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Top 7 Most Promising Energy Sources of the Future

Overview of Current Global Energy Production

Energy is always a hot topic. The price of oil, environmental protection, the health of the economy and of political agendas. Regardless of these issues, there are two types of energy in the world. Renewable and non-renewable. Renewable energy comes from sources that can usually be replenished within a small amount of time, such as from the sun or wind. While non-renewable energy is created by resources that cannot replenish or take millions of years to regenerate. These sources include coal, oil and natural gas, also known as fossil fuels. Whether it is in 10 years or 50 years, there will eventually be no fossil fuels to rely on. Here’s a quick look at the current energy supply globally:

In the International Energy Agency (IEA) Key World Energy Statistics 2021 Report; oil, coal and natural gas were the largest contributors to the world energy supply in 2019. Oil was responsible for 30.9%, while coal accounted for 26.8% and natural gas contributed 23.2% to the global energy supply. Renewable sources made up less of the world's energy supply: nuclear accounted for 5.0%, hydroelectricity was 2.5% and biomass was 9.4%. Lastly, other energy sources including wind, solar, wave and many others were responsible for 2.2% of the world's energy supply [1].

Top 7 Energy Sources in 50 Years

The use of renewable energy sources is predicted to increase in the global energy supply over the next decades. While, the utilization of most non-renewable sources is expected to decrease [2]. So let’s fast forward 50 years. Here is what we could expect to see for the energy of the future:

7. Wave Energy

Wave energy is a type of energy that uses the movement of the ocean’s waves to generate electricity. Electricity is produced as the waves move through the ocean; it will cause the turbines placed in the water to spin, creating electricity. There are a few different technologies that can be used to make turbines in the ocean spin such as oscillating water columns and overtopping devices. There are other devices that use the up/down movement of waves to generate electricity such as point absorbers.

Advantages

  • Wave energy is a renewable energy source
  • While generating electricity, wave energy does not produce any harmful emissions

Disadvantages

  • Wave energy structures are expensive to install in the ocean
  • The technology cannot be used anywhere - it must be installed in regions beside an ocean with waves that would produce sufficient electricity

Ocean waves

6. Solar Energy

Solar energy is a type of energy that uses the sun’s rays to create electricity. The sunlight is captured by solar photovoltaic (PV) cells also known as solar panels to generate usable electricity [3].

Advantages

  • A renewable, clean and quiet energy source
  • Solar panels can be installed onto homes or offices, providing owners with decreased electric bills and a energy source that requires little maintenance

Disadvantages

  • The time, season, geographical region and weather all affect how much electricity solar panels generate [3]
  • In the manufacturing process of PV cells, toxic materials are used

Solar Panels

5. Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is captured heat from below the earth’s crust. Geothermal power is generated from the radioactive decay in the earth’s crust. It can be utilized to heat or cool homes, as well as produce electricity [4].

Advantages

  • Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source
  • Geothermal energy isn’t dependent on weather or season, meaning the energy source can generate a relatively consistent and reliable amount of power

Disadvantages

  • The geothermal power plants can only be constructed in areas where the energy source is easily accessible
  • Building a geothermal plant has an expensive upfront cost

Geothermal Power Plant

4. Biomass Energy

Biomass energy also known as bioenergy is created from waste (biomass) of plants or animals. The waste from plants and animals can include vegetable oil, crops, manure or wood products [5]. A common method for creating electricity with biomass is through direct combustion. Direct combustion creates steam to cause turbines to spin, which simulates a generator to create electricity [6].

Advantages

  • Biomass energy is a renewable energy source, as the resources that are burned grow back in a short amount of time
  • Bioenergy decreases the amount of plant and animal waste that ends up in landfills

Disadvantages

  • Burning biomass creates emissions such as methane
  • Growing biomass can require significant space and water

Biomass/Wood

3. Wind Energy

Wind energy also known as wind power uses wind turbines to generate electricity. The sun is responsible for creating wind power, as the disparities in temperature produce wind. Often multiple wind turbines are built together, known as a wind farm [7]. There can be onshore or offshore wind farms.

Advantages

  • Wind energy is a renewable and clean energy source
  • Wind turbines can bring extra revenue for farmers, as they can lease out their farmland to wind energy companies [8]

Disadvantages

  • Wind turbines are expensive to build and noisy
  • The variability in wind strength means the turbines could be producing different amounts of electricity at different times

offshore-wind-energy

2. Hydroelectric Energy

Hydroelectric energy also known as hydroelectric power uses the flow of water to produce electricity. Today, hydropower is generated by constructing a hydroelectric dam on a body of water. The water moves from the top of the dam through the turbines, which produces electricity. Then, the water exits out the bottom of the dam.

Advantages

  • Hydroelectric power is a renewable energy source
  • Hydroelectric energy is a very efficient energy source compared to others

Disadvantages

  • Hydroelectric dams are costly to built
  • The construction of dams can harm aquatic wildlife

Hydroelectric plant

1. Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is a type of energy from the nucleus of an atom. There are two ways nuclear energy is generated: nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Currently, only nuclear fission can safely produce electricity. Nuclear fission is the process of separating atoms. It produces electricity by using uranium to create chain collisions resulting in the release of radiation and heat. In turn, when the heat combines with water it creates steam that turns the turbines, consequently generating electricity [9].

Advantages

  • Nuclear power produces consistent and larger amounts of electricity compared to other energy sources
  • After the construction, the energy source has relatively cheap operating costs

Disadvantages

  • Nuclear energy is hazardous as there is a risk of accidents - exposure to radiation from plants is dangerous to people and the environment
  • Nuclear energy isn’t renewable as there is only a certain amount of uranium on the earth

Nuclear Energy Plant

Optimizing Efficiency in Energy Plants with ROVs

Energy efficiency is important in power plants as it allows plants to produce the maximum amount of energy possible. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) or underwater drones can help enhance the ability to produce energy efficiently in nuclear, coal, hydroelectric plants and offshore wind farms. There are several ways ROVs help optimize energy production, these ways are through:

Inspections and Maintenance Schedules

Finding structural problems on power plants is essential as the issues could be harming energy production. Inspections with ROVs can help identify if there are any issues with a power plant’s submerged infrastructure that require maintenance. By using the high-quality imaging and camera rotation of the ROVs, operators can establish; where maintenance needs to be done, the type of repair necessary and the condition of the structural components. For example, a customer-owned utility Eugene Water and Electric Board, were able to find out why the stoplogs on their hydro plant were not creating a watertight seal. Using a ROV, the utility organization determined the cause, which was debris on the beams. Ultimately, ROVs can find minor problems before they cause massive issues to energy production.

ROVs provide a more convenient and accurate method for scheduling maintenance. The vehicles allow for operators to perform affordable routine inspections. Completing regular inspections allows users to monitor the condition of their plant's submerged structures, making it easier to plan out when they will need repair. As well, regular examinations help operators perform maintenance when necessary rather than performing it on the traditional calendar-based method.

Emergency Response

On a power plant, there can be times where a component unexpectedly breaks, preventing or reducing the ability of the plant to generate energy. When this occurs, often operators will have to hire and wait for a considerate amount of time for a dive team to inspect the issue. However, with speedy deployment times, ROVs can be ready to inspect submerged infrastructure on the plant within 30 seconds. Ultimately, allowing operators to immediately find the type and location of a problem. As a result, the user can schedule and perform repairs as soon as possible.

Keep Operations Running During Inspection

When performing crucial inspections, often an entire power plant must be shut down to keep the divers who are surveying safe. While the plant is closed, there is no energy being generated. However, inspection with ROVs allows for examinations to occur, while some of the plant remains operational. As a result, some energy will be produced during inspections.

One engineering company, GENIFAB, noted how they were able to use a ROV to inspect a hydroelectric dam without shutting down the entire plant. One of the employees, Donald Dupont noted, “for instance, we can inspect a draft tube on one group while the other groups are operating.”

Talk to us about how ROVs make structural inspections safer and easier

Contact Industry Specialist

Minimize The Use of Divers

As mentioned above, divers can hinder energy production on a power plant by increasing inspection times and needing to shut down the plant. However, lessening the use of divers can have other benefits for inspections. Hiring dive teams for inspections can be expensive, as well as when plants are shut off, it can be costly. Additionally, performing inspections can be risky for divers, especially in confined and hazardous spaces. ROVs are able to access these areas, increasing safety as divers are kept out of these dangerous scenarios.

Che Swearengen from Ontario Power Generation (OPG) noted the benefits of ROVs keeping divers out of dangerous situations. For example, Swearengen explained when inspecting a water service tank in a nuclear plant, they used a ROV for inspection. This was done as it kept divers from coming into contact with radiological uptake.

However, if divers are needed for inspections or repairs, ROVs can be used to improve safety and time. ROVs can help monitor divers, plan out the needed work before divers enter the water or be an extra set of eyes to divers.

Improving Power Plant Inspections with Deep Trekker

ROVs are extremely useful in improving the efficiency of power plant inspections. The DTG3 ROV, PIVOT ROV and REVOLUTION ROV offer numerous advantages that make surveys fast, affordable and safe. These vehicles are easy to transport around an energy production facility. As well, the robots are designed to be easy to operate and maneuver in confined spaces. Ultimately, making Deep Trekker ROVs the best tool for completing thorough and effective examinations.

In addition, Deep Trekker vehicles’ versatility makes them the ideal tool to deploy in a variety of electric production plants - including hydroelectric power, offshore wind farms, nuclear generation plants and offshore oil & gas platforms

If you are looking for a ROV to enhance your ability to inspect power plants, our team of industry experts at Deep Trekker are happy to help answer your questions! Reach out to get your customized quote today!


References

[1] IEA (2021), Key World Energy Statistics 2021, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/key-world-energy-statistics-2021
[2] IEA (2021), World Energy Outlook 2021, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2021
[3]Energy Information Administration (EIA). (2021, December 6). Solar Explained. Eia.gov. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/solar/
[4]U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (2021, December 12). Geothermal Explained. Eia.gov. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/geothermal/
[5]Cruickshank, W., & Robert, J., & Silversides, C. (2014). Biomass Energy. In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/biomass-energy
[6] Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (2020). Biopower Basics. Energy.gov. https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy/biopower-basics
[7]Natural Resources Canada. (2020, March 2). Wind Energy. Nrcan.gc.ca. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/energy-sources-distribution/renewables/wind-energy/7299
[8] Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Energy.gov. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy
[9] Galindo, A. (2022, February 8). What is Nuclear Energy? The Science of Nuclear Power. Iaea.org; International Atomic Energy Agency. https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/what-is-nuclear-energy-the-science-of-nuclear-power

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