Millie HennickOctober 17, 2018 758 0
The planet is more polluted today than ever before. Burning fossil fuels is the biggest offender, but many energy sources contribute to the poisoning of our planet. Fossil fuels are almost exhausted, so there's an urgent need to discover an energy source that is renewable and doesn't pollute the earth. For those reasons, solar power is on course to dominate energy production in the next century. Without it, forecasts of worldwide catastrophes will dominate the news. Pollution, according to climate experts, is caused by man and can be presumed to continue as long as fossil fuels are ignited in large quantities.
Fossil-fuel based electricity generation in the United States and China has tremendous environmental consequences. In 2007, 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) were discharged from electricity generation in the United States, about 40 percent of the country’s energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Electricity generation in China produced just over 2 billion metric tons of CO2, accounting for about 32 percent of its energy-related GHG emissions in the same year. Fossil-fuel ignition is also tied to the emission of other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Electricity production also puts a strain on water and land resources. In 2000, thermal power plants accounted for almost half of the total withdrawals of water in the United States and almost 40 percent of water withdrawals for industrialized use in China. In summation, reducing environmental impacts is a major aim for shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy for electricity generation.
Promoting renewable energy technologies that utilize the sun, the wind, and geothermal energy is essential to combating climate change. However, using renewable energy sources will not overcome all environmental concerns. Although renewable energy sources present low levels of GHG emissions and conventional air pollution, manufacturing and transporting them will produce some emissions. The production of photovoltaic (PV) cells, for example, generates toxic substances that may harm water resources. Renewable energy facilities can also have a detrimental effect on land use and wildlife habitat, and some technologies also use meaningful quantities of water. To develop sound ecological policies, lawmakers must recognize the environmental impacts of alternative energy sources, including how the impacts of renewable energy technologies correspond to those of fossil-fuel technologies and to opportunities for improvements in energy efficiency. Understanding the potential environmental impacts of renewable energy technologies is also essential for identifying and pursuing designs, construction methods, project siting, utility operations, to mitigate or offset these effects.
Environmental impacts of energy sources are commonly graded on two scales. The first scale is the regional or national scale, which is an effort to characterize the common impact of a typical facility for the purposes of specific comparisons and planning. Life cycle assessment (LCA), for example, is an endeavor to estimate the full array of impacts compared with all stages of an energy project, from the extraction of raw materials to the decommissioning of a facility and the distribution of equipment. The second scale is on the local level, where site-specific results, such as impacts on wildlife and local water supplies, can be assessed.
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