All About Renewables ☀️💨🌊
Why Renewable Energy is Key to a Sustainable Future
Welcome to Fostering Our Earth, a space for untangling the complex systems needed for a sustainable future — from infrastructure and policies to lifestyles and cultures.
Let’s start with a pop quiz: What percentage of global electricity production is from renewable energy sources?
Stay tuned for the answer during this newsletter!
A sustainable energy system of the future must be as accessible, protective, secure, and reliable. In practice, the energy systems that power our lives must be designed and operated to maximize efficiency. In addition, our energy systems must consist of enough energy storage to enable greater use of renewable energy sources, improve grid reliability and resilience, and provide backup power during outages.
At the center of a sustainable energy system is renewable energy. Below, this newsletter provides a discussion on renewables, their current state, and their crucial role in our green future.
The Gist 🎯
Fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, are the most significant contributors to climate change. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro, provide unlimited and clean energy, allowing us to combat climate change and reduce pollution directly. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources emit no greenhouse gases or pollutants during their use, allowing us to replace carbon-intensive energy sources. Furthermore, renewables are reliable and domestically available, reducing our dependence on foreign oil supplies.
Today, renewables are among the fastest-growing sectors and the most cost-effective method of producing electricity. The 34% growth between 2020 and 2021 has led to an additional 2.9 GW of residential solar production capacity in the US enough to power about 2 million homes. Despite this, renewable energy still accounts for a fraction of the world’s total electricity generation — roughly 30% in 2020 (pop quiz answer here). So the positive outlook is that there is a significant opportunity for us to invest in and advance our sustainable future by embracing renewables.
Finally, renewables are central to our sustainable future; they are healthier for us and make economic sense. Burning fossil fuels for energy pollutes our air — with the insane statistic that 99% of people breathe air that is below WHO healthy air quality limits. Additionally, the shift towards renewables supports the green economy by creating jobs in industries such as solar panel installation and wind turbine building.
Despite their many benefits, renewable energy sources are not without their challenges. Some of the biggest obstacles include generating power at large scales and covering intermittency. To generate energy at scale, solar and wind farms require plenty of space, typically outside of urban areas. Additionally, once that electricity is generated, it must be transmitted over long distances, accounting for inefficiencies in the transmission process. Such challenges require innovative solutions and infrastructure investments to integrate renewable energy sources into our energy systems fully.
Grid operators can manage intermittency through operational practices and energy storage solutions. We mentioned renewables are carbon-free during their use phase; however, during their production and manufacturing phases (the process of building, transporting, and installing the infrastructure), they contribute to emissions. However, these emissions are significantly less than that of comparable fossil fuel production. Moreover, they offset the energy consumed during production within two years of operation.
Finally, climate hazards threaten renewable energy sources; extreme weather events like hurricanes or tornadoes could damage wind turbines or solar panels. In addition, drought conditions currently impacting the Colorado River will reduce the amount of water available for hydropower generation.
Questions You Should Be Asking 🤔
Here are a few questions you should be asking when thinking about renewables in your city:
Where does my electricity come from?
Does my city offer any incentives for residents and businesses to adopt renewables like solar panels?
What are the potential costs and savings associated with transitioning to renewable energy sources?
TL;DR + What's Next 🧭
In conclusion, the transition to renewable energy sources is the only way to ensure a sustainable future for generations. Investing in clean and unlimited energy sources helps reduce pollution and combat climate change but also creates jobs, drives economic growth, and improves our health by minimizing air pollution. So let’s work together to build a better tomorrow by embracing renewable energy today.