I am no expert on energy; this is my first post or paper on it. And, as a result it is a short one, really one that asks a question I am surprised I have not seen asked or answered in print before.
Each of these four forms have one thing in common: they tap a source of energy that is part of the earth’s natural system. Because we all know that energy is never destroyed, it is only degraded and therefore less concentrated and usable. That is bad. Even though ‘harvesting’ each concentrates it a bit, when it is used it is degraded again, perhaps adding heat to the earth’s surface.
Right now, we all think of how each of these “renewable” forms of energy avoid generating greenhouse gases, but they also reduce the energy floating around on the earth, possibly reducing the earth’s temperature. This would be a silver-lining secondary effect that I have never seen discussed with the general public.
1. Wind energy consists of sticking wind rotors into the air, with the effect of reducing wind speeds.
2. Solar energy means intercepting solar rays on their way to the earth’s surface, reducing its temperature.
3. Geo-thermal energy siphons off the heat trapped below the earth’s crust by circulating water deep into the ground, a kind of earth ‘radiator.’
4. Wave energy reduces the surface movements of the larger bodies of water. (Tidal energy is a form of hydroelectricity, which I suspect is not a growth industry, at least in the fresh-water ecology).
And there may be other forms of energy we will yet ‘invent’ that will also tap another form of natural energy that is just ‘out there’ in a low-density format that can be ‘concentrated’ through a system of ‘harvesting’ it.
Right now, the amount of such energy being ‘harvested’ is so small its impacts on our thermal ecology is probably not able to be measured, but in scaling each process upwards to replace the planet’s prodigious appetite for energy, it probably will.
So, what is the answer?