By Scott Hamilton
Over the last decade or more there has been a push by global governments toward an initiative they refer to as green energy. Last week we learned that there is no simple meaning of “green” energy. The problem we discovered is that the definition of “green” energy is different depending on who you are talking to, and their particular agenda. This week we will discuss the second of the three topics. What is green energy? What are the benefits of green energy? What should we do concerning the topic?
Most people supporting “green” energy see the main advantage in the form of “saving” the environment. They hold strong beliefs that releasing excess carbon into the atmosphere is the main driving force behind our rising temperatures and, as such, attempt to reduce the carbon emissions at the national, local and individual level.
I have written several times in the past regarding my opinion on the effects of carbon in the atmosphere on our climate, but in short I believe the human factor in climate change is a negligible effect. Our contribution to climate change is less than five percent of the total factors affecting the climate. The main factor affecting our climate is the temperature shift of the Sun, which contributes close to 90 percent of the warming, cooling, wind patterns and even our electromagnetic fields, which all impact our climate. Does this mean we should continue to burn fossil fuels in ever increasing quantities without regard to the climate? Of course not, but we need to make effective alternatives before destroying the global economy in favor of “green” energy initiatives.
The good news is that there are viable alternatives to carbon based energy available to us today and they benefit more than just the environment. One such alternative is solar energy, but not for power generation, which is the main promoted use of solar today. One of the primary uses of solar energy is heating. You can feel the heat from the sun on the bright sunny days. We even use this heat to warm up after jumping in cool, or even cold refreshing water on hot summer days. However, anytime someone talks about solar energy, they immediately jump to solar panels and electric generation.
A properly designed home can use the power of the sun as the primary heat source through most of the Missouri winter, but it does require some rather complex engineering to the structure of the house and materials used in the construction. These homes are called passive solar homes, meaning that they do not have any moving parts, or conversion of energy, but utilize the heat from the sun directly. In most cases a passive solar home is built with well insulated concrete walls on the north, west, and east side of the home, and a large glass wall on the south side of the home. The concrete provides what is called a thermal mass, which when heated by the sun during the day, holds the heat and slowly releases it throughout the night. Given enough thermal mass in contact with the earth, these passive homes can hold a relatively constant temperature around 68 degrees year round.
The passive solar home is more costly to build up front than a conventional home, but you can think of it as buying your heat for the next 70 or more years rather than renting your heat month by month in the form of a heating bill. This is the same selling point you will hear about adding solar panels to your home, but speaking from experience, you can expect to replace components of a solar electric system beginning at five years, and the cost of these replacement components averages out to be nearly the same as the current rate of electricity. You can save a tremendous amount of money on taking steps towards passive solar energy that last for decades, or you can break even with solar panel systems that need constant repair.
There is a third advantage to “green” energy besides the environment and the cost savings, and that is the independence it brings to the family, corporation, state or nation that begins investing in truly green energy sources. For my family, one of the biggest reasons we like having our solar panels, wood heat and passive solar heating from our windows, is the fact that we know we can survive without dependence on the government, or other people if the need arises. To me the real reason our nation should look to investing in “green” energy is to achieve energy independence, but I do not believe shutting down our national oil production and increasing regulation to get there is the best plan of action, because until we have enough “green” energy solutions in place, we need to keep our energy independence through our national oil and gas production rather than being dependent on foreign sources. Until next week stay safe and learn something new.
Scott Hamilton is an Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through his website at https://www.techshepherd.org.