination of alternative and renewable energy sources. Excluding hydropower (which is not likely to increase substantially in the future, because most major sites are already being exploited or are unavailable for technological and/or environmental reasons), the main issues that hamper the growth of renewable energies are the high investment costs of the related technologies, their non-uniform availability and the low generated power density per unit area.