Energy is a vital part of everyday modern life. The global demand for energy is increasing rapidly, particularly in the developing world; the energy consumption within the fast-growing economies of India and China is projected to double by the year 2030.
The scientific evidence for climate change, caused by the build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, continues to strengthen. The vast majority of global emissions, approximately 70%, are caused by the way we produce and use our energy.
In order to tackle climate change renewable and alternative energy resources, which are carbon neutral or carbon-free, are going to play a significant role in future energy production. Renewables also offer an increasingly economically competitive and secure alternative to fossil fuels.
Hydroelectric power, one of the first renewable energy resources to be used by mankind, still plays a prominent role in power production, particularly in mountainous areas.
Wind power has progressed from the simple windmill used to grind corn, to very sophisticated wind turbine systems producing electricity for national power grids. Increasingly wind power farms are being located offshore to ameliorate noise pollution, effects on local wildlife and protect landscape aesthetics.
Solar energy is harnessed either to produce heat and light or for the production of electricity. The generation of electricity is achieved using solar thermal power plants or photovoltaic solar cells. Solar cells convert light energy into electrical energy and are used in applications ranging from powering pocket calculators, to large scale grid-connected power plants.
Biomass is derived from organic material and it can be used to produce electricity, and/or heat and transportation fuel (bio-fuel). Biomass is classified as recent organic matter. It does not include fossil fuels, which have been out of the carbon cycle for millions of years. The carbon released during the combustion of biomass is offset by the carbon absorbed during its growth.
Of the other renewable resources, geothermal power is not as widespread as the others; tidal and wave power has yet to prove its potential.
Hydrogen is becoming popular as an energy storage medium, particularly as a fuel for transportation. It produces no greenhouse emissions and is easy to store and transport.
The Inspec Database covers literature on all of these energy resources in Sections A (Physics) and B (Electrical Engineering & Electronics Abstracts). The relevant classification codes are:
- A8610: Energy resources and their utilisation
- A8610B: Fossil and other fuels
- A8610D: Wind energy
- A8610F: Tidal and flow energy (this includes hydroelectric energy)
- A8610H: Geothermal energy
- A8610K: Solar energy (inc. solar concentrators and space heating)
- A8630P: Photosynthesis (energy conversion) (inc. bioenergy & biomass conversion)
- A8630S: Photothermal conversion (inc. solar collectors and ponds)
- A8640K: Hydrogen storage and technology (inc. hydrogen production, storage, and transportation)
- B82: Generating stations and plants (this section covers power stations/plants utilising the various energy resources mentioned)
- B8210: Energy resources (inc. fuels)
- B8215: Energy Conservation
Solar cells and solar cell arrays are classified under:
- A8630J: Photoelectric conversion; solar cells and arrays
- B8420: Solar cells and arrays