5 Examples of Renewable Resources the U.S. Should Invest in
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Climate change has already caused considerable devastation. One way to slow the progression is to switch from fossil fuels to renewable resources. The world looks to wealthy nations like the United States to lead the way. Where should we invest many of our infrastructure dollars? Here’s an overview of five examples of renewable resources that the U.S. should invest in.
The sun offers the ultimate in renewable energy. All life on earth already depends upon its rays — harnessing them can help slash emission.
Here’s one place where individuals can play a role if they’re homeowners. Installing a solar system on a residential property cuts carbon emissions by a full 80% — without adjusting the electricity use in the home.
However, property owners should act quickly to reap the greatest financial benefits from making the switch. The federal government currently offers tax credits for solar power, although these expire in 2024 unless Congress renews them.
Fortunately, the future for solar looks bright. Manufacturers have invested in improving technologies, leading to breakthroughs like the following:
Traditional solar panels only process light received from overhead. However, a smaller amount of usable light also bounces off the earth. It’s the same kind of reflection that allows us to see the moon during the day. Bifacial panels harness the light from both above and below, increasing efficiency.
Imagine if solar technology could be incorporated right into your home’s windows, eliminating the need for bulky panels? Soon, you may have this option. Perovskite is thin and transparent, allowing it to be added to existing solar panels to increase efficiency or incorporated into windows to provide power.
More powerful and bigger panels
Standard solar panels are only 156 millimeters, the size of a CD case. However, manufacturers have begun producing 182 and 210-millimeter squares, scheduled to take over nearly 20% of the market by 2023.
Some people object to the aesthetic of solar panels on their homes. What if they could integrate seamlessly into your roof or even your lawn? This technology filters the light to create a custom image, allowing your panels to match nearly any surface on which you mount them.
Floating solar farms
Even though solar farms are typically cheaper to run than oil or gas mining operations, they still require land — a resource that’s at a premium in many populated areas. Floating solar farms off the coast offer a way to get energy to big cities that might not have vacant lot space for the multiple panels needed to fuel every home.
If you ever wore black on a winter’s day to hold in more of the sun’s rays, you’re already familiar with the concept of solar clothing. Developing technologies will make fabrics more efficient at harnessing the sun’s rays. Imagine a pair of gloves to warm your paws without adding a beanbag warmer.
Biomass refers to multiple forms of renewable energy from plants and animals — the number one form of power until the mid-1800s. These technologies may consist of any of the following:
- Wood and wood processing waste: Nearly everyone knows about lighting a fire for warmth and heat. The black liquor produced by paper mills can also be captured by a special furnace and used as fuel.
- Crops and agricultural waste materials: This concept includes using materials like corn to create biofuels.
- Municipal waste and sewage: Some municipal waste, like paper, cotton and wood can see new use. Researchers are also working on technologies to convert wastewater into fuel.
3. Wind Energy
Wind is a growing renewable resource that some areas of the U.S. have already invested significantly in. It currently produces a quarter of the energy used by seven states and continues to grow.
The benefits of wind power include significant reductions in emissions. Currently, the technology removes the equivalent of 66 million cars’ worth of exhaust fumes. They’re also quieter than other technologies. 92% of people living within five miles of a farm report a positive or neutral impact, and two people standing under a wind turbine can have conversations at a normal level without straining to hear.
One restriction on the use of wind again comes from land scarcity. However, floating wind farms are also an option for future renewable energy resource investment. While some critics harbor concerns that the mills could injure birds, these units account for less than .01% of all human-related bird deaths. Buildings, power lines and cars pose an equal threat, and nothing compares to the habitat destruction associated with climate change.
Hydroelectric power comes from the water itself, making the sea once more vital to protecting America’s renewable energy future. One promising possibility for crowded coastal areas is harnessing the tides to generate electricity.
One method is the installation of solar barrages. These devices let water flow through turbines to generate electricity. Currently only the Rance River in France and the Bay of Fundy in Canada have such technologies. America should investigate its options for implementing such techniques.
5. Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy refers to harnessing the power of heat that lies beneath the earth’s surface. The United States does well in this regard. It is currently the world’s largest producer of this form of renewable energy.
Three types of geothermal plants exist: dry steam, flash and binary. Dry steam uses steam directly from the earth to spin turbines. Flash and binary plants use liquid to produce the requisite vapor.
Examples of Renewable Resources That the U.S. Should Invest in
Climate change is an existential problem. Failing to take action can have devastating consequences for human life — but people have become reliant on power to run their lives. Investing in renewable resources is a must for wealthy nations like the U.S. to lead the world into a cleaner and more sustainable future.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.