SEATTLE — Recently, the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a study on renewable energy technologies and how the United States can use these technologies to create a green and renewable future, as opposed to using fossil fuels for energy. The results were inspiring: by 2050, the United States can generate around 80 percent of its electricity from these technologies.
Some of these technologies are common today, such as wind turbines and solar panels, but the Department of Energy and corporations have been working on other renewable energy technologies that may come off as far-fetched at first. Nevertheless, these creations are making a big difference in how the United States generates electricity today and have even brighter plans for tomorrow.
Wind energy, for one, has been around for centuries, used to pump water in ancient China and grind grain in the Middle East. Wind power is one of the most sustainable and green energy resources available because it produces no toxic emissions that contribute to global warming.
Wind turbines began production in the United States in the 1970s, and since then the number of wind farms has steadily increased. In 2013, the Department of Energy reported that there were around 833 wind farms in the United States. These turbines consist of three rotors, or propellers, attached to a tall tower used to reach high winds in order to generate enough electricity to power whatever needs the energy.
While these “traditional” wind turbines have been used for a while to generate wind energy, a company called Vortex Bladeless has created a propeller-less wind turbine to harness vorticity, the whirlpools of the wind that typically build up and surround tall structures. Vorticity usually causes trouble for architects and engineers and is seen as a nuisance; Vortex Bladeless, however, sees this extra wind energy as an untapped renewable energy technology and hopes its propeller-less turbines are even more effective.
Another example of a common renewable energy technology would be solar panels. Harnessing the energy from the sun is one of our most abundant opportunities in power generation. In fact, the Union of Concerned Scientists reports that 18 days of sunshine is equal to the amount of energy found in all of Earth’s reserves of fossil fuels.
Solar panels work by using photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity, which helps us power spacecraft and heats up water. With a little more investment and commercial use, the United States could make solar panels one of the easiest ways to use renewable energy technologies at home.
Finally, a lesser-known renewable energy technology is biopower, which uses biomass (animal and plant waste) to generate electricity. Biopower has relatively high costs compared to the previously mentioned renewable energy technologies, but one could argue the costs are worth the lack of environmental stress produced at the hands of fossil fuels.
The United States should focus more time and investment in renewable energy technologies because of their benefits, which include reduced emissions, improved air quality, an inexhaustible energy supply and a creation of jobs due to the labor-intensive work.
The United States can be a leader when it comes to implementing a long-term clean energy policy, and the country can move forward with this by encouraging the implementation of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels.
– Jacqueline Nicole Artz