If not coal, then what? There is a better way!
“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind and tide. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
- Thomas Edison, 1931
We’ve known about the impending depletion of coal and other fossil fuels for generations.
Renewable energy technologies have existed for generations in one form or another. But the political leadership to step up and implement these solutions on a massive scale has remained elusive. The result is that, while growing rapidly, renewable energy sources only account for roughly 7% of total U.S. energy supply.
What’s needed now is an investment in transmission infrastructure to effectively harness the power of renewable energy and transport the energy to consumers nationwide.
This type of infrastructure investment is hardly new in the
Consider the fact that taxpayer money built our interstate highway system, created the Internet, even sent a man to the moon. Our collective power to invest in a clean energy future is staggering.
But it won’t happen until we realize that our reliance on fossil-fuels for energy must be as short-lived as possible.
Want to learn what you can do to demand action and investment in renewable energy? Check out ourTake Action section.
5 Ways to a Renewable Energy Future
#1: ENERGY EFFICIENCY
A recent report by the prestigious McKinsey consulting firm laid out a plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions at little cost to the economy. Almost 40 percent of the potential savings came from energy efficiency steps that would save consumers money.
McKinsey pointed out that we can accomplish this goal “using tested approaches and high-potential emerging technologies,” not pie-in-the-sky Star Trek gadgetry.
Want to read more about Energy Efficiency? Check out our Energy Efficiency Resources and Links page.
#2: SOLAR POWER
Scientific American reported in December 2007 that “Solar energy’s potential is off the chart. The energy in sunlight striking the earth for 40 minutes is equivalent to global energy consumption for a year.”
The magazine presented its ambitious “Solar Grand Plan” that could provide 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy (including transportation) with solar power by 2050, all for less than what the ongoing Iraq war has already cost.
In their 2008 paper on solar potential, solar industry scientist David Mills and co-author Robert Morgan calculated that over 90 percent of the energy needs of the U.S. electric grid and auto fleet (if converted to electric vehicles) could be met by solar thermal power stations, which use fields of mirrors to capture the sun's energy as heat to boil water and drive steam turbines at low cost.
The key obstacle to this and many other renewable energy schemes is how to store the energy generated during daylight hours so it can be used at night or saved for a rainy day. But rapid progress in research and development of storage systems is quickly erasing this problem.
Mills’ company, Ausra, believes its solar power plants will have the capacity to store energy for 16 hours sometime in the next year or so, and then can be scaled up quickly with the potential to supply 96 percent of America’s power needs at about 8 cents a kilowatt hour - roughly the current cost of fossil fuel-generated electricity.
Want to read more about Solar Power? Check out our Solar Power Resources and Links page.
#3: WIND POWER
Last year, a record 3,100 turbines were installed across 34 US states, and another 2,000 turbines are currently under construction from coast to coast. In all, there are more than 25,000 wind turbines in operation nationwide, representing an investment of $15 billion.
The Department of Energy recently predicted that wind power could provide 20 percent of US electricity by 2030, up from one percent now.
Want to read more about Wind Power? Check out our Wind Power Resources and Links page.
#4: GEOTHERMAL POWER
Geothermal power uses the natural sources of heat inside the Earth’s crust to produce heat or electricity. According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, domestic geothermal resources located less than 2 miles underground are equivalent to a 30,000-year energy supply at our current rate for the United States.
Although the United States is the world’s largest producer of geothermal power already, we have tapped only a tiny fraction of geothermal potential.
Want to read more about Geothermal Power? Check out our Geothermal Resources and Links page.
#5: ENERGY FROM BIOMASS
Producing energy from biomass currently accounts for over 50% of all the renewable energy consumed in the U.S.
Biomass can be used to produce electricity (using wood and wood wastes, municipal solid waste, landfill gas, etc.) and to power vehicles (ethanol and biodiesel).
Want to read more about Energy from Biomass? Check out our Biomass Resources and Link page.
Links and Resources on Renewable Energy