Change Is In The Air: Accelerating Wind And Solar Energy
There is a pleasant, secure feeling when stepping outside on a spring day and feeling the warm wind run through your hair, the sun shining brightly in your eyes. Natural. Reliable. Consistent. There is an old saying, “What you are looking for is right under your nose.” The breeze we feel against our skin and the energy that warms us on a cool day when stored and harnessed are renewable energy sources that have the potential to reduce fossil fuel consumption, reduce GHG emissions and enhance overall U.S. energy security. Accelerating the deployment of renewable energy sources, like wind and solar-thermal in the United States power generation mix is an important energy efficiency strategy that the U.S. must continue to invest in as we address our imminent energy challenges.
Yes, Don Quixote, those are windmills: Wind power generation
You may have seen wind turbines –the tall, typically white, windmillesque apparatuses that sprout up vertically from the ground with blades moving at a quickened, hurried pace. A wind energy system is composed of many wind turbines that transform kinetic energy from the wind into electric energy. The horizontal-axis (propeller style) turbines are the most common in use today. Wind turbines vary in size and subsequently, the amount of electricity they are capable of generating. As these systems are dependent on the natural changes of the weather cycle, when that breeze slightly accelerates, it may consequently have a large impact on the available energy and electricity produced from a nearby wind energy system.
As an inexhaustible, domestic resource, wind power diversifies our energy mix and enhances our energy security. Wind power has a positive impact on the environment as well; it does not generate radioactive or hazardous waste and requires no mining, drilling or transportation of fuel. U.S. wind power plants currently serve more than 2.3 million average households with 6.2 million people. It is projected that wind power has the capability of providing 20 percent of the country’s energy by 2030.
As Business Roundtable recommended in our energy blueprint, “More Diverse, More Domestic, More Efficient” for the United States to reduce its energy intensity by 25 percent, we need to improve our energy efficiency. Utilizing wind power will help us achieve this goal in an extremely efficient way. When examining energy efficiency by “energy payback” or the amount of energy it takes to produce a given amount of energy, the energy payback of wind energy systems is often better than that of conventional power plants.
Don’t let the sun go down on me
It’s no surprise that the intense, renewable energy from the sun will be a component of enhancing U.S. energy security. Solar power is a clean, reliable and secure source of energy that helps improve our energy efficiency. Solar power can be converted into electricity in two ways: photovoltaic (PV devices) or “solar cells” and solar power plants. PV systems change sunlight directly into electricity and are often used in remote locations that are not on the electric grid. Solar power plants indirectly generate electricity when the heat from solar thermal collectors is used to heat a fluid that produces steam used to power a generator. At the end of 2006, there were 15 known solar electric generating units in operation in the United States – ten in California and five in Arizona.
A number of Business Roundtable companies are dedicated to promoting and providing the infrastructure for both wind and solar power generation. While renewable energy sources do have some disadvantages, such as transmission constraints for wind sites, the inability to dispatch wind power, and the inconsistent amount of sunlight that arrives on the earth’s surface, the increased usage of these renewable sources in our power generation mix is an important strategy to enhance energy efficiency and our overall energy security.
Below is an example of how one of Business Roundtable’s members is supporting the practical development of solar power generation:
On January 31, 2008 Chevron Energy Solutions, a unit of Chevron Corporation, and the Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD) announced that they had completed the first phase of the largest solar power installation ever constructed for an institution of higher learning in North America.
The infrastructure upgrades – designed, engineered and constructed by Chevron Energy Solutions – make the college campuses more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The improvements include:
a 3.2 –megawatt solar power generation system comprising photovoltaic panels mounted on parking canopies across campus;
high-efficiency lighting and energy management systems, including high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment; and
high –voltage electrical system replacements.
The solar installation is expected to generate about four million kilowatt-hours of power each year, which will offset the production of approximately 5.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent of planting 636 acres of trees. The project is expected to save CCCCD more than $70 million over 25 years.
Chevron Energy Solutions, a part of the Chevron Corporation family, designs and constructs facility projects that increase energy efficiency, reduce energy costs and ensure reliable power for public institutions and businesses. This is just one component of Chevron’s “Human Energy” effort; finding newer, cleaner ways to power the world and to power human progress.
The next time you feel the two forces of nature – the wind and the sun – think of how they help the environment, provide needed energy for continued growth and progress, and warm and refresh us. Business Roundtable firmly believes the U.S. must continue to invest and accelerate their growth to lead us to a more energy secure future.