Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
It takes 714 pounds of coal to power a 100-watt light bulb for a year. Here’s how we can end the madness.
In first world countries, we usually do not give much thought to our energy needs until it’s disrupted through the weather or another uncontrollable event. All in all, we generally take for granted our pollution footprint each time we flip the switch for light in our homes, businesses and schools. And yet, lighting “consumes about 19% of the world’s electric power, more than all nuclear and hydroelectric plants can produce together,” asserts Grant Feller of the World Economic Forum.
To put this in perspective, consider the following: It takes 714 pounds of coal to keep a single 100 W lightbulb lit for a year. Or 143 pounds of natural gas. With nuclear, we’re looking at .035 pounds of radioactive fuel. For sustainable options, 100 square meters of solar panels — with eight sun-filled days — are required. Wind is by far the most efficient, with only two hours and twenty minutes of power needed from a 1.5 MW turbine operating at 25% capacity.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, our power grids are currently stretched to the limit. Regrettably, it’s going to become much worse in the coming days. With increasing population and the subsequent need for energy worldwide, it’s projected that over a billion people will be without decent access to electricity in the near future.
Without affordable energy, fundamental needs like cooking, heating, lighting and hygiene are at risk. As a regional UNESCO report on energy equity and environmental security points out, many crucial medical devices depend on electricity, thereby bringing into question the availability of potentially life saving interventions.
Even so, the earth is already is pushed to the max with conventional energy production that severely pollutes the environment. What’s needed are innovative, clean and safe solutions. As luck would have it, several entrepreneurs have developed green technology that will meet the increased demand for electricity — without sacrificing the planet or wildlife.
A Green Revolution
Below are three examples of cutting edge, eco-friendly inventions that can solve our energy crisis in a pioneering and inspiring way:
Wind Power. With the unfortunate destruction of bats and birds, many who are ecologically minded shy away from advocating large wind turbines as a viable energy source. Enter 89-year-old Raymond Green of Catching Wind Power Inc. Green developed a bird and bat friendly alternative — the Compressed Air Enclosed Wind Turbine. According to the company’s website:
“Our design does not have any external moving parts to hit the birds. Our unit is easy to see so the birds can avoid it, and all moving parts are internal. The blades are mounted behind the windsock and inner compression cone, therefore making them non accessible to birds. Also, our turbines make virtually no noise.”
Solar Roadway Panels. One of the main issues with standard solar energy generation is that you need — not surprisingly — a good amount of consistent sunlight. Vast areas of land to place the panels are also necessary for large scale energy production. What if a solar panel was developed that you could drive, park and walk freely on? One that didn’t rely on sunny weather and would melt snow off roadways, in addition to treating storm water (one of the biggest polluters of rivers and lakes). Solar Roadways took up the challenge and has since created a road, parking lot and pathway solar panel system that can generate 3x the amount of energy used in the United States, while reducing greenhouse gases by an astounding 75%.
Ocean Turbine Energy. By harnessing ocean currents, turbines are able to create more energy than we could possibly use. Crowd Energy, a small start-up company, has taken this technology to the next level by developing a turbine that poses no threat to marine life or the environment. Moving at slow speeds, the turbines work in harmony with the ocean and its creatures. Unlike solar and wind power, ocean turbines are able to generate energy 24 hours a day.
Small Steps to a Bright Future
On a more individual level, don’t forget about LED lightbulbs, which have come a long way over the last few years. Void of toxic mercury found in compact fluorescent bulbs, LED lighting is an environmentally safe alternative. Long-lasting and exceptionally efficient, LED lightbulbs are easy to install — unlike their original predecessor which required special wiring. The bulbs are available for around $8.00 US, last 50,000 hours and use 10 watts per bulb compared to the 60 watts needed for incandescent.
If you’re serious about sustainability, there’s also Luci — an affordable, waterproof and shatterproof inflatable solar lantern. It can be charged under both direct sunlight and cloudy skies, as well as artificial light. The lantern provides up to 12 hours of illumination.
Ocean Energy Turbines