Bring on the Renewable Energy Expansion
Renewable energy is on the rise, and fossil fuels on the decline. No matter what was said this political cycle, renewables such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric are what will "make America great again", not coal. Even from the perspective of the conceptual foundation, renewables appeal to the common sense of harnessing the forces at work in nature to produce our power in clean and sustainable ways.
There are a lot of questions surrounding renewables. In their current forms, solar, wind and hydro need to be backed up by traditional means of power production, like nuclear, coal, etc. For areas with lots of cloud cover and limited direct sunlight, solar energy can't be used 100% of the time. Wind power only generates electricity when wind is blowing. Additionally, the rise of renewable energy has been spurred by the decline in fossil fuel energy production. The jobs that renewables create aren't necessarily in the same places that lost coal jobs, so animosities toward clean-energy initiatives are high in some areas of the country. However, that has more to do with the political landscape than with the viability of new energy production means.
Coal jobs have seen a sharp decrease in the past few decades, at the same time that renewables have seen sharp increase in employment and opportunities. It has been found that renewable energy jobs and those directly related now outnumber jobs in the fossil fuel industries. Subsidies and tax breaks play a large part in spurring the growth of renewable energy technology.
Wind energy seems to have a bright future. It is estimated to power over 20 million homes in the US, and interest and demand is growing.
Battery technology is closely tied with the renewable energy sector, as the use of sophisticated batteries will allow the energy from wind and solar to be stored in large and efficient quantities for use later when perhaps the sun isn't shining, or there is little wind activity.
Besides consistency, one of the main opposing arguments to renewable energy is the fact that they create far more pollution and CO2 during their fabrication and construction than they can ever hope to offset during their operational lifetime. This has been found to be not true, yet the argument persists.
- Is it true that the carbon released from the manufacturing of a wind turbine is far greater than the carbon saved by substituting wind power for carbon-based power?
In 2013, the U.S. wind fleet reduced power sector emissions by 96 million metric tons, or 4.4 percent, the equivalent of taking 16.9 million cars off the road. Wind energy is the lowest cost and most scalable zero-emission electricity source.
The “material cultivation and fabrication stage” of renewable-energy facilities was responsible for the greatest proportion of emissions — just over 71% for both solar PV and wind. Facility construction and related transportation were responsible for 24% of wind’s lifetime CO2 emissions and 19% for solar PV, while operation contributed 19.4% of wind farms’ lifetime emissions and 13% for solar.
With the industry on the rise, it will also give rise to support industries, and better and more efficient ways of producing materials. The turbines themselves have the potential to be fully recyclable, reducing their footprint even more. Unlike the presence of say, an oil pipeline, or a smokestack, wind farms have an immensely low impact on the environment they are built in.