We have the technology and the capability to move America to 100% renewable energy
Professor Mark Jacobson from Stanford’s Atmosphere and Energy Program with the support of his graduate students have provided the blueprint to achieve 100% renewable energy in America.
Reaching 100% renewable energy simply by increasing the current capacity is to slow.
Humanity, yes humanity - as this is a global problem – has roughly ten years to make extraordinary reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions to have the best chance of mitigating the most devastating affects of global warming. Those devastating affects include:
Even if we assume the political and institutional barriers that current exist were removed…that still would not be enough. In America, the time needed to:
Renewable energy should be the last step in the movement to a low carbon-society
This statement may seem contradictory to you but bear with me. First let me provide a few clarifications.
First, a low carbon-society is a society that functions at a high level while only releasing greenhouse gases that can be managed by our planet naturally without increasing the planet’s global average temperature.
Note. A low-carbon society includes transportation emissions so moving away from crude oil as the main source for powering our transportation. However, for this article we are focusing on carbon emissions from buildings.
Second, when I state - “renewable energy should be the last step” - I am referring to a general rule for any particular situation. That rule is this: The renewable energy capacity added should be based on the energy consumption after conservation and efficiency measures. This means a homeowner can and should add solar panels to their roof immediately. However, the number of solar panels should not be for their current energy consumption but for the forecasted energy consumption AFTER conservation and efficiency measures are implemented. This rule should also be applied to commercial building owners and municipalities alike.
Shameless plug: Gemini can help commercial building owners and municipalities calculate the renewable energy capacities they should be trying to reach.
There are three reasons renewable energy should be the last step:
Cost. Renewable energy is almost always more costly than conservation or efficiency measures. Typically, from a cost perspective it goes:
Time. Implementing renewable energy is almost always slower that implementing conservation or efficiency measures. In fact, you should start planning for your renewable energy immediately after receiving an energy audit report to get the process started.
Impact on Environment. Remember our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Purchasing 10 solar panels when you only needed 5 if you reduced your energy consumption through conservation and efficiency measures hurts our goal. Constructing a solar photovoltaics (PV) panel, transporting, maintaining, and eventually disposing all release greenhouse gas emissions.
Note. Renewable energy like solar PV are considerably less impactful than fossil fuels like coal. https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/56487.pdf
So…save your money, save your time, and save the planet by choosing renewable energy last.
Your major takeaways should be:
This morning, on the day we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his leadership in the Civil Rights movement my wife woke me up to the song Glory by Common and John Legend. Hearing this song fills me with a sense of pride of being an African-American. I also feel a bit of sadness that there still seems so much further to go. That the impact of the Jim Crow era on African-Americans which produced laws and policies such as redlining districts is still being felt today.
The heat island effect is when an area is considerably hotter than the actual temperature. The heat island effect is a phenomenon that comes from a concentration of dark material e.g., asphalt and roofs, combined with a lack of trees for covering. The asphalt absorbs the heat of the day and permeates throughout the night. So while other areas cool down once the sun goes down, heat islands do not. To maintain a comfortable temperature the air conditioner stays on, which also pushes more heat into the surrounding area. A direct impact of hotter neighborhoods is higher energy usage and thus higher energy costs. This is compounded with the fact that buildings in America typically do not have enough insulation. Insulation is what minimizes the impact of ambient temperature on the temperature inside a building.
Reducing heat islands would reduce our carbon emissions as well as reduce the financial burden on those living in areas designated as heat islands. There are three ways to prevent the heat island effect in your neighborhood.
"A home's purpose is to provide comfort and protection from the external environment." That may be true but it is a limiting statement. A home is where you watch TV with your family, play video games with your sibling(s), read bedtime stories to your kid(s), or cook with your spouse. A simple truth is that energy is required for all these activities and more. Determining how to minimize the amount of energy needed to achieve these activities is not so simple. However there are two key principals to start with, that will help you better understand your home:
1) Energy consumption is the result of factors like occupant behavior, building orientation and materials, and weather interacting at a given time.
2) Once a home is built, occupant behavior is the most important factor and often the cheapest to improve.