Energy research, environment, applications and sustainable development (pp. 167-198)
Authors: (Abdeen Mustafa Omer)
Abstract: People rely upon oil for primary energy and this for a few more decades. Other orthodox sources may be more enduring, but are not without serious disadvantages. Power from natural resources has always had great appeal. Coal is plentiful, though there is concern about despoliation in winning it and pollution in burning it. Nuclear power has been developed with remarkable timeliness, but is not universally welcomed since construction of the plant is energy-intensive and there is concern about the disposal of its long-lived active wastes. Barrels of oil, lumps of coal, even uranium come from nature but the possibilities of almost limitless power from the atmosphere and the oceans seem to have special attraction. The wind machine provided an early way of developing motive power. The massive increases in fuel prices over the last years have however, made any scheme not requiring fuel appear to be more attractive and to be worth reinvestigation. In considering the atmosphere and the oceans as energy sources the four main contenders are solar energy, wind power, wave power, tidal and power from ocean thermal gradients. The renewable energy resources are particularly suited for the provision of rural power supplies and a major advantage is that equipment such as flat plate solar driers, wind machines, etc., can be constructed using local resources and without the advantage results from the feasibility of local maintenance and the general encouragement such local manufacture gives to the buildup of small-scale rural based industry. The present situation is best characterised as one of very rapid growth for wind and solar technologies and of significant promise for biomass and geothermal technologies. This chapter gives some examples of small-scale energy converters, nevertheless it should be noted that small conventional, i.e., engines are currently the major source of power in rural areas and will continue to be so for a long time to come. There is a need for some further development to suit local conditions, to minimise spares holdings, to maximise
interchangeability both of engine parts and of the engine application. Emphasis should be placed on full local manufacture.