Alternative Energy

One facet of naturalization that often goes overlooked is the concept of alternative energy sources. By finding sources of energy other than fossil fuel, we can reduce our carbon footprint, and help the plants within the city thrive instead of just survive. The two big players in the alt energy game are solar and wind, with hydro as an up-and-comer, depending on the location.



First off, there's solar power. Over the last decade, these panels have starting cropping up all over Oregon, and it's not just for commercial land owners or businesses. A previous boss of mine had some installed on her roof during the boom in 2008. For now, most solar panels are black paneling that resemble roofing, but that might change soon. See through solar panels are currently being developed. One such use for see through solar panels in an urban setting would be sun rooms- it appears just like glass, but is actually soaking up energy from the sun. There's also the added benefit of putting these in the desert. One major concern of putting acres of solar panels in desert settings is the destruction of habitat, since it would block the sun from the desert critters. With see through panels, that would no longer be a problem. As an added benefit, towns located in or around desert areas could reap the benefits and put in greenhouses full of plants. For more information on solar panels in Oregon, visit http://solaroregon.org/.


Next up is wind power. One of the most daunting things I've ever done was drive through the wind farm in Biglow Canyon, Oregon. Seeing pictures of turbines doesn't even come close to actually being near them. I felt like I was in the red woods forest of California again, only less organic. The farm in Biglow is 25,000 acres big. It consists of 217 turbines, and produces about 150 megawatts a year- that's enough energy to power 125,000 homes for an entire year. Even though it's a bit of a trip fro Portland (about two hours, according to google maps), it's actually owned by Portland General Electric. Meaning that, if you're a PGE customer, some of your energy could be coming from this daunting wind field. There is, however, one major down side to wind power- it takes up a lot of space. The picture above is from the Biglow farm, and as you'll notice, there aren't any trees or other plant life in the area. But this isn't the only type of wind energy. One very noticeable building in Portland actually has some turbines on top of their building. I first noticed this building while heading home earlier this year, staring blankly out the window of the MAX. There are only a few of them up there, but I know it's a start for cities to have turbines on buildings. On top of that, residents can actually get turbines installed on their land. I know of at least three farmers who put in some turbines on their property to help offset electric costs. To learn more about wind power (and the Biglow Canyon farm), visit https://portlandgeneral.com/community_environment/initiatives/renewable_energy/biglow_canyon/default.aspx.


Lastly, we have hydroelectric power. This is an energy source that's been on the rise, but it's also very limited to where power can be pulled from. In terms of Portland, we have the Bull Run watershed, which is another PGE owned source. Hydroelectric energy is still be researched. Unlike solar and wind, hydroelectric is actually less straight forward. In involves water moving a turbine, whose movements produce electricity. Because of this, the higher the pressure, the more electricity is produced with less cost and less time. For more information, visit http://water.usgs.gov/edu/hyhowworks.html.

In terms of urban naturalization, these three sources could seriously reduce the carbon footprint that Portland (and other large cities) produce. By reducing carbon emissions, plants and trees can thrive instead of just survive, creating a much more green environment. Increasing the amount of energy produced from these sources would greatly benefit urban naturalization.

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