The Potential of Green Technology

It was just a few weeks ago that Hurricane Sandy hit the tri-state area. It left millions without power for days, and decent percentage of those families were without power for up to 2 weeks. While it is becoming more of a common occurrence, the NYC area is not adequately prepared for these large of storms. With antiquated power lines and less than reliable utility companies, it has left me wondering whether I want to be part of the electrical system. In other words, why be dependent on a system that is unreliable if you do not have to be.

On a small scale, I began to explore emergency systems that could better prepare me for the worst of conditions. It started with ordering a solar powered battery that could charge my small electronics. I made an effort to save with deals and discounts before making the purchase, but I wanted get it now before it was too late for the next storm. Having no power is bad enough. The last thing you want is to have no power and have to worry about your cell phone dying. Luckily, we made it through, but I can rest easier knowing that I have more gadgets to get me through major power outages. While this was a small purchase (and device), it got me thinking about ways that green technology could be utilized to offer more reliable systems.

The Future of Green Technology?

While i was busy imagining the future of green technology for this post, my wife reminded me that the future is already here. Not only in my portable solar powered battery, but also on a larger scale. My wife reminded me that friends of ours recently invested in numerous solar panels to power their house. They have a large enough backyard that they were able to generate more than enough electricity with their solar panels. In fact, they are generating more than enough electricity that they are selling power back to the power company. That’s right – they are selling electricity.

While I don’t know the specifics of our friends situation (i.e. financial numbers), the reality of the situation is encouraging to me. Those of you who have followed me for a long time, know that I am semi-committed to making this world a cleaner place to live. This is part of the reason why I bike to work in the summer. I not only save money, but I stay healthy and contribute to a healthier environment. Now, before you think I am some sort of saint, I do have my limits. I refuse to bike in the winter (although I usually take the train). I try to use as little unnecessary plastic, but I also recycle mostly when it’s convenient. I definitely have areas to improve, but the commitment is still there.

Thus, when it comes to looking at ways to systematically improve the way in which we generate electricity, I can’t help but be attractive to individual (or maybe smaller communities) sources of sustainable energy. Let’s take a look at what it could look like…

What if every family invested in solar panels to power the needs of their own power. This would prevent a system-wide power outage in the event of a freak storm. One family’s source of energy may be wiped out if a tree falls, but it would mean their neighbors are likely fully functional. Ultimately this means less dependence on a ancient system. Not only would this mean more reliable upkeep (since you are the person in charge), but it also means that families would take more responsibility for their energy usage. If a family’s panels only produce a certain amount of energy in a given time, that means that they can’t use any more than that. Whereas currently, families have an unlimited supply of energy. It’s no wonder we have an energy crisis.

Before I hear some of the critiques against this approach (which, I’m open to, of course, especially since I am just speculating), there are many ways to make this work. People could either save up money to buy the panels themselves or they could look for financial options like plain green loans. I am sure there are many subsidies or financial services out there to help families afford such a large investment.

The beauty of this idea, as I see it, is the creation of a new line of work. It might put more electrical companies out of work, but they could transition to the field of renewable energy. The economy is a fluid thing. Where one door closes, another one opens up. We just have to be perceptive and move with the flow. It’s those who don’t transition who are stuck in a difficult situation.

While I am don’t know enough of the technical aspects of solar or wind energy, I do know that I would prefer a system that relies on renewable energy and that is independently generated. It provides more security and continues to uphold a commitment to a green planet.

Readers, what do you think about this different energy system? Is it plausible?

One Response to The Potential of Green Technology

  1. I love the idea of off-grid, but renewable technologies are very expensive to scale up to a 24/7 operation. Your friend that is a net generator of electricity? He is still buying power back from the electric company (are you guys JCP&L?). If the power went out in his area, his refrigerator was still not running at night and during the night when there was no sun.

    That is, unless he invested in a bank of deep-cycle marine batteries to store electricity to be used when the system isn’t generating. But over the lifetime of the system, those batteries will cost more than the PV panels!

    I have this fantasy of winning the lottery and building an off-grid system that uses electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would then be stored to be used in place of propane for cooking and heating, and when I’m not generating, burning the hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity. It’s a highly inefficient system but as long as I have a source of water and enough renewable energy, it’s highly sustainable.

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