So, I’m guessing that someone asked about whether or not green energy was a myth as a joke. But then it got me thinking; if your world doesn’t run on fossil fuels or is somehow much cleaner than our world despite being a modern day society, what does it run on?
Here’s what I’ve researched about green energy, and some thoughts on how you can incorporate it into your world.
We are not there yet
Simply put, green energy is not a major source of power yet. Renewable sources that can compete with fossil fuels haven’t been developed yet.
Maybe we’ll be there someday, but that day is not today. It will be as slow a transition as from candles and oil lamps to electricity, I would expect, or as from wooden sailing ships to steam ships. Not an extreme amount of time, but not done in an instant, and not done in all areas at once. It would start in the most developed countries and areas and slowly spread to the more rural or backwater areas.
In any case, here’s what we have.
This is energy taken from the sun. This could be a viable form of energy for your world, but the problem is that to produce large amounts, it would take a lot of space. In a world with a lot of space, this could work, especially if they had no other use for that space, like room for a population or for growing food.
Panels have been used for a long time, but fast solar cars and other vehicles have not been developed, so if this is your world’s primary source of energy, they’d have to find some way to make speedier vehicles, or else simply live with what they have.
Another important note is that solar energy works best in a place with a lot of sunlight, so a cloudy place like Washington state probably wouldn’t do so hot with solar energy.
On another note, a people that had skin that functioned like solar panels would be pretty interesting…
This is energy taken from the wind with large turbines (essentially giant fans). The wind turns the blades, and the kinetic energy is converted into electricity.
Now, there are a few complaints about wind turbines. For one thing, they take up a lot of space, just like solar panels. For another, they kill birds, though not in extreme numbers. Lastly, they’re inconsistent in that the wind isn’t blowing all the time, and when that happens there’s a drop in energy.
A lot of places use fossil fuels to make up for when the wind isn’t blowing, so this method is only so green. If you’re going to use this as your people’s main source of energy, then you need to either have a supplement, or have them live with the facts that some days there’s energy and some days there isn’t.
Wind power has been used for centuries with sailboats. It makes sense that people would try to harness it another way.
Believe it or not, the electric car has been tried before. Way back in 1911, the New York Times ran a piece about how it would always be the preferred car due to being cleaner and quieter.
So why isn’t it the form of transportation now? The batteries for a car like this are very finicky. It was something Thomas Edison couldn’t correct, and even today scientists are working to try to make a better battery.
Electric cars nowadays work, but there are reasons that they aren’t widespread. For one thing, the battery issue: it takes a very long time to charge in exchange for not a lot of power in comparison to a gas-powered car. Another reason is that a lot of people don’t have access to outlets to charge their car. A third is that it certainly isn’t the cheapest car out there.
If your world powers their cars with electricity, widespread access to electricity would be important, similar to the way there are a lot of gas stations in modernized countries. This would mean that people would need to have charging stations in their homes as well.
On the upside, provided your electricity is gotten at least somewhat cleanly, this world should be much cleaner than say, China.
Moving water as a source of electricity. This was a supplier of about 5.8% of US power in 2007. Water has been used as a source of energy for hundreds of years, from your basic water mill to your huge hydroelectric dam.
This requires a source to already be in place, such as a river. The problem is that dams can displace the local wildlife. Otherwise, however, it’s a pretty sound source of electricity.
Since most settlements will require a source of water, there’s a good chance the people in your world will be capable of making this source of power.
So, no, green energy is not a myth. It just has a long way to go.
(Please know I am not a scientist, and so this is a layman’s take on the alternative energy issue.)
Sources: this, this, this