Renewable Energy: Potential and Implementation
Dot Sulock, University of North Carolina at Asheville email@example.com
Energy provides us with servants, about 100 “energy slaves” for each of us. Humans bodies can generate about 100 watts of energy. If you divide the US per capita energy usage by 100 watts, we average 100 “energy slaves” each. This immense energy usage provides us with a very luxurious lifestyle, but providing that energy causes many environmental problems: air pollution, many health problems related to air pollution and their associated expenses, a deteriorating protective ozone layer, and global warming with myriad adverse consequences from species extinction to rising sea levels. In addition, the fossil fuels, which provide much of our energy, are primarily located in other nations requiring a large US military to assure access to them, and they are running out. In addition the world cannot sustain our degree of energy usage by everyone.
So what is to be done? Two things are necessary: initially we must use less energy and we must develop renewable energy. Renewable energy and energy efficiency can provide comfortable lifestyles for everyone.
What is renewable energy? There are many kinds of renewable energy but they fall into groups called solar energy, ocean energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, and biomass. Essentially that would be energy from the sun, the seas, the earth, the sky, and the soil. As I see it, renewable energy has at seven big advantages over energy from fossil fuels or nuclear power.
1. It is renewable. Won’t run out.
2. No fuel costs. No mining, no mountaintop removal, no oil tanker spills, no balance-of-trade deficit caused, no need for a bloated military or weapons in space.
3. It is decentralized. Much renewable energy can be produced on site.
4. It provides a diversified portfolio. Energy security is provided by the stability of having many different energy sources.
5. It is safe. Renewable energy provides no terrorist targets.
6. It is environmentally benign providing much less or no air pollution or global warming.
7. It is cheaper. All but the most experimental renewable energy is cheaper if you take environmental costs and associated military costs into account. But even without taking those costs into account, wind power is already as cheap as coal, cheaper than natural gas, and much cheaper than nuclear power.
The potential of renewable energy is too big to explain in this small talk. But here are a few facts to whet your appetite and I will give you sources for further study.
1. The top five states in the US for wind potential are in order: North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana. Each could provide 1/3 of US electrical usage from wind power. (IEER) California, which produces the most wind power, is #17 in wind potential.
2. According to the California 1996 Energy Technology Status Report levelized costs for electrical production (total costs divided by lifetime output) are:
coal 0.05/kwh, natural gas 0.04/kwh (higher now), nuclear 0.13/kwh, wind).05/kwh
3. If 100% of electricity came from wind 1/250 bird deaths would be due to wind turbines. Biggest killer? Cats at 1 billion birds per year. (AWEA) Audubon society approves of wind power.
4. Energy payback ratio of wind power is 30 times as much energy produced as consumed. Energy payback ratio for coal is 11 and nuclear is 16. (University of Wisconsin)
5. All US electricity could be provided by solar facilities on 15% of federal land in Nevada (DOE).
Just say No to Nuclear Power
The US 2005 Energy Bill gives subsidies of $12 billion to utilities seeking to build new nuclear power plants.
1. Expensive - don’t subsidize nuclear power, subsidize renewable energy
2. Dangerous - disastrous consequences of human fallibility, system fallibility, or terrorist attack, especially on spent fuel ponds
3. Proliferation risk -nuclear weapons are linked to both fuel enrichment and Pu production of all reactors
4. Enduring legacy of increasing amounts of radioactive waste
What can you do?
1. Align with others who support renewable energy and opposition to nuclear power. Work for them and most importantly, support your watchdogs financially. They are working for you.
(a) North Carolina:
NC WARN Waste Awareness and Reduction Network www.ncwarn.org
North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association www.ncsustainableenergy.org
North Carolina Green Power www.ncgp.org - sign up to buy greenpower!
North Carolina Public Interest Research Group www.ncpirg.org
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy www.cleanenergy.org
Sierra Club www.sierraclub.org
Natural Resources Defense Council www.nrdc.org
Environmental Defense www.environmentaldefense.org Michael Shore of ED lives in Asheville - local speaker.
Nuclear Information and Resource Service www.nirs.org Mary Olson of NIRS lives in Asheville - local speaker.
Nuclear Control Institute www.nci.org
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research www.ieer.org
2. Learn more about these technologies A place to start is exploring the links on the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website www.eere.energy.gov
3. Subscribe to free renewable energy newsletters
(a) EERE Network News http://www.eere.energy.gov/news/subscribe.cfm
(b) Renewable Energy Access http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/home
(c) RE-Focus Weekly http://www.re-focus.net/ref_weekly/
(d) Clean Edge http://www.cleanedge.com
(e) Fuel Cell Today http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/FuelCellToday/Security/FCTRegistration/
(f) Fuel Cell Works http://www.fuelcellsworks.com/news1.html
4. Make personal moral decisions regarding energy conservation:
Drive less, drive a high mpg vehicle, walk, bicycle, carpool, use public transportation, …
Use compact fluorescents, turn off unneeded lights, buy energy star appliances, install low-flowshowerheads, bring cloth bags to the grocery store, recycle, keep thermostat lower in winter and higher in summer, insulate, weatherize, …
Be a vegetarian or eat less meat, don’t buy bottled water, buy locally grown foods, ...
Consume less. Live simply. Live in a small house.
5. The world population is increasing by 3 people per second, 1/4 million people per day. Support efforts to achieve a world population in balance with a healthy environment
Population Institute www.populationinstitute.org
Planned Parenthood www.plannedparenthood.org
6. Be an activist. Vote for the environment. Get involved in politics. Educate people. Write letters to the editor and guest editorials. Write, phone, and email your representative, congress people, the president. Check out library resources. Offer to speak to classes in schools. Speak out! Silence is consent
Burr, Richard- (R - NC)
217 RUSSELL SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-3154 www.burr.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.Home
Dole, Elizabeth- (R - NC)
555 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
(202) 224-6342 www.dole.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=ContactInformation.ContactForm