Renewing Our Energy
By Sara Thompson
Special to the Enterprise
One of the most important things to people is the ability to keep our living spaces warm. Early in our history we would make fires to heat caves or small structures. Campfires would turn into woodstoves as our housing needs evolved. And as our homes became more sophisticated, so did our means of heating and powering it. For much of the industrial age, oil and natural gas has been used for the main heating and power sources for homes. Because these substances have finite amounts and carry harmful environmental consequences, scientists have spent the last several decades looking into and developing more renewable energies for heating and power our homes. There have been countless attempts to create cleaner and more renewable energies, all with varying success. Some of the more successful ideas are continuing to be developed today, such as hydroelectric, solar, and wind energy. All have shown much potential, but still have a few problems to work through.
Hydroelectric is where we use the flow of water to turn turbines, which generate electricity. One of the advantages of this type is that it can generate electricity continuously, as long as the water is moving. It also can be easily scaled, from a single paddle wheel to a huge river dam. One of the main disadvantages of hydroelectric energy is the disruption to the environment. It may not poison like oil does, but it requires a physical barrier to be built across the water, disrupting migrations and blocking the river’s natural flow.
Harnessing solar power is one of the more popular solutions. Solar panels can absorb energy from the sun and convert that into usable electricity. With nothing being consumed or destroyed, just transferred to a different state, there is no significant environmental impact of solar power. Solar panels can also be easily scaled depending on use. A single house would only need a few panels, where an entire field could be set up to help power entire neighborhoods. One of the most prohibitive aspects of solar is the upfront cost, not everyone can afford the installation costs. Also, not every home or business building has the space or ideal location for panels.
Wind energy is also a popular renewable energy source, as like solar, we are converting an energy already found in nature into electricity for power. There are countries in Europe where nearly 50% of their energy comes from wind energy. Wind turbines also generate jobs for construction and maintenance. A disadvantage of wind energy is the land required for the turbines to be built on, as well the needing to run wires from the wind farms to the areas that use the power.
There is no perfect answer to renewable energies, but scientists will continue to research and create solutions. Join us for our Grant Reopening with our new exhibit Healthy Planet, Healthy You and explore more about renewable energies as well as other ways to keeping our planet healthy. Public hours are Fridays from 1-4 and Saturdays and Sundays from 10-2. Watch our website and social media channels for the most up to date information on our re-opening schedule.
Explorit's coming events:
• Explorit is open for public hours! Check out explorit/org/visit for more information about our new exhibit and to reserve a time for entry.
• Like many small businesses the closures have had a significant impact on our income and sustainability. Now is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: https://www.explorit.org/donate.
• Continue to support Explorit during this uncertain time by becoming a member. An Exploit Membership not only support us but grants the recipient with free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, summer and after-school camps, and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. For more information visit https://www.explorit.org/membership or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.