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Clean Energy

 

Almost 53% of our nation’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels like coal (49.7%) and oil (3%). Less than 3% comes from biomass, geothermal, solar and wind.  (Source: EEI, 2005).  Cleaner, renewable sources of energy have less impact on the environment by emitting less toxins, soot and greenhouse gases.  These air pollutants are associated with climate change and respiratory problems like asthma.

Clean, green energy is available and dependable. The more environmentally friendly options include: solar, hydropower, wind, biomass or biogas , geothermal, and wave and tidal power. Note that all options have pros and cons.

Solar barn.  Photo by Lee Wesler

Solar

Solar power harnesses energy from the sun. It relies either on solar photovoltaic panels, or a transfer fluid is heated and then circulated around for heating and hot water (like a boiler.) Although solar technology is still quite expensive, subsidies are available. Passive solar design makes use of direct sunlight for heating purposes. More...

Small, Sustainable Hydropower

[From Our Better Nature]  Hydroelectric power, or hydropower, uses free falling water to generate electricity. Modern hydropower technology has come a long way from the waterwheel.  Improvements in turbine blade design and other features have reduced the “bass-o-matic” effect, enabling more small fish to survive an accidental ride through a modern plant.  Better efficiency at converting the motion of the river to electrical energy enables smaller hydropower stations to operate continually at ‘run of the river’ flows.  This reduces the need for pulse/flow systems that periodically hold back water to increase volume and pressure to meet power demands.  Some companies are even working on new ‘kinetic’ or ‘free-flow’ hydropower technologies that generate power without a dam or impoundment.

Because of other environmental impacts, there has been some controversy over whether hydropower is truly a “green” technology because of environmental impacts (dams impacting fish migration and survival, etc.)   For the most part, small hydropower is considered a sustainable energy source because it relies on a renewable resource (i.e., water, which is not destroyed during the production of electricity), as long as the facility does not cause an appreciable change in river flow. More....

Wind power

Wind

Wind can be converted into electricity using wind turbines or wind mills. Electricity may come from an individual turbine or a collection of wind mills on a 'wind farm.' Windmills have been used for years to pump water from deep underground for agriculture. Modern wind energy systems consist of three components: a tower on which the wind turbine is mounted, a rotor that is turned by the wind, and the Nacelle that houses the equipment, including the generator, that turns the mechanical energy in the spinning rotor into electricity. Intermittent winds limit the ability to provide a steady power supply. There may be concerns about impacts on scenic vistas and migrating birds.

Biomass and Biogas

Definitions of "green" or "sustainable" biomass-generated electricity typically include combustion of forest-related harvesting residue and agricultural crops, and methane produced by solid waste landfills. With biogas, microbes break down animal waste to release methane and carbon dioxide which is used to fuel an engine or generator that produces electricity.

Geothermal

Energy can be generated from heat stored beneath the surface of the earth, or from heat absorbed in the atmosphere or ocean. Some power plants use Dry Steam, Flash, or Binary technologies to generate electricity depending on the temperature, depth and quality of water and steam available. It is clean, safe, and sustainable because the hot water it uses can be re-injected into the ground to produce more steam. It can provide continuous power.

Wave and Tidal

This form of hydropower uses the energy from surface waves, tidal currents, the rise and fall of sea levels due to tides. It is not yet widely used.

Clean Energy Options

On 10/04/07, the Town of Woodstock adopted a clean energy resolution. Any CL&P customer can sign up for energy from wind, landfill gas, or small hydroelectric. Once 100 Woodstock customers sign up, the Town will receive a free solar energy system from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund. You can track how many people have signed up in your town at www.ctinnovations.com/communities (select your town from the pull-down menu). See www.ctcleanenergyoptions.com/options.htm to compare the cost of options. More....

 

More Information and References:

 

Conservation Commission
Think globally, act locally

- Reportedly David Brower, Friends of the Earth