What does a sustainable future look like?

July 24, 2018

Many people think that oil and gas development will help America become more energy independent. After all, if we could sustain ourselves, we would not have to depend on other nations for our energy needs. However, fossil fuels cannot sustain America for the long haul. Besides being limited in quantity, they also create vast amounts of pollution that harm our most vulnerable populations and environment.

 

Fortunately, we have options for clean, renewable energy right here. The sun, wind and water are all resources we have readily available with no need for a war over resources. Moving away from fossil fuel dependence may seem like an impossible task, but in March 2017, National Geographic reported that renewable energy set a record, accounting for 10 percent of all electricity generation. Solar, wind and hydropower energy are becoming more affordable and easier to install for homes and businesses. Renewable energy can sustain us for the future. 

 

How can we, as individuals, further this progress towards clean, sustainable energy? While we cannot change all our power sources to renewable energy overnight, we can make changes now that will increase the demand for clean energy. By choosing energy-efficient and renewable-energy options, we can spark a demand in the market for clean energy.

 

The jobs market for renewable energy is on the rise. An article in the Steamboat Pilot & Today states that the country’s fastest-growing job is a wind-turbine technician. According to the Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, the solar workforce increased by 25 percent in 2016, and the wind workforce increased by 32 percent.

 

In addition to an increase in jobs, renewable electricity generation is also growing. According to the Guardian, more than 100 cities around the globe are now powered by mostly renewable energy. The number of cities getting 70 percent of their electric supply from sustainable energy has doubled since 2015.

 

Some businesses have also committed to switching to renewable energy to power their offices. According to the Steamboat Pilot & Today, 100 Fortune 500 companies have committed to making the switch to renewable energy. IKEA and Apple are just two of the many companies that have committed to this switch.

 

Other organizations are also making the switch to renewable energy. Phipps Conservatory has made changes over the last several years to become a fully sustainable campus. The campus is now 100 percent electrically powered by on-site wind and solar energy and by purchasing renewable energy credits. Since 2005, all new building projects have been energy efficient and/or LEED certified.

 

Large corporations are not the only ones with the ability to change to sustainable energy. By making a few changes around your home, you can make your home more sustainable and energy efficient.

 

Wellington.gov has a list of ways to make your home more sustainable. Some of these steps are relatively inexpensive, while others require more investment. These steps include:

  • Insulating walls, ceilings and under floors to reduce energy costs

  • Installing double-glazed windows or thermal-backed curtains.

  • Installing solar heating or passive heating

  • Using appliances that have high energy-efficiency ratings

  • Using natural lighting as much as possible to reduce artificial lighting

  • Installing a rainwater collection tank

  • Minimizing waste and recycling when possible

  • Using renewable electrical energy sources such as wind turbines or a micro-hydro system

Energy.gov has some tips for planning your own home renewable system. These tips include analyzing your electricity needs, reducing your electricity use, finding out more about building codes in your area and choosing the renewable-energy system that will best suit your needs. Many of these systems can last for 20 or more years.

 

Solar and Geothermal Energy

Solar energy is becoming much more affordable. According to energysage.com, the price of solar panels for home use has dropped 70 percent in the past 10 years. On average, solar panels now cost $3.14/watt, compared to $8/watt in 2008.

 

An average 6kW system costs $18,840 to install. Solar panels can either be installed on the roof of your house or on a ground mount, depending on where you live. You may also have the option to choose to connect your solar panel system to the grid to have energy even when your solar panels are not producing energy or to keep your system off the grid. Check with your solar provider to find out more about your options.

 

Another option for creating sustainable energy for your home is using a passive heating and/or cooling system. According to smarterhomes.org, passive heating and cooling can help save money by collecting heat from sunlight streaming through windows and distributing it throughout the house when needed.

 

While it is easier to install a passive heating and cooling system while building a house, it is also possible to install a system while renovating a house. Some houses can be sustained entirely by passive heating and cooling, while others need a supplementary energy source.

 

Another option for sustainably heating your home is installing a geothermal heating or cooling system. These systems cost an average of $7,500.

 

Wind Energy

You can also make your home more sustainable by installing a small electric wind system. In order to determine the feasibility of an electric wind system, you must calculate the amount of wind at your site, zoning requirements for your area and the incentives for installing a wind system.

 

 

Hydropower

For those who have flowing water on their property, a micro-hydropower system might be another option for renewable energy. In order to determine whether a micro-hydropower system is feasible, you must calculate the head and flow of the water on your property. The National Hydropower Association has information on the costs of different kinds of hydropower.

 

Closing

The sun, wind and water are American resources that we can use to sustain our country for the future. Our country is built on the innovation of people who learned how to take the resources around them and use them to improve the quality of life for themselves and their communities. Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. Henry Ford invented the Model T car, revolutionizing the car industry. Many others have come since, using their ingenuity to better their own lives and others’ lives.

 

Each generation has learned to adapt to meet its needs. Let’s make this the generation to switch to renewables to sustain America’s future.

 

 

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