Sustainable Energy


April 4th, 2013 – Seminar 9

Group Members:
Alicia Zayshley, Todd Willick, Ivan Kats, Ian Cheung, Taylor Gould, Sam MacRae, Derek Wasylyshen, Krystyl Bergen, Matt Rajfur, Chad Rempel

Reading:
Bry. Sarte. “Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design.” John Wiley & Sons: New York, 2010, pg 166-176.

Summary:
The article looks at the different applications of energy and how it essentially exists all around us in various ways. More specifically, the article discusses how our current energy paradigm is damaging our environment, as we are unsustainable at every level in the process of extracting, refining, shipping and distributing it. Our paradigm is fragile and inefficient because we use large centralized power systems that lead to overconsumption and distribution losses. For example, more then two thirds of the fuel energy used to generate electricity is lost before it even gets to our homes. Over 90% of energy that is extracted from the ground as coal is wasted before it can actually be put to use. A light bulb (incandescent) loses 90 percent of its energy as heat, and uses only 10% to produce the light that it is intended for.
The proposed solution for this growing issue is simply design. Our current framework calls for unnecessary amounts of consuming un-used produced energy. Therefore we must redesign to consume less energy in buildings by implicating theories and concepts of passive design strategies to use natural alternatives through orientation, sealing and insulation, building design, thermal mass, radiant barriers, reflective surfaces, and incorporate vegetation strategies.

Reading:
Abbasi, Taneem. “Is the Use of Renewable Energy Sources an Answer to the Problems of Global Warming and Pollution?” Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 2012, Vol.42(2), pg 99-154.

Summary:
The article summarizes the need for renewable energy resources and looks at the ones we are currently incorporating to adhere to climate change. Wind, solar, and hydro energy alternatives have become the most popular technology alternatives, and as a result are reeking high profit for their popular demand. However, as these alternatives have achieved popularity, the question is do these energy resources actually benefit our environment without any backlashes/ impacts?
The article focuses on solar energy alternatives and how they require a large amount of manufactured materials to obtain acquired solar energy such as specialty steel, glass and cement (having large embodied energy). In addition, they are required large tracts of land to locate collectors that must receive high solar radiation fluxes. With this being said they are often situated on open agricultural land or large portions of forest that are cut down to adhere to the solar radiation that it must receive. They also require a continuous large amount of water for cooling purposes and have direct impacts on surrounding soil, water, and air qualities that release toxins into all of them (herbicides to reduce growth around panels). They have detrimental impacts to humans along with the ecosystems that surround them being hazardous to eyesight due to high reflective surfaces, soil erosion and compaction, wind diversion, decrease in evaporation rates from soil, as well as transmission problems associated with direct current electricity.

Proposed Discussion:

What are some forms of Renewable Energy?

Do you think it is more about the type of energy or the way we are using the energy?

Changes to reduce energy intake aren’t going to happen instantaneously. Society isn’t going to change at a flip of a switch. We as individuals need to start with the things we can control. With this being said, what can we do as individuals to reduce you energy intake?

Based on the individual changes, how do you think this will affect the corporation in terms of producers and gatherers? How will this affect society?

Personal Reflection Generated from Group Discussion:
Some common forms of renewable energy include solar, hydro, and wind. There are also passive energy alternatives in which all energy systems can be classified as either passive or active.
I think with regards to the second question, its not about one way or the other but both are of equal importance. Type of energy and the way we are using it needs to be strategic in terms of context. Like one of the articles had suggested, solar energy requires a large amount of open land and high radiant exposure. Wind energy resources obviously need to be exposed to strong wind patterns to generate its energy. Therefore, instead of trying to incorporate various systems in given locations solely because we have proof that these systems have worked here or there, would it not make more sense to use appropriate alternatives in specific locations where they will generate higher efficiency with regards to production. For example, a desert- like context would be better suited for solar energy alternative while land closer to coastal regions receiving stronger wind patterns would make more sense for wind turbines. Moving on from context.
With regards to what we as individuals can do, I think it comes down to education and role-modeling for others. People are very selfish and do what they need to do to get by for their own sakes, not for societies. Therefore, they must be educated on a more personal level as to not only how they can reduce their consumption, but in turn become more efficient and save costs as a result. In addition, the education has to start at a young age, earlier then levels of high school when we were barely even exposed to it. I feel like the younger that someone is exposed to a particular situation, the greater of priority it becomes. What I mean by this is if children learn about global climate change at a very young age, and are continuously re-introduced to it over years to come they will make the connection that it is of significant importance. If they are introduced to it at a latter stage in their life, they will feel that its something new and will not pertain to them in their lifetime and they can simply pass it on to the next generations to deal with. However, even if children learn about alternatives, it must be reinforced from their personal role models, being their parents. Children will learn from their superiors and if they do not reinforce simple strategies, the children will not follow suit.
This follows up as to what we can do to begin to make a difference. Simple strategies such as walking or busing, turning off the lights when we leave the room, and unplugging tv’s, monitors, and chargers from the wall as they use just as much energy when left in the walls as when they are actually charging your phones. Theres basic and simple strategies such as these that create a substantial difference, it just comes down to initiative and adjustment. Do it enough times and it becomes routine, and benefits everyone as a result.
To answer the final question, building use approximately 40% of the worlds produced energy. Companies such as MTS have taken particular initiatives to dedicate given days to turning off all power sources when not in use and found that their energy bills at the end of the month decreased substantially because of one day that they adhered to the initiative. It becomes a case of making it popular for corporations to use less energy that they will actually take the initiative to do so. Even if tits just one day of the month, I believe that this is the start for corporations to see the benefits, and do it more often as a result.

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