My post this week focuses on the utilization of nuclear energy as a viable energy source for the future. The process of nuclear fusion (slamming two lighter molecules into one to create a heavier molecule while harnessing the energy released in the collision), is the same process that is employed by our sun. In addition to having the potential to provide an almost unlimited source of renewable energy, nuclear fusion emits no pollutants or greenhouse gasses. Nuclear fusion is currently utilized in 47 out of 50 states and this trend represents a positive step towards transitioning the United States away from fossil fuels. While the risks for meltdowns and other failures in the operating systems of these reactors is still a possibility, advancing technology in the building of such reactors has significantly marginalized the percentage of failure. This is important because as it exists today, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that nuclear energy accounts for about 20% of the total energy produced in the United States. So while we have already made nuclear energy an established part of energy production in the United States, we have many structural, engineering, and ethical questions that will need to be answered in the future before we can fully begin the discussing about leaving fossil fuels behind.
Solar Energy is an interesting way of taking the energy from the sun and using it. Solar energy can be broken down into two different categories, passive and active. The more commonly thought about way is active, which consists of solar panels that collect energy. This method is very helpful in generating clean energy. The passive method includes building with the intention of maximizing the sunlight the structure gets and also making advantageous designs to facilitate air flow. The architectural designs associated with passive solar energy is actually much cheaper than installing solar panels. However, solar panels are sometimes subsidized by utility companies. An informational article I found on a website that sells solar panels said, “the installed cost of solar panels was between $7-$9 per watt: A 5 kW system would cost around $25,000-$35,000. Many utility companies offer incentives, and some subsidize as much as 50% of system costs” So clearly the active method of collecting solar energy is more complicated than the passive method. I think that the cost should not be subsidized by private companies as it allows them to claim their return in a big way when the owner of the panels sells their house. The government should incentivize programs for residential clean energy.