May 10, 2012
Reality Check to America’s Energy Policy
The invention of electricity, to many, can be considered one of the greatest inventions by humanity, behind writing and the wheel. From its first discovery in the 1600s till present day, electricity has fascinated the minds of scientist everywhere. Over time society has been established with a very high dependency on this commodity. Imagine our world today without electricity or any of the inventions derived from it. Modern societies would have taken a much different path. Last year the International Energy Agency conducted a survey on the energy statistics for over 30 of the more developed countries. Around 62 percent of the energy produced worldwide was created from combustible fuel source (Monthly Electricity Statistics). When combustible fuel is burned, carbon and other harmful byproducts are released into the atmosphere. This brings about environmental injustice since every living organism in contact with the atmosphere now suffers the consequences which the few benefit from. While I believe this is the more grave concern regarding electricity, the majority of the modernized world might not have an equivalent conclusion. Despite what any individual’s concerns are regarding energy, it has been generally accepted that the finite source generating the majority of our electricity is depleting at alarming rates. We need to find alternative sources for energy production. The most obvious and abundant source available is the sun. Advances in technology have enabled us to harvest the solar radiation which has been conducting the cycle of life for millions of years. There are two main categories when it comes to solar power, passive and active. The passive solar systems integrate the sun’s energy to heat living spaces and/or water in a building. These system are very simple consisting few moving parts, require negligible maintenance and no mechanical components (Passive Solar Design). Passive solar design is practice throughout the world, producing low energy cost buildings with less maintenance and superior comfort. The key components that contribute to lowering energy costs are appropriate solar orientation, the use of thermal mass and appropriate ventilation and window placement (Passive Solar Design). In order to increase the effectiveness of the passive design, one must understand the characteristics of the building site. The important characteristic taken into consideration during the designing process are wind patterns, terrain, vegetation, solar exposure and other factor which require professional architectural services (Passive Solar Design). Wind patterns are utilized in determining the placement of windows and doors to allow maximum ventilation to cool buildings. Buildings elongated on an east to west axis allow sunlight to attain a greater area to heat in cooler times of the year. During the hotter months, the use of shading can prevent solar heat from entering the interior. Constructing the building with brick, concrete or stone helps absorb, store and redistribute heat within a structure (Passive Solar Design). Generally, the concern brought up regarding the incorporation of this system is cost. If the building is designed accurately, the cost of a passive system can run the same or slightly more than conventional buildings. The more recognized use of solar energy is active solar. Powerful electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun penetrates the atmosphere and absorbed through photovoltaic cells, or PV cells. The state of California defines active solar energy systems as those that "are thermally isolated from living space or any other area where the energy is used, to provide for the collection, storage, or distribution of solar energy" (DSIRE). Photovoltaic systems are usually the conventional panels you might see on a house or building. A single PV cell can generate around one to two watts of power. To boost the output of...
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