Green Fee Proposal

My idea is to apply for a grant in order to fund research about the cost/benefit of green renovations to the residence halls. This is important because while the administration and trustees may think renovations are not in the budget, it could save money in the long term. This research would focus on assessing how long it would take for certain renovations to pay back themselves and be more cost-effective¬†than just maintaining the current system. The main renovation that I think is important is a new heating system because that seems to be an area that generates a lot of unnecessary energy. If we could show the board concrete data supporting that renovations such as these will save the school money, they may be more likely to dedicate funds to such a project. This would benefit this school, the environment, and the students’ quality of life.

Tidal energy

Tidal energy is a type of hydropower that depends on the kinetic energy in the tides to create energy, mostly for electricity. It works by taking advantage of the rising and falling of the tides. During high tide, the rising water spins turbines and as the tide goes out the turbines spin again and collect the kinetic energy from the water. Currently, the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station in South Korea is the largest tidal power installation. The Sihwa plant has a total power output capacity of 245 MW. Because collecting tidal energy depends on the gravitational pull between the earth and moon, it is a renewable energy and will not run out.

Tidal energy, however, has many downfalls. The equipment is very expensive initially, although it can be installed on already-present buildings in the water such as bridges. Another downside is its possible negative affect on marine life. Fish and animals may get stuck in the turbines, or they could also be affected by the noise generated by the turbines, if they depend on echo-location. However, this does not affect the entire water supply, just in the proximity of the equipment.

Although tidal energy is not going to be our primary energy source anytime soon, technological advances may make the economical and ecological cost go down soon. Tidal energy may be worth the investment of research because tides are more constant and predictable than other alternative renewable energy sources such as solar or wind energy.

Geothermal Energy Production: Not the Most Sustainable Option

I learned a lot about geothermal energy production through my mini-term to New Zealand. There, geothermal energy is ideal because of New Zealand’s geographic location, which is located near where two tectonic plates meet. Geothermal energy production works via using the heat and thus energy from inside the Earth to make power. This works by pumping geothermal fluid out of the ground, converting the heat into steam, and having this steam go through turbines and turn the turbines so create energy. This is done on a large scale in New Zealand to create electricity, but there is also smaller-scale geothermal energy that people can use to heat their homes. The New Zealand geothermal practices are so successful due to the location near tectonic plates that have heat closer to the Earth’s surface, which means that other locations are much less ideal for geothermal energy production and make this practice less efficient. Geothermal energy production can be quite problematic due to the geothermal fluid itself–prior to the late 1990s, geothermal fluid was dumped into rivers after the fluid was used to create steam. This ended up polluting a lot of rivers and raising the river temperature as well as allowing for harmful, poisonous bacteria and algae to grow in rivers, killing off the wildlife. The Resource Management Act has thus put restrictions on how geothermal fluid is dealt with after the energy production process. Fluid is now pumped back into the ground after the fluid is used, to attempt to recycle the geothermal fluid. This is still quite problematic because the fluid can build up in certain locations and erupt out of the ground. Another problem that occurs is the shifting levels of the ground. When the geothermal fluid is placed back in the ground, this can also contaminate the ground water and thus our crops, since the crops are now interacting with harmful, toxic materials. Pumping the fluid back into the ground can get quite expensive, and the cleanup of the rivers in New Zealand that have been previously destroyed by this practice is extremely expensive. This is definitely not a widely commercialized practice, and I really don’t think it should be (alternatives such as solar and wind power are much better for the environment with fewer negative drawbacks). In terms of long-term sustainability, I don’t see this practice being incredibly sustainable due to the negative environmental drawbacks. However, the fluid can keep being re-used, which is a slight positive when compared to things such as coal burning or fossil fuel usage.

Wave Energy

Wave energy forms from wind. The amount of energy is dependent on the speed of the wind. According to the EIA, the annual energy potential of waves off the coasts of the U.S. is estimated to be 2.64 Kilowatt-hours, which could produce 66% of energy generation. There are several ways to channel wind power: Wave energy can be harnessed into a narrow channel to increase their size and power which can spin turbines that generate electricity. It also can be channeled into a catch basin or reservoir where the water flows into a turbine. This is similar to the way a hydropower dam operates.

According to the New York Times, in Western, Australia they have buoys that generate waves into electricity for a nearby military base. The buoys started supplying 240 kilowatts each to the electricity grid for this base, roughly about 5% of its electricity. This is proving to be a successful experiment and source of renewable energy because it does not use any fossil fuels.

The biggest challenge facing wave energy is the cost. If you want to test an idea, it costs millions. Additionally, once generated it is at a cost of 40 cents per kilowatt-hour. While it is expensive, improvements are being made in order to improve the equipment and ensure it is not destroyed by storms. In order to make this a more consistent form of energy used, the government will need to assist in the funding of these projects.