With the recent climate change talks in Copenhagen, it is safe to say that even though all countries aren’t actually making an effort to change their actions, most at least understand it is extremely important for the environment for us to change our ways and focus on reducing pollution.
Rather than waiting for our politicians to step up and mandate the changes needed to help save our environment, I feel that it is our duty to help make this world a better place, after all it is the only one we have.
One of the most effective ways of doing this is to help cut down on our energy costs, both in our vehicles and at home. However, when considering some of the technologies available today, it is very important to weigh not just the energy savings, but also the cost of manufacturing these devices.
Heating and Cooling
In the home, there are usually few appliances that are as inefficient as our heating and air systems. However, if you live in an area that gets very hot or cold, simply doing without isn’t safe, nor is it comfortable. Fortunately, there are a number of more energy efficient heating and air systems available, which can cut back on our energy use, without having to sacrifice our comfort.
One of the most exciting technologies available to help reduce energy costs is the Geothermal Heating and cooling unit. Geothermal heating and cooling uses very long tubes that extend into the Earth and actually pull heat from the ground. In the summer, the same process can be reversed, sending the heat from the house, into the ground.
Using a geothermal system, it is possible to heat a 1500 square foot house for less than a dollar a day. Of course, they are quite expensive to install and depending on the location, can require that a very deep hole is drilled. To help off set this cost, many power companies will offer incentives for installing a geothermal heating and cooling system, with some options also available from the government. While the initial cost is very high, the savings over a 10 year period could easily offset this initial investment.
Another option for those wishing to cut heating and cooling costs is the Cold-Weather Air Source Heat Pump, which uses an additional compressor that is used when the temperature drops below 30 degrees. The second compressor is necessary because a traditional heat pump does not work well when the temperature drops below freezing, so auxiliary heat must be used. Auxiliary heat, or emergency heat, is very expensive to operate, as it uses a great deal of energy.
Using a Cold-Weather Air Source Heat Pump ends up using less power than a standard heat pump would when it gets very cold. Further, when the temperature is above freezing, only one compressor is used, so the energy usage is similar to that of a traditional heating system.
Generating Your Own Power
For years, people have been putting solar panels on their home to help reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and the power company. While this can save you a great deal of money and it is even sometimes possible to sell your excess power back to the power company, the initial investment has always been quite steep.
Recently, however, the cost of solar panels has begun to drop, as new manufacturing technologies have been introduced. This, coupled with rising energy costs across the country, has made installing solar panels a much more attractive idea.
Several companies have recently developed very thin solar panels that are relatively inexpensive to manufacture, but because they rely on some semi-rare minerals, so it remains to see whether this can be used on a very large scale.
Going Green in Your Automobile
Another popular move has been to use a more energy efficient vehicle, with a number of hybrids, which are cars that use a mixture of gasoline and stored electricity, and battery powered vehicles available.
Currently, GM, Nissan, Honda, Ford, and Toyota all offer some sort of battery powered vehicle, but when considering these cars, it is important to take into account the environmental impact that manufacturing them has.
For example, the Toyota Prius uses a very expensive battery, which uses nickel that is mined in Canada, using a mining technique that is bad for the environment. Then, the nickel must be shipped across the world, converted into batteries, and subsequently shipped back over to the US. So, with all of the environmental costs associated with the manufacture of the Prius, it tends to off set the benefits of driving it.
It All Starts with You
What a lot of people don’t always realize, myself included, is that the things we do everyday can have a major impact on the environment and the future. Even if you don’t have the money to invest in something like a geothermal heating system, you can still help the environment by changing your actions.
For example, making an effort to shut off the water when you wash your teeth and shave can save a tremendous amount of water. Also, consider setting the heat to around fifty-five and putting on an extra sweater or perhaps wearing some thermal clothing, rather than cranking up the heat.
If everyone made what are essentially very small changes to their lifestyle, it would no longer be a small change and could have a tremendous impact on the World.
About the Author
Tiger is a writer who understands the importance of protecting the environment. In addition to writing about the environment, he also writes about a number of other topics, including lift chairs. Lift Chairs are devices that in design are similar to a recliner, but contain a powerful lifting system, which helps to make it easier to stand. They are especially popular among the elderly and lift chairs Medicare are available, for those who live in the United States and are currently enrolled in Medicare.
One of the lesser known renewable energy sources, but growing is geothermal energy. Congress and the Obama administration are taking efforts to make sure that America expands its use of this “undervalued” renewable resource.
Photo by lydur.
What is Geothermal Energy?
Many have probably heard the term geothermal being used, but may not know exactly what it is and how it is considered a renewable energy source. The word geothermal itself literally means “earth heat” and is the energy extracted from heat stored within the earth. The earth’s crust holds in the heat within the earth and the only way to access this heat is to drill into the earth. In order to actually get electricity from geothermal energy, it require high temperature water or steam. There are actually three main uses of geothermal energy:
- Direct Use: Using host water from springs or reservoirs near the surface.
- Electricity Generation: Power plants require water or steam at very high temperatures. Geothermal power plants are generally built where geothermal reservoirs are located within a mile or two fo the surface.
- Geothermal Heat Pumps: Use stable ground or water temperatures near the earth’s surface to control building temperatures above ground.
Geothermal is nothing new as it has been used for centuries because of how much heat is harnessed within our earth. Hot springs are a great example of how geothermal energy is harnessed naturally with no drilling. At the moment, geothermal meets about .3% of the total energy needs globally and is increasing every year.
What makes geothermal power a renewable energy source is that it requires no fuel, but uses a constant flow of heat from the earth. It is a long-lasting energy source in which we already have technologies available to access the heat within our earth. The power plants associated with generating electricity are far less expensive than coal or nuclear plants, create no pollution besides the above concern over CO2 leakage and are relatively small. The cost will also stay down during the long run because there are very few expenses involved in running these plants. Though there are some disadvantages to uses geothermal energy, the advantages far outweigh any negatives it may have.
The biggest problem with this type of energy is the drilling and extraction process, both of which can have economical and environmental issues. Years of research are put into surveying the particular piece of land to possibly drill and can often lead to negative results. It also requires a large upfront cost (as much as $5 million) to drill deeply into the earth and even after a successful drill, it can be a hit-or-miss situation. After extracting for years, a source can sometimes stop producing steam for many year, sometimes for as many as 10. If there is a successful drill though, no additional fuel costs are required and can power an entire city off of a single plant. There are also concerns about greenhouses gases that are emitted through the holes drilled within the earth that include CO2 and hydrogen sulfide. These emissions are often controlled by the plant and are only a small percentage as compared to what traditional fossil fuel plants emit.
There are over 200 million acres of land in the West that are great candidates for geothermal drilling. The government is doing its part by providing a $400 million bill to help generate more interest in the geothermal energy market. The government has made a more streamlined process to allow for getting geothermal permits on federal lands much easier. All that is required now is for the drilling to begin and it has. There is no reason that geothermal should not be one of the top energy sources used throughout the world in the future. It’s clean, extremely inexpensive to maintain and very little impact on the environment. A truly renewable energy source.
Canada’s Environment Minister John Baird announced last week that the government fund the opening up a wildlife sanctuary on and around Baffin Island. The wildlife refuge will be established to protect the habitat of the native species in the area. Some of animals they attempting to protect are bowhead whales, polar bears, seals and walruses. The government plans on spending a total of 8.3 million Canadian dollars on a seven year deal that will establish a total of 12 wildlife and bird sanctuaries in the Nunavut territory. There have been concerns for many years for the population of the bowhead whales as populations have been as low as 5000 just a few years ago.
Google’s Geothermal Plan
Google has recently announced that it’s charitable wing, Google.org, will put nearly $11 million towards the development of the less known alternative energy, geothermal. In particular, Google.org will be funding a technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems or EGS that will allow us to harness the earth’s energy. Other countries including Australia and several European and Asian countries have already started to invest heavily in this renewable source of energy. The biggest obstacle with accessing geothermal energy is be able to drill deep enough into the earth to have access to it. The only way that geothermal energy will become a viable option is for the technologies for drilling to become more efficient. It will be some time before America and other countries can really utilize geothermal energy as a financially viable option, but it does look like an extremely promising energy source for the future.
The United Nations Environment Programme or UNEP has been working with China for the last several years to make the Olympic games more environmentally friendly. China has spent around $17 billion in order to make Beijing a much more environmentally friendly place. Many of the venues used for the Olympics will get some of their energy from renewable sources. Not all of the changes just for the Olympic games, but to improve the overall city for the long run. These changes include enhancing Beijing’s public transportation system, building a wall of solar panels and restricting harsher standards on emissions.
MIT scientist have made a breakthrough discovery that would allow hydrogen to be separated from water simply by using solar power. The process only requires pressure and can be done at room temperature. A major concern to many is that the currently the process of separating hydrogen and oxygen from water relies on fossil fuels. This eliminates any of the environmental benefits gained by using hydrogen in fuel-cells. This new discovery therefore allow for hydrogen to be produced cheaply and remove any dependency on fossil fuel. I am excited by this finding as it really makes hydrogen a viable renewable resource.
TRUenergy and Petratherm have joined forces in Southern Australia to enter into the geothermal energy market. Under the venture, TRUenergy would acquire 30% of Petratherm’s Paralana project. The Paralana project is located in Flinders Ranges of South Australia and aims to be provide Australia with geothermal electricity by 2011. The hope is that the Paralana project can product up to 260 megawatts of electricity from geothermal energy by 2020.
Forbes recently published an article about the best states in America to have various types of alternative energy. This article talks about a few alternative energy options America has for the future including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. I haven’t heard much of geothermal and biomass but both seem interesting prospects for future alternate energy sources. What is really alarming is that many states that currently are perfect candidates for some of these alternate energy source don’t utilize them. A good example is with the use of geothermal power that uses heat coming naturally from within the earth. Currently only a few states from the Southwest actually harness its power on a large-scale, when many more could be capitalizing on it. The article also contains a great slide-show that goes through each state and why they are a good candidates for each type of renewable energy source.