Ocean Power May Be Able To Turn The Tide When It Comes To Renewable Energy Technologies
June 12th, 2010
The month of June marks World Environment Day and World Ocean Day, two environmentally conscious days whose main purpose is to spread awareness of environmental issues taking place in today's world. However, a black cloud hangs over this year's events as 42,000 gallons of oil a day gushes into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deep Horizon oilrig exploded and sank on April 20, 2010. This oil spill is one of, if not the biggest natural disaster that America has had to deal with and it shows that the time is now to invest, innovate, and utilize specific renewable energy technologies that can reduce our dependency on oil consumption and preserve our environment.
Wave power technology, while underused, has been a known technology, for years. However, a future green application that can boost renewable energy is not the ocean itself, but rather something that can be found within the ocean. Algae sources are considerably new renewable energy options within the ocean that have many believing them to be "the ultimate in renewable energy" .
Half of algae's weight is based off of oil, which can be made into bio-fuel that could be used on anything from cars to airplanes. Considering that there over 65,000 known algae species this could potentially be a big time future energy source.
Yet, renewable energy from the ocean is only one step towards sustainability. Energy must be used more efficiently. Individual behavior needs to change and become more environmentally conscious. Overconsumption is becoming a big problem in the United States and the unwillingness to give up that way of life is feeding our current dependency on crude oil. Specifically, opting for bigger and better in the auto industry means big engines, lots of horse power and less fuel economy. Recently, we've seen a larger effort by auto manufacturers to deliver hybrid and fully electric vehicles. It is up to the consumer to make the decision to purchase these vehicles and drive demand, pushing manufacturers to produce, compete, and continuously innovate.
In 2007, the U.S. depended on crude oil to meet 39% of the total energy demand with the majority of it (45%) feeding the transportation sector in the form of finished motor gasoline . It is frustrating to see that with new technology coming out all the time, that as of 2010, approximately 46% (nearly the same amount) of U.S. petroleum consumption is used for finished motor gasoline. If we eliminate the use of petroleum based vehicles and get them running on renewable energy, we could curb nearly half of our petroleum demand. In order to do so, we would need to generate 20% of our total energy demand from other sources (more, actually, because all renewable energy sources are not strictly dedicated to supplying the transportation sector).
In 2007, hydroelectric power supplied only 2.5% of our energy demand . Renewable sources combined provided only 6.7%. As of July 2009, approximately half the states in the U.S. still had no electric vehicle charging stations . The other half had less than 10 throughout the entire state with the exception of California, which has become a pioneer in electric vehicle support, supplying over 400 charging stations. Oregon is the runner up with less than 50 (big gap). Therefore, an infrastructure made up of fully electric vehicles recharged by electricity that comes from renewable sources will require a complete overhaul of consumer behavior/demand, manufacturer supply, and energy policy.
Building structures that would also use the oceans (amongst others) renewable energy must be built properly in order to not be wasteful. If buildings are not consciously created to maintain energy and preserve resources then utilizing renewable sources from the ocean becomes a redundant endeavor (as old buildings become less efficient, we waste more energy, etc). This is why it's important that buildings and neighborhoods are developed around the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System .
According to US Green Building Council, 39% of energy use comes from buildings in the United States alone, but with LEED certified buildings these numbers can allow renewable energy from the ocean to actually have a chance of succeeding and being applicable in the real world. This is why so many companies like Globetrotters Engineering Corporation (a Chicago based architecture company founded by Niranjan Shah known for building many LEED certified buildings), Wells Fargo (which built an office tower that is not only LEED approved but saves up to 5 million kWh a year), and Kubala-Washatko Architects & Boldt Construction (which actually built the first ever LEED-platinum certified, carbon neutral building ) all incorporate LEED standards into their designs.
Since the inception of LEED certification, it took several years for the first building to reach platinum certification. Now, it is something that architects strive for. For many projects government incentives are available for businesses that reach LEED certification. Niranjan Shah , realized that the LEED benchmark is the future of architecture and that creating structures that benefit from renewable energy just makes common sense. Hopefully, in upcoming years we'll see LEED platinum certification become the standard.
After the oil spill in the Gulf it's clear to see that now, more than ever, protecting our oceans stands for something much greater. By saving our oceans, we are making a commitment to the preservation of our natural resources, our wildlife, and our humanity. Through the promise and development of a sustainable, renewable energy future, we can follow a new path which will redefine the meaning of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
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