Despite nuclear energy providing many with electricity, a modern day necessity, it may not be the best option for developed countries. This is especially evident in the foothills and coastal regions in the United States. In the southeast, we are fortunate to have plenty of sun, strong wind, and the consistency of the tides throughout the entire year. Specifically, in Greenville, a town recognized for its economic growth as well as its recent development of several energy efficient corporate buildings, we have access to both sun and wind power year round. For some, this provides an opportunity to save money. There are several varying opportunities for those who take advantage of these energy sources to save money on taxes as well as small amounts of monetary incentives from Duke and other major power companies. In fact, Furman University and some local companies have decided to begin shifting to solar. Below are photos of how Furman and a local company are implementing solar as well as a survey.
Right now the major sources of power are nuclear and fossil fuel. These types of energy are simply not sustainable. Nuclear power produces highly dangerous material that quickly contaminates, and we currently have no good way to dispose of this material. Coal and other fossil fuel are unsustainable due to the fact that our reservoirs of these resources are finite. Eventually, we will consume all of these resources, and we will be stuck with an energy system that is built off of a no longer existing resource. Sunlight, however, will last far longer than our species. Solar along with other alternative power systems allows for more independence. This means that instead of relying on specific regions or countries for a limited resource everyone would be able to stand alone more easily. This could especially benefit third world countries as instead of attempting to sell their fuels through corrupt companies or working sites they would be able to focus more on more pressing issues. Solar is also one of the most versatile of the alternative energies. It can be built big or small to fit its purpose and it can be placed in almost any environment because most of Earth receives regular exposure to sunlight.
Effects of Solar Energy
On the other hand, there are many benefits for using solar energy. These perks are not only beneficial for the environment, but they are also attractive for your wallet.
(1) In many states, especially those in the Southern United States, residential properties save more than $100 a month. (2) People who use solar reduce dependency on power sources which are limited(Energy Informative, Top 10 Benefits of Going Solar).(3) Solar Panels only require water in the production stage unlike many other types of energy that require water which becomes contaminated. This means that by installing panels you are helping to keep the world’s water clean.( Solar Valley Solutions, 3 Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy). (4) Less energy is used to provide you with power! Fossil fuel power companies must over-produce energy by roughly 7 percent to get electricity to flow from the plant to your building.(5) You pollute less air by using solar panels. When New York Times interviewed Carol Olson, an expert in the field, she said “Compared with electricity from coal, PV electricity over its lifetime uses 86 to 89 percent less water, occupies or transforms over 80 percent less land, presents approximately 95 percent lower toxicity to humans, contributes 92 to 97 percent less to acid rain…”(New York Times, Solar Power Begins to Shine as Environmental Benefits Pay Off).
Effects of Nuclear Energy
While there are certainly benefits to nuclear energy there are other statistics, such as these, which may contradict those benefits:
(1) Nuclear stations regularly produce nearly 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel in a year. Considering we have no good way of disposing of this waste this is a significant amount.(2) Anything that comes into contact with nuclear waste becomes low-level nuclear waste. This can range from the tools touching the used fuel to the tools used to handle the used fuel.(3)The amount of carbon dioxide produced by this type of energy was 564 million metric tons; this is the same amount is nearly that of roughly 128 million cars.
I plan to help teach the elementary aged children at our school about solar energy by showing them solar cookers with the aid of a teacher. Even without solar panels, these cookers are able to use the energy from the sun to cook food. Through this effort, I hope to increase the common awareness of more sustainable energy. Below are instructions to build a DIY solar cooker. Please note this type of cooker should not be used for cooking of any meat or any substance that may cause sickness if not cooked well enough.
I also am attempting to get solar panels installed near our sports fields to power lighting for example. To accomplish this I have searched for grants within my state. This coming August I will be joining with my environmental club leaders as well as my librarian to write an application for this grant. Hopefully, when this installation works we will be able to gather more support for more installations around campus or increase awareness about sustainability.