Renewable Energy Facts

Monday, May 10, 2010

Below are some Renewable Energy facts that you might find interesting. We would also like to hear from you if you have additional facts that we have not included. You can submit your entires at the foot of this email. In the meantime, here are the facts you were looking for..


  1. If it could be properly harnessed, enough sunlight falls on the earth in just one hour to meet world energy demands for a whole year
  2. Ever the innovator, Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics 1921 for his ground-breaking experiments with solar power and photovoltaics
  3. A world record was set in 1990 when a solar-powered aircraft flew across the USA in 21 stages, using no fuel at all
  4. About half of worldwide production of solar panels is consumed by Japan. Their purpose is mostly for grid connected residential applications
  5. The sun is 109 times bigger than the Earth. The sun's radius being 696,000km and the Earth's radius 6, 376km
  6. The sun's average surface temperature is 5700 C. The Earth's average temperature is 20 C. And we are worrying about global warming of some 3C!
  7. Solar radiation of about 19% is absorbed by the atmosphere, and clouds reflect a further 35% of the total solar energy. Therefore solar energy received a sea level is much less. Its peak power is generally accepted to be 1,020 W/m²
  8. Solar cells have about a 15% efficiency rate in converting that energy. Therefore solar panels deliver only 19 to 56 W/m² or 0.45-1.35 kWh/m²/day of that average power. But that does not make solar energy inefficient!
  9. The average solar energy falling on Australia is equivalent to about 15.000 (fifteen thousand!) times the nation's present total energy use. At 15% conversion rate that is still more than 2000 times the present need, providing we could capture it all
  10. Africa's Sahara desert, assuming 15% efficient solar cells, could generate more than 450 tarawatt (TW) per year. Current annual global energy consumption, including fossil and renewable sources is about 13 TW
  11. It only takes 1% of the earth's deserts solar energy to provide more electricity than is currently produced by fossil fuels


  1. The largest wind turbine in the world, located in Hawaii, stands 20 storeys tall and has blades the length of a football pitch
  2. One wind turbine can produce enough electricity to power up to 300 homes
  3. An average wind speed of just 14mph is needed to convert wind energy into electricity; that shouldn't be too hard to come by most countries!
  4. There is evidence that wind energy was used to propel boats along the Nile as early as 5000BC
  5. The earliest known windmills were in Persia (Iran) and looked like large paddle wheels
  6. In 200BC people in China and the Middle East used windmills to pump water and grind grain
  7. The UK is the windiest country in Europe, so much so that they could power the whole country several times over using wind energy
  8. Wind is the fastest growing energy source worldwide
  9. Below 8-10 mph wind speed, wind turbines do not generate power and have to cut out for safety reasons above 56 mph
  10. In 2007 it was estimated that only 1 - 2% of the worlds energy supply comes from a renewable wind energy source
  11. In recent years wind energy has provided for over 20% of the power consumption of Denmark, providing energy for a large number of homes and businesses throughout the country each year.
  12. As of 2005, wind energy has successfully provided for roughly 1% of the world's energy needs, with the United States being the third largest wind energy producing country in the world and Germany holding steady as the leader in renewable energy sources.
  13. Experts estimate that in the United States alone if the 10 windiest states were to fully utilize their available wind sources the energy produced could offset the entire coal-based power production facilities currently being used and replace them entirely.
  14. If properly developed, wind power could successfully reduce carbon emissions in the US by at least one third every year and help realize a global carbon dioxide reduction of 4% yearly.
  15. When power provides excellent supplement all income as well, as a landowner with a single utility-scale turbine installed on their property could realize financial gains above at least $2000 a year.
  16. Developing and maintaining a wind turbine power generator is also an excellent source for jobs and has helped provide income for thousands of families in rural areas that may not necessarily be available otherwise.
  17. A basic wind energy generator can be developed at home with basic materials that may be available at your house for a relatively cheap price, allowing for affordable energy production with significantly little cost – something that may not be available in other forms of energy production.
  18. It is estimated that if offshore energy farms were to be developed to feed power directly back into local power grids then the entire energy needs of countries such as the United States could easily be covered as offshore wind energy generators can produce energy at roughly 7 times the efficiency of their onshore variants.
  19. In order to replace all energy consumption needs of the world with wind power production approximately 13% of all land will need to be developed for wind energy purposes, assuming the placement of six large wind power generators per square kilometer in any given area 80 meters above sea level in order to maximize wind energy potential. This can of course be lowered if we were to rely upon offshore wind energy production facilities as well as onshore ones.
  20. As further developments in wind energy production continue to drive down the costs necessary to establish wind energy producers and other developments come about, such as the implementation of vertical axis wind turbines over the traditional horizontal axis wind turbines, wind power is becoming increasingly common even in cities where generators can be found on the tops of some skyscrapers and high-rises residential buildings alike.


  1. Water as a renewable energy power source has been grinding grain for over 2000 years.
  2. Water is the most commonly used renewable energy resource, providing enough power to meet the needs of 28.3 million people


  1. In the Philippines, geothermal power provides 18% of their energy thanks to the presence of volcanoes.
  2. The geothermal energy from the core of the Earth is closer to the surface in some areas than in others. Where hot underground steam or water can be tapped and brought to the surface it can be used to generate electricity
  3. Those clever old Romans not only gave us the modern drainage system and many of our roads, they were also among the first to use geothermal energy to heat houses


  1. 125 years ago biomass was providing up to 90% of our energy needs through the use of wood
  2. Liquid biofuels account for around 2% of road transport fuels worldwide but growth rates and future potential are significant
  3. Woody biomass includes forest products and short rotation coppice (such as willow which are quick to grow and therefore easy to sustain)
  4. Non-woody biomass includes animal waste, industrial and biodegradable municipal products from food processing and high energy crops such as rape, sugar cane and Maize
  5. 40,000 head of cattle can produce enough manure feedstock to generate 5 MW of electricity through biogas.
  6. Ethanol has a higher octane rating than normal gasoline.
  7. Biodiesel can be made with waste oil from restaurant deep fryers.
  8. The main byproduct of biodiesel is glycerine which has over 1,500 applications including food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
  9. Ethanol has been used as a motor fuel in North America since the early 1900s. Ethanol gas blends were used in several states during the Second World War.


Positive Developments For Palm Oil Despite Anti-palm Oil Lobby

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Malaysia's palm oil industry is worth about RM50 billion annually and chances are that revenue may even touch RM60 billion this year, if current prices remain steady until the end of the year.

KUALA LUMPUR, (Bernama) []

That crude palm oil is being sold at RM2,550 a tonne is certainly good news for planters, smallholders and all those associated with the industry.

But then there are detractors. It has been reported that the European Union (EU), through its environmental ministries and commissions, has been involved in funding up to 70 per cent of the operating budgets of environmental NGOs in efforts to paint a not-so-rosy picture about palm oil.

And these NGOs have been viciously campaigning against palm oil imports into the EU, especially for biofuels, says Tan Sri Dr Yusof Basiron, CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, who regards this as a "senseless and immoral attack on exported commodities such as palm oil produced by developing countries."

Writing in his blog, he said, such funding implicates the EU for creating barriers to trade for agricultural products from developing countries.

"Unlike the EU, developing countries do not have access to financial resources to fight such government funded vicious campaigns. The eventual outcome will be untold miseries where poor farmers in developing countries lose their source of income as their export commodities are unable to enter the EU market," he said.

This is something which palm oil-producing countries will have to seriously address if the livelihood of their planters and farmers is to be safeguarded. Almost half a million people are employed by the palm oil industry in Malaysia.

Interestingly, a campaign by Friends of the Earth to pressure the European Commission (EC) to rule "a tree plantation is not a forest" that restricts the recognition of palm oil as a renewable biofuel in the EU may have failed.
According to a newsletter produced by "Palm Oil - Green Development Campaign", this means that the EC may classify oil palm plantations as forests, which would therefore meet the sustainability criteria of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

Under RED, land which used to contain primary forest prior to 2008 but no longer does, cannot be used for biofuel feedstock to meet the EU's 10 per cent target under RED.

It has been reported that the draft guidelines define a "forested area" as "areas where trees have reached, or can reach, at least heights of five metres, making up a crown cover of more than 30 per cent". They would normally include forest, forest plantations and other tree plantations such as palm oil.

"The EC's position would therefore recognise that the important property of tropical forests for climate change policy is the high sequestering capacity of tropical foliage, tall wooded plants and multi-decade crop rotation.

Short rotation coppice [the practice of repeatedly cutting young tree stems down] may qualify if it fulfils the height and canopy cover criteria," the newsletter stated.

It would seem that the EC has recognised the environmental benefits of palm oil as highly energy efficient, high yield and economically beneficial biofuel as the oil palm trees sequester or remove more carbon dioxide than other biofuel crops.

Another development that has put palm oil in positive light is research from Wageningen University in the Netherlands which shows that "palm oil is the most efficient energy crop."

The university's finding is a rejection of environmental NGOs and the anti-palm oil lobbyists who consistently claim that palm oil is unsustainable.

Its research found that palm oil, sugar cane and sweet sorghum are currently the most sustainable energy crops. These commodities also produce "far smaller quantities of greenhouse gases than fossil fuels".

The university's analysis considered nine different energy crops against nine different sustainability criteria with palm oil coming out on top while biofuel from maize from the United States and wheat from Europe scored far lower.

The report's author, Sander de Vries, concluded that sustainable sugar canes and oil palms get the most energy per hectare and cause the least environmental damage.

De Vries also highlighted a major advantage of the oil palm crop was that, unlike other energy crops, it produces enough residue to power the oil extraction processes.

Another positive development for palm oil took place in the European Parliament recently when Dr Gernot Pehnelt, founder and director of GlobEcon, an independent research and consulting institute based in Germany, released a new study that revealed the prejudiced nature of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive towards foreign biofuels.

The report, entitled "European Policies Towards Palm Oil: Sorting Out Some Facts," demonstrated that the assumptions contained in the directive about the ecological impact of foreign biofuels reflected political and not scientific or economic reality.

Dr Pehnelt came to the defence of the rich biodiversity in oil palm plantations, their excellent crown cover that oil palms provide and the yield per hectare advantages of this low-energy and low-fertilizer crop.

"Sadly, many of the claims that foreign biofuels, specifically palm oil, are a threat to the environment are seriously flawed, some even completely unfounded," he said, adding that the side effects of the flawed policies could give rise to political friction and trade disputes to severe economic handicaps for developing countries.

"This new study makes a strong case that RED discriminates against non-EU producers of biofuels, such as Asian palm oil.

"Perhaps most importantly, palm oil acts as a substantial driver of economic growth in the developing world, drastically reducing hunger and poverty in regions that actively cultivate this valuable crop.

"It's time for Europe to not only recognise the energy and environment benefits of palm oil, but also the suffering in low-income, tropical countries that palm oil critics continue to perpetuate," said Dr Pehnelt, who has been invited by MPOC to speak on "European policies towards palm oil - setting the record straight" at the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference in Kota Kinabalu from May 23 to 25.

The MPOC says that the conference will feature the latest developments, breakthroughs and technologies related to the sustainable development of the palm oil industry, with a focus on major issues such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), carbon footprint, sustainable production, certification and branding, biodiversity conservation and the corporate social responsibility of the palm oil industry.

Over the years, palm oil has emerged to have a huge multiplier effect to the Malaysian economy, with almost half a million people employed in the industry.

Additional workforce is also required to run downstream processing industries as palm oil is a multi-commodity industry.

It is not just palm oil, but also palm kernel oil and palm kernel cake, which have different market and applications. Oil palm biomass and methane can also be used to produce electricity.

Currently, there are 600 million oil palms in Malaysia that could be also harvested and converted into fibre products, including medium density fibre boards as well as pulp and paper. Oil palms are also harvested to make furniture.

"Put all this together, palm oil is a very important and vibrant industry, which makes a lot of money for the country," said MPOC's Dr Yusof.

Malaysia has been working very hard to make its palm oil industry environmentally-friendly and socially responsible. Oil palm is only planted on land designated for agricultural production.

Today, Malaysia still maintains 56 per cent of its total land area under forest, thereby keeping its pledge made at the 1992 Rio Summit to keep at least 50 per cent of its land area under forest intact. It is certainly food for thought for the detractors.

Source: Bernama, Yong Soo Heong


Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable (naturally replenished). (From Wikipedia)

Energy Development

Energy development is the ongoing effort to provide abundunt and accessible energy, thorough knowledge, skills and constructions.

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