by Anika Smith and Daphne Carr
Green energy is energy produced with little to no effect on the environment. Since we need electricity, and we need a life bearing planet, it should become apparent that we educate ourselves and shift towards greener energy sources. Everyone knows something about wind, solar and hydro energy. Additionally, nuclear, biomass and geothermal energy are some examples of lesser-known renewable energy sources. These all have their pros and cons that we will be discussing.
Although nuclear power is not necessarily renewable, it is recyclable. Nuclear power is achieved by putting a neutron into a nucleus of a uranium atom that is ready to split. This causes the atom to explode, thus sending other lone neutrons into other uranium atoms and creating energy. Nuclear energy is not responsible for any greenhouse gas emissions; it is cheap once a reactor is built, has a lot of job opportunities and is extremely reliable. On the other hand, it is costly to build and can have huge negative effects if an accident occurs. Radioactive waste is obviously a common concern about nuclear energy, but scientists have figured out how to recycle it into more usable fissile uranium.
Need a water heater? Geothermal energy uses the heat from the Earth’s core to heat up water and turn it to steam that then turns a turbine to generate electricity. This is completely renewable and a fairly simple concept, but it is only accessible for some areas and requires some 2.5 miles of drilling to reach an underground water reservoir close enough to be heated. Geothermal power plants are also expensive to install and require some management.
Biomass is also an alternative energy source generated by living or once living organisms. Biomass energy source options may consist of sawdust from lumber mills, organic municipal waste, crop waste, and even poultry litter (seriously, Google it!). Although, the most popular biomass energy source is wood. Trees get their energy from the sun and take in carbon dioxide from the air. When the trees die, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. The idea is that we can harvest trees as biomass and replant new trees so they can take up the carbon released in combustion. However, there is a time delay due to regrowth, and the combustion process of biomass causes an increase in carbon dioxide. Harvesting plants for biomass energy also has a negative effect on soils. Harvesting plants that otherwise would have decomposed means taking away nutrients that would have been added to the soil.
The future is undoubtedly renewable so we must indulge ourselves in the knowledge surrounding it.
This is our last article for two or so months because of the summer vacation. We encourage all to be Eco-Heroes and think about the environment whether you are working or relaxing. If you do want to do some summer E(co)-learning then sign up to MSS’s Robotics team 6858’s STEM and Sustainability conference on August 8, 2022. You can find out more on their Instagram @frc6865. Please pick up trash, don’t pollute and wear sunscreen.