Combating Climate Change by Debunking Renewable Energy Myths

As climate change intensifies, countries need to pursue clean energy economies and investments need to be made into viable alternatives to fossil fuels. As countries make the change to clean energy economies to mitigate climate change, research into sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels has exploded.
People Impacted
$ 72B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

Efforts to reduce the United States' dependence on carbon-based energy sources are becoming more and more popular, but because much debate still surrounds which renewable source is most cost effective, environmentally friendly, etc., American's are left questioning why they should even worry about where their energy comes from, and what they can do to limit their consumption.

Symptoms and Causes
  • Wind Power: Arguably the most plausible source of renewable energy, the United States is prime real estate for wind turbines. Still, many oppose these efforts because of myths surrounding the power source.

    • Expensive: While wind turbines are one of the pricier sources initially, new technology has reduced installation cost dramatically. While coal was the gold standard for cheap energy for decades, now, solar and wind plants are half the cost of new coal plants (altenergymag). Additionally, upkeep and labor to man wind turbines is relatively nonexistent, as they are unmanned except for biannual inspections.

    • Harmful to Birds: People who oppose wind farms often claim wind turbine blades kill large numbers of birds, often referring to them as “bird choppers”. And claims of dangers to iconic or rare birds, especially raptors, have attracted a lot of attention. Wind turbine blades do indeed kill birds and bats, but their contribution to total bird deaths is extremely low. Wind farms and nuclear power stations are responsible each for between 0.3 and 0.4 fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity while fossil-fuelled power stations are responsible for about 5.2 fatalities per GWh. That’s nearly 15 times more than wind turbines (The Conversation).

    • Harmful to Humans: In places like Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont where industrial wind turbine projects have recently been introduced, residents have reported symptoms such as nausea, sleep disorders, fatigue, and increased stress that they account to a low-frequency hum—a combination of audible bass sounds and inaudible vibrations—generated by the turbines. All of these have been proven to be untrue (PBS).

  • Solar Power: The energy the sun provides to the earth for one hour could meet the global energy needs for one year. Why aren't we harnessing it? While it has been widely criticized for being expensive or inefficient, solar energy has now proved to be extremely beneficial - not only for the environment but also for private economy (Greenmatch).

    • Expensive: Much like wind power, initial installation can be pricey, but advances in tech are reducing prices at great rates. Also like wind power, solar power takes little maintenance and man power once established.

    • Environmental Drawbacks: Solar energy is not perfect. Some toxic materials and hazardous products are still used during the manufacturing process of solar photovoltaic systems, which can indirectly affect the environment. Nevertheless, solar energy pollutes far less than other energy sources.

    • Uses A Lot of Space: Not everyone has the space required for the panels on their roof or yard. However, many communities can pool their solar energy resources to one grid and share stored energy.

  • Geothermal Power: Instead of using natural gas or oil and as an alternative to incurring high electricity bills, geothermal energy works to draw off the Earth’s constant core temperature to both heat and cool the home. This ever present source of energy is different than wind or solar power as it is not dependent on the weather. However, like other alternative energy sources, it has its pros and cons (Comfort Pro).

    • Expensive: High upfront costs with implementing geothermal energy. ($10,000-$20,000). Therefore, it is more suitable for new home builds as retrofitting involves large-scale, costly excavation.

    • Uses Water: Geothermal energy using wells requires an incredible usage of water. So while the thermal energy is renewable, it is dependent on a more precious resource, water.

    • Pollution: Geothermal energy has the smallest carbon footprint of any heating or cooling source, but the well pumps used can discharge some byproduct into the Earth could including sulfur dioxide and silica.

the impact
Negative Effects

Cost of Entry into Renewable Energy Market:

As noted above, the biggest barrier for Americans transferring to renewable energy sources is the expense. Although tech has reduced the cost since its initial introduction, most families can't afford this kind of installation. Government plans to transition the population away from fossil fuels have included incentive packages for installations, but we are still a long way off from the average American family being able to afford new installations.

There is Still Some Form of Pollution:

Naysayers of renewable energy sources claim we are trading one problem for another. Although each alternative does have its drawbacks, the carbon impact is exponentially less. And as tech evolves each new source gets cleaner. Not investing in the development of these sources slows their refinement.

Economic Impact

Job Creation

More than 10 million people work in the renewable energy sector worldwide, with more than 500,000 new jobs added in 2017. The sector provides many different types of jobs, including positions in manufacturing, installation, engineering, sales, marketing and more. Renewable energy jobs are expected to continue to grow well into the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that the solar photovoltaic installer occupation will grow by 105 percent between 2016 and 2026 and that the demand for wind turbine service technicians will grow by 96 percent during the same period. That makes the first and second fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. (REM).

Landowner Income

Renewable energy also provides an additional source of income for rural landowners and farmers. According to data from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind farms in the U.S. provide around $222 million every year to rural landowners who host wind farms on their property. Farmers can also make money growing crops to be used as biofuels. Corn ethanol is currently the main avenue by which farmers participate in the energy sector, but other biofuels are starting to get more attention (REM).

Reduced Energy Costs

Switching to renewable energy is an excellent way for residential, commercial and industrial energy customers to save money on their bills. Installing solar panels on your property allows you to generate your own electricity, theoretically giving you the ability to reduce your energy bill to zero. The exact amount you save depends on many factors, including where you live. According to EnergySage, the average savings range from $10,483 in Washington to $30,523 in Massachusetts (REM).

Success Metrics

  • Require aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations.

  • Ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters.

  • Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and partner with the world to reduce carbon emission.

  • Increase federal funding in renewable energy sources.

  • Accelerate the use of clean technology throughout the US economy, in homes, businesses, etc.

  • Make environmental justice a priority, and focus on those who are most effected and neglected including communities of color, tribal lands and low-income communities.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Coal Industry

  • Oil Industry

  • Renewable Energy Industry

  • The American Government

  • The EPA

  • The United Nations

  • American Citizens

  • Coal and Oil Workers

  • Renewable Energy Workers

Ideas Description

Continue to explore and refine alternative energy sources:

When Sudeep Joshi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Stevens Institute of Technology, sat down to a lunch of mushrooms with his colleagues, it struck him that mushrooms could be used in his experiments to generate electricity from cyanobacteria. Generating electricity from cyanobacteria requires finding a way to harness their photosynthesis. To do this, the team 3D-printed nanoribbons of graphene onto mushrooms to act as conductors. They then 3D-printed spirals of cyanobacteria onto the fungi. Once light was shone on the mushrooms, the bacteria produced electricity that was then gathered on the nanoribbons. The amount of electricity produced was negligible, but multiple mushrooms together would be able to power an LED light bulb.

Promote apps and programs that implement clean and affordable energy for all:

The EnergiTree provides clean energy to those in most need - incorporating wind, solar and batteries for a complete nanogrid operation. It is perfectly suited for remote locations, farms, disaster relief, and military expeditionary use. It uses Primo’s innovative and patented torque based blade and provides real usable power in the common wind speeds of 5-15 mph.

The Mapdwell Project is about enabling communities with information that will drive sustainable practices, community awareness, energy efficiency, and smart development through the aggregate effort of individuals. By transforming accurate, open, and unbiased information into education and action, the project proposes an organic yet highly auspicious approach to the fossil fuel dilemma.

Optio3 provides complete monitoring of different IoT (Internet of Things) Devices to enable comprehensive management of energy consumptions at small and large buildings. This software solution can integrate with any existing set of devices from different manufacturers which makes the solution affordable and convenient for Nonprofit Organizations.

Monitor and reduce and energy overall:

Take control of your energy use with EnergyCloud. Real-time electricity monitor helps eliminate unexpected high utility bills by showing where and when electricity is used down to the appliance level. See electricity usage in easy-to-understand dollars and cents.

The next revolution in smart energy technology. Smappee is an all-in-one energy management system for commercial, industrial and residential use. It gathers data on solar production and energy, gas and water consumption. Consult real-time and historical data in the Smappee App or Dashboard. Control appliances and loads to save energy and money.

Develop the renewable energy workforce:

The Solar Foundation is a national leader in solar workforce development. Through the Solar Training Network, Solar Ready Vets initiatives, and robust solar labor market research, we share innovative resources and promote collaborative solutions to strengthen and diversify solar career pathways.

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