Are we aware of the future state?
Stone Age saw the very first human invention in form of the accidental spark generated by rubbing two stones, and the first source of energy was unveiled (apart from the already existing natural energy sources such as sunlight, wind, water etc). From then on humans have embarked on a journey of inventions, having found a number of sources of energy and using them for their basic needs of housing, transportation, industrialization etc. In a bid to achieve more, we have managed to over-utilize some of the non-renewable energy sources, such as oil, natural gas and coal and have brought them to the extent of extinction. Thus the time is ripe for everyone to assess their overall energy consumption, how it can be reduced or optimized, and if any alternative sources of energy can be used to elongate the life of non-renewable energy sources.
Like charity, I believe all good things begin at home. My state Connecticut is fifth lowest energy consuming states in 2010 on a per capita basis, and my city Norwich at times beats the overall state and U.S. level metrics in terms of energy usage, as its energy consumption is at times too low to be significant. Residential and transportation sectors are the major chunks in the energy consumption pie as the industrial consumption is almost negligible (U.S. Energy Information Administration: Profile Analysis, 2013).
Connecticut’s energy usage involves both non-renewable and renewable sources of energy. Non-renewable sources include coal, petroleum and natural gas while renewable sources include solar and wind based energy (Connecticut, Profile Analysis, 2013).
My own energy use pattern is quite similar. While commuting I try to use public transport as much as possible. Though the public transport also uses petroleum products (like Amtrak trains which use diesel and electricity), still being a means for mass transit they help in cutting the overall consumption of petroleum products, which are fossil fuels extracted from the remains of animals and plants. Petroleum products serve as efficient transportation fuel, and can be easily transported. They are also very economical to produce. But on the flip side, they produce CO2 emissions resulting in environmental pollution; they need to be transported to places like Norwich and most important fact is that they are non-renewable (Energy4me, n. d.).
Throughout a year, my energy needs change. Like in summer I need some cooling, while in winters I need my place to be warm. Energy is used in cooling and heating appliances, television, refrigerators, heating fuel, electricity, computers, dishwashers, dryers, etc. In summers there is an increase in electricity demand and a reduction in power production efficiency of nuclear power plants and fossil fuel as these plants require water for cooling.
Within my home, the natural gas is the main source of energy which is used for a number of things like cooking, heating, drying clothes etc. Electricity generation also involves use of natural gas. Produced as a byproduct of oil, natural gas is a clean source of energy. It is also used for decreasing pollution in electricity generation by combining it with other fuels. However, it is not easily available in some areas of the U. S. due to lack of infrastructure. Also low level of emission is present and the pipelines have impact on ecosystem.
In Norwich, the main renewable sources of energy are the solar and wind energy. Nowadays Connecticut is encouraging people to use renewable resources e.g. residential solar photovoltaic. According to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), only 27% of electricity will be sold in the state from renewable energy sources by 2020, so its usage needs to be increased (U.S. Energy Information Administration: profile Analysis, 2013).
Solar energy can be the best form of renewable energy that can be utilized in Norwich, and Connecticut has already started pushing this energy form to various cities. Government is promoting use of solar energy by installing solar panels at subsidized rates – a one-time investment. Solar energy is non-polluting and is the most abundant energy source available, and solar power systems last for about 15-30 years. Main disadvantage is that itdepends on the weather. It also needs supplemental energy in the areas where there is low sunlight. PV cell panels need large physical area for installation and the polysilicon used for making panels has limited availability (Singer, 2013).
Connecticut is also using hydropower as a renewable source of energy to produce electricity. FirstLight Power Resources works with hydro stations during times when electricity demands are high. Hydropower is non-polluting, reliable, can generate power in large amounts, and based on the demands, the output can be regulated. However the hydropower use involves building dams which is expensive, and the dams also impact the environment negatively. Moreover, these dams also get affected by drought (FirstLight, n. d.).
Another form of renewable energy that Connecticut is looking at is the wind energy. NPU and city schools have collaborated to install a 45 foot high tower having a wind turbine for using wind energy for generating electricity. Wind energy is an affordable, non-polluting source with little disruption to ecosystem. However wind energy is not very appropriate for Norwich as its output is dependent on the wind speed. Norwich is not a particularly windy city having average wind speed of just 5 miles per hour which is not sufficient even for rotating the blades of the turbine. Also the initial investment and ongoing maintenance costs of turbine are high (Craven, 2011).
In addition to finding alternate sources, energy conservation is also an important tool to minimize energy abuse. The first step towards energy conservation is to eliminate the wastage of energy that happens in household, schools or workplaces. The energy consumption of the United States alone is anticipated to increase by 13% in the next two decades and global consumption is also expected to rise by about 44% over the same time period.
I have taken certain steps to conserve energy. I clean and replace the air filters regularly. I also keep adjusting cooling and heating controls to avoid overcooling or overheating. In summers I keep the thermostat at 78°F and in winter, the recommended limit is 68°F which are recommended limits for optimal usage of energy. In addition, I have replaced the light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights and have reduced my television viewing time. These are some steps which have helped me to save energy, and can be implemented by everyone (Energy4me, n. d.).
Being selfish and over consuming the resources is certainly not an option if we want to leave a legacy for our future generations, else their lives will be filled with numerous challenges which could have been avoided had we been a little careful in limiting our energy usage. Energy is precious for everyone, and should be used wisely. If this is not done in a timely manner, then we would run the risk of going back to Stone Age, with no electricity, no fuel and certainly no industries. We need to wake up before it gets too late.
Craven, James. (2011). Norwich Senior center harnessing wind power. The Bulletin. Retrieevd from: http://www.norwichbulletin.com/x1512112110/Wind-turbine-goes-online
Energy4me. (n.d.). Energy Conservation. Retrieved from: http://www.energy4me.org/energy-facts/energy-conservation/#
Hydroelectric Facilities. (n. d.). FirstLight Power resources. Retrieved from: http://www.firstlightpower.com/generation/hydro.asp
Profile Analysis. (2013). Connecticut. State profile and Energy Estimates, U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved from: http://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.cfm?sid=CT
Singer, S. (2013). Connecticut Pushing hard to expand solar energy to homes. The Bulletin. Retrieved from: www.norwichbulletin.com/article/20131129/NEWS/131129549/10304/LIFESTYLE