In our increasingly automated, high-tech world, electricity is a basic necessity of modern life in developed nations. It is also considered a key element in improving the quality of life in impoverished regions. We need power to make progress, but, according to climate scientists, we are destroying the planet to make power.
What is green energy?
A number of solutions to the coal pollution problem have been suggested, experimented with, or implemented through the years. Unfortunately, the most popular (at least, popular with power companies) have failed to live up to their promises.
- Clean coal is touted as a solution by industrial lobbyists, but environmentalists call it a myth. Improved techniques may reduce the pollution, but coal cannot be mined and used for fuel without an environmental impact – a significant and negative one. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/coal/nijhuis-text
- Despite promises of safety, fracking has been implicated in numerous illnesses and cases of water contamination, even leading to lawsuits. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/bokoshe-fracking-waste-disposal-class-action-suit_n_4268732.html
- Nuclear energy is said to be “green,” but one accident can spell devastation for generations, as demonstrated by the infamous Chernobyl disaster three decades ago has demonstrated. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/chernobyl-the-catastrophe-that-never-ended/
- Hydropower was once thought of as the great renewable energy. However, the mega-dams built to sustain it have submerged countless acres of habitat, and destroyed local ecosystems. http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/is-hydropower-really-a-clean-power-source.html
True clean, green energy must be harvested without environmental destruction, and processed without pollution. Innovative solutions, such as systems utilizing the power of ocean currents, are promising but further research and development are needed to determine the environmental impact and economic feasibility. So far, wind and solar remain the staples of the green energy movement.
A ray of sun in the darkness of the energy dilemma
Wind power is not easily scalable for the individual user, leaving solar energy as the shining star of consumer systems. Rooftop panels can turn your home into its own power-generator. With increased interest and availability, these systems are becoming more affordable. A solar system is an investment that can pay for itself with savings on your utility bill, if saving the planet isn’t enough incentive. There are even options for leasing panels, though experts warn to be sure you understand the terms before signing a contract.
It’s hard to argue with the benefits of rooftop solar, but it is admittedly a big financial commitment, and it’s not an option for everyone. Perhaps you live in an apartment, or a rental house. Perhaps you simply aren’t ready to commit to a full, and potentially pricey system. That doesn’t mean you can’t go solar, at least a little. In fact, due to scalability and economical production, it seems we’re going solar bit by bit, and the benefits aren’t just environmental. Small solar panels are becoming the go-to solution for convenience in many applications.
Are you tired of your smartphone or tablet going dead half-way through your day at the beach? Try a solar charger. Do you want landscape lighting on the patio, where there is no outlet? Try solar powered lights. How about a soothing fountain, in the secluded spot in the back yard? You guessed it – avoid the cord, and choose a solar powered model. From batteries and generators to fans and boom boxes, the variety of solar-powered consumer devices continues increasing, and in many cases, the price is decreasing. http://www.pcworld.com/article/217479/15_energy_saving_solar_powered_gadgets.html