Everybody wants energy that won’t hurt the environment. But just how realistic is the ideal? Scientists in three key areas have been looking at the problems.
John Dabiri, is a dynamic fluids expert as Caltech. He is involved in researching ways to harness freely blowing wind and convert it into practical electricity. The main problem with wind energy has been that with current technology, it takes a lot of room to build a wind farm. Heavily populated urban areas lack a lot of low-cost real estate for wind farms, and nature lovers hate having noisy windmills cluttering panoramic rural scenery. One alternative, offshore wind farms, are high maintenance as salt spray corrodes metal parts.
Dabiri is working on redesigning wind turbines so that they have a vertical axis, and therefore use lees ground space. Interestingly, he got the idea from watching a school of swimming fish. The way the fish position themselves for swimming in schools takes advantage of both the clockwise and counterclockwise swish of their tails and is an efficient use of the fluidity of water. Dabiri’s turbines use the fluidity of air in a similar fashion.
Solar energy has an obvious flaw: nighttime. Light energy is needed most at night. Michael Graetzel is a scientist and professor who is working on that. He invented dye-sensitized solar cells. The dye on the top absorbs photons of light and releases electrons into the solar cell’s conduction band. The advantage of this new solar cell is that it is low cost and easy to manufacture. The development of solar cell technology is very competitive and scientists from many countries are working on improving the efficiency of plastic, copper foil, carbon based, nanocyrstal, and silicon power cells.
For years, geothermal energy has been hailed as an endless and woefully underused energy source. At first glance, it would deem simple enough—just dig it. That was until recently when questions arose about the possibility of an earthquake being caused by geothermal mining when pressurized water enters a crack in the rock.
Volcanologist Bruce Marsh from Johns Hopkins University had a different problem with a more serendipitous outcome. A geothermal energy company drilled into a magma field by mistake enabling the study of what he called prehistoric energy.
Even though energy needs are supplied by objects as ancient as the sun, earth’s future depends on how they are utilized today.
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Environmental and Energy Study Institute study: Jobs from Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency
Much attention is now given to America’s need to rebuild its economy and shift the nation’s energy to a low-carbon, more secure supply. The renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors can provide quality, long-term jobs that remain in the United States and help communities transition away from fossil fuel-intensive industries. Jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency will provide income for many who have lost their jobs, and return the United States to a leadership role in the global fight against climate change.
Recent energy legislation, such as the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140), as well as in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5), include provisions for new jobs that support a clean energy economy. This fact sheet provides information about the quantity and variety of current and projected clean energy jobs available in the United States and throughout the world.