Energy of the future: what will replace oil and coal: economic articles ➕1, 29/03/2022

solar power plant

Photo: Mlenny/iStock

In one form or another, the energy of the sun and wind has been used since ancient times. For most of human history, sailing ships propelled by wind power have been used. The ancients knew how to focus sunlight to make a fire; Wood, grass, and dry algae served as fuel.

In the later stages of the development of civilization, man began to use fossil fuels: oil, coal, peat. But nature’s resources are not limitless, and humanity’s energy needs are increasing every year. The consequences of burning fossil fuels – climate change and pollution – are rampant.

Ensuring universal access to modern, reliable, sustainable and affordable sources of energy is one of the seventeen sustainable development goals of the United Nations for the period up to 2030. To implement it, it is necessary to increase the share of renewable energy sources (RES).

Greenpeace experts predict that humanity will be able to completely switch to renewable energy by 2050. “Green” energy will require investments of about $1 trillion per year, but the costs will be offset by lower costs for traditional fuels.

The efficiency of RES has already been confirmed by the experience of many countries. In energy production in Sweden, their share is 55%, Denmark – 36%, Finland – 45%. Russia has also begun – albeit at a very slow pace – to prepare for the energy transition.

In order for energy and industry in Russia to remain competitive, it is necessary to actively and systematically introduce renewable energy sources. According to the Analytical Center of the Government of the Russian Federation, by 2040, the consumption of renewable energy will increase by 93%. However, in absolute terms, the share of renewable sources will remain small. Wind and solar power generation will provide 50% of the increase.

Kosh-Agach SPP is the largest solar power plant in the Altai Mountains

Photo: avtk/iStock

The European Solar Energy Association SolarPower Europe has calculated that 2.6% of the world’s electricity is generated using solar energy. According to the 2019 International Renewable Energy Agency, China, the United States, Japan, Germany and India are the leaders in terms of solar capacity.

There are two ways to convert solar energy:


Photoelectric. The sun’s energy instantly turns into electricity.


Concentrated solar energy. First, they receive thermal energy, and then electrical energy. To do this, the liquid is heated, and the resulting steam is sent to a turbine equipped with a generator, as in a conventional thermal power plant.

Most experts emphasize that the development of solar energy is possible not only in hot countries and regions. For example, in Yakutia there are solar and diesel plants that operate even at a temperature of -50 ° C. In Russia, the most promising regions for solar energy development are the North Caucasus, the Stavropol Territory, the Orenburg region, the Astrakhan region, Siberia, the Trans-Baikal Territory and the Primorsky Territory.

Solar energy is especially useful for remote areas where diesel generators are used to generate electricity. In such projects, the construction of solar power plants pays off through savings in logistics and fuel. Thus, in 2013, a solar and diesel power plant with a capacity of 100 kW was commissioned in the village of Yailu, Altai Republic.

The following consumer groups are also interested in the solar industry:

individually. You can install a solar panel with a capacity of up to 15 kW and sell the excess electricity generated.

Small and medium-sized companies. Most often, he buys installations with a capacity of 10-15 kW for 600-800 thousand rubles.

Big companies. For example, a solar power plant operates at the Gazprom Neft plant in Omsk and at the RED (Russian Electric Motors) plant in Chelyabinsk.

Industrial enterprises that send products for export. By 2026, Europe will impose a carbon tax on imported goods. Using RES will avoid additional costs.

The development of solar energy in Russia is hampered by its low availability compared to other resources, in particular gas. In Europe, renewable energy sources are almost equal in cost to conventional energy. Another factor is the high rate of lending to SMEs. So, in Germany it is 2-3%, and in our country – 10-20%.

The largest solar power plant in Russia, Uran, is located in the Orenburg region. It covers an area of ​​120 hectares and consists of 200,000 photovoltaic cells.

Balakovo NPP


Nuclear energy is based on the fission of atomic nuclei with the release of thermal energy. Modern nuclear power plants (NPPs) can operate for up to 80-100 years, saving the Earth from emitting billions of tons of greenhouse gases. Unlike coal, uranium fuel does not “burn” to the end and can be used to make new fuels. This allows you to organize a closed production cycle with minimal waste.

According to United Nations statistics for December 2021, there are 443 nuclear reactors in operation in 32 countries of the world, and another 55 reactors are under construction. All nations using nuclear energy are responsible for safe generation. The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant occurred in 1986 due to defects in the design of the reactor and serious personnel errors. Modern nuclear power plants are equipped with more advanced systems that prevent the release of radiation. Russian NPPs use four barriers:


A fuel granule prevents the release of radiation under the cover of the fuel element.


Zirconium casing for the fuel element.


The main spin circle that carries the products of fission of atoms.


A tight containment system that can withstand a plane crash or earthquake of up to 8 degrees.

Rosatom generates about 20% of the country’s electricity. Thanks to nuclear power plants, electricity is supplied to millions of apartment buildings, hundreds of factories and thousands of schools. The largest producer of nuclear energy in Russia is the Balakovo NPP. It generates 30 billion kilowatt hours annually. In the rating of the most powerful power plants in the world, Balakovo NPP takes 51st place.

Hydrogen is an efficient energy source. When burned, it releases approximately three times as much heat (1.17 GJ/kg) as oil and four times as much as natural gas and coal. According to forecasts of experts from the Hydrogen Energy Council, in 2050 this type of fuel will save about 18% of global energy consumption.

Hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis of water, natural gas or nuclear energy, so its reserves are renewable. But on the way to the mass introduction of hydrogen energy, there are barriers to overcome. Rosatom experts are working to reduce the cost of hydrogen production. In addition, storage and transportation problems are solved, since hydrogen occupies a larger volume than other fuels.

Adygei wind farm

Photo: Igor Unuchin/TASS

Wind has long been used as a driving force, including shipping, flour milling, and pumping stations. Modern technologies make it possible to include them in the process of power generation. The wind rotates the blades, and the generator converts their movement into energy.

Wind energy is developing faster than other renewable energy technologies. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, wind generation capacity in 1997-2018 increased 75 times, from 7.5 gigawatts to 564 gigawatts.

Wind power does not pollute the air, but environmentalists have questions about that. During the operation of the wind farm, noises and vibrations occur that frighten animals and birds. In addition, there are risks associated with blade separation. So far, these factors do not cause serious concern. Thus, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), birds die from the feathers of a wind farm 3.5 thousand times less than when they meet with cats.

The most powerful wind farm in Russia is Rosatom’s Adygei WPP. It consists of 60 units with a capacity of 2.5 megawatts each. The plant generates 354 million kilowatt hours annually.

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Vera Zykareva


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