Thursday, April 16, 2015

To The Citizens of The United States of America (Part 2):

(This is a research paper I wrote for a class at BVU, just my thoughts, sorry if the citations are written incorrectly, but I'm a music major, not an English major. Enjoy the information for what it represents.)
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Renewable energy sources are not new concepts at all. They have been tried at different times over the years, usually less than successfully. With advances that have been made in technology, renewable energies are making a comeback and showing much promise.

Wind energy dates back thousands of years, beginning with the drying of a loin cloth to a simple sail on a boat. It has been used to power grain mills. It has been used to power pumps for wells, bringing water to the surface. The potential for wind energy is huge!

Did you know that one megawatt of power equals a reduction of 2,600 tons of carbon dioxide? Or that the same megawatt will save 1,293 million gallons of water? What about the fact that, in 2004, each resident of Massachusetts produced 4.5 tons of carbon dioxide through their use of electricity (howstuffworks.com)?

Between 2008 and 2009, wind energy increased 31%; however, it still only produced 1.9% of electricity used in the United States. 38 states currently have wind farms and of those, 14 states produce more than 1,000 MW a year. The top five wind energy states produce enough electricity to power the state of Colorado (howstuffworks.com)!

There is so much potential in wind energy. Wind turbines are actually placed on a mere 1% of the total land designated a wind farm. This means the loss of land for grain farming or pasture land is minimal, giving farmers and ranchers the opportunity to “double-crop” their land. One acre of corn generates $1,000 worth of ethanol in a year, but by putting a wind turbine on that same acre, you have just produced $300,000 worth of electricity, plus your corn crop (World on the Edge)!

According to nationalgeographic.com, “Wind is a clean source of renewable energy that produces no air or water pollution. And since the wind is free, operational costs are nearly zero once a turbine is erected. Mass production and technology advances are making turbines cheaper, and many governments offer tax incentives to spur wind-energy development.”

Another renewable energy is solar power. 173,000 Terawatts of solar energy hit the Earth every day: 10,000 times the world’s use (energy.gov). We will never be able to absorb that much solar energy to convert into electricity, but that shows how much potential there is in solar energy, especially since we are currently only producing less than 1% of the world’s power usage (nationalgeographic.com).

Solar energy works by light reflecting off mirrors to boilers which contain water.  When the water boils, it produces steam that turns a turbine, creating electricity. The largest solar project is being built in the Mohave Desert in California: 350,000 mirrors. When this project is completed, it will provided electricity for 140,000 homes (energy.gov).

If you were to put one 10kw solar panel on your home, it could provide enough electricity equal to reducing 11.7 tons of carbon dioxide in one year (renewablegreenenergypower.com)! They can be easily placed on your home, both on and off the grid. In some states, if you place them on your home “on the grid”, you are able to sell the portion of the unused energy to the power company at a rate determined by the state. Even though this rate is generally less than what you are paying for electricity, if the power isn't used or stored, then that power is simply lost (cleanenergyauthority.com).

Like wind power, the start-up cost for solar energy is higher while the continual operating costs are minimal once the technology is in full swing, unlike fossil fuels, which have a “lower” start-up cost, but the operating costs associated with them are higher.

Geothermal energy is another renewable energy which comes from the earth’s heat. Most of the geothermal activity takes place in the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, and also along fault lines, near volcanoes, and hot springs. There are many other areas where it can be produced as well if you are willing to dig wells to tap into the hot water supply found a mile or more underground.

Geothermal energy has much greater start-up costs, but can essential heat and cool your home for less than 10c/kw. It burns clean with little greenhouse emissions and is currently supplying less than 10% of the world’s energy (conserve-energy-future.com).

Every year we increase our use of these renewable energies decreases our reliance upon fossil fuels. The subsidies that go along with fossil fuels also hurt us as a nation. While there are some things that are good about subsidies (LIHEAP or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), the one thing that I think hurts us the most is that by continuing to offer subsidies to oil and gas companies, we are basically telling them that they do not need to change their ways. They become stagnant and do not try to come up with new ideas for saving our planet.

The United States provides oil and gas companies with approximately $4 billion in subsidies every year (consumerenergyreport.com). While proponents of the subsidies have valid reasons for keeping them ($570 million goes towards LIHEAP), one thing to consider would be, if we were not so dependent on fossil fuels for our heating and cooling, the cost of our electricity could be cut down to better reflect the cost of renewable energy, which would make heating and cooling more affordable for those with low income, thus leaving them less likely to need a program such as LIHEAP.

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References

Brown, L. R. (2011). World on the Edge. New York, New York: WW Norton & Company.

Geothermal Energy Facts. (n.d.). Renewable & Non-Renewable Energy Sources. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/GeothermalEnergyFacts.php

LED Bulbs, Lighting & LED Energy Savings | Home Lighting Facts | The Home Depot. (n.d.). Home Improvement Made Easy with New Lower Prices | Improve & Repair. Retrieved November 12, 2012, from http://ext.homedepot.com/shopping-tools/light-bulbs/allaboutLEDs.html#why_LEDTab

Looper, L. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "10 Incredible Wind Power Facts". HowStuffWorks "Science". Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/10-wind-power-facts1.htm

Rapier, R. (n.d.). The Hard Truth: Even Liberals are Big Fans of Oil Subsidies. Consumer Energy Report. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2012/04/23/the-hard-truth-even-liberals-are-big-fans-of-oil-subsidies/

Selling Residential Solar Power to Your Utility Company. (2012, March 7). Solar Energy Authority. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from ttp://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/solar-energy-resources/

Solar Energy Facts | Renewable Green Energy Power. (n.d.). Renewable Green Energy Power. Retrieved November 13, 2012, from http://www.renewablegreenenergypower.com/solar-energy-facts/

Top 6 Things You Didn't Know About Solar Energy | Department of Energy. (n.d.). Energy.gov | Department of Energy. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://energy.gov/articles/top-6-things-you-didnt-know-about-solar-energy

Wind Power Information, Wind Power Facts - National Geographic. (n.d.). Environment Facts, Environment Science, Global Warming, Natural Disasters, Ecosystems, Green Living - National Geographic. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/wind-power-profile/

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