GREEN EARTH: RENEWABLE ENERGY
Renewable energy refers to wind energy, methane capture, solar, geothermal and other clean energy sources. Energy generated from clean sources like these reduce the need to generate that same energy from dirty sources like coal or gas.
Developing clean energy projects isnt as cheap as building new coal power plants, at least not yet. Thats why its important for project developers to have access to additional streams of revenue other than the electricity they get to sell. In some cases, renewable energy developers sell the environmental benefit of their projects not as tons of CO2, but as Renewable Energy Certificates. Carbonfund.org supports these projects; the following examines the local energy grids carbon profile to determine how much electricity from dirty sources the project is displacing. Carbon profiles for the entire country are updated each year by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure accuracy.
Below are some of the renewable energy projects that are supported by carbonfund.com:
Iowa Lakes Wind Energy & Turbine Program - Estherville, Iowa
The Iowa Lakes Community Colleges Wind Energy and Turbine Program was started in response to a growing need for skilled technicians to install, maintain and service modern wind turbines. Students work on the project as part of a hands-on curriculum leading to the community colleges two-year Associate in Science degree. The 230-foot tall structure generates approximately 1.65 megawatts of clean energy and is located near the colleges Estherville Campus.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), wind power contributed to more than 30 percent of the new U.S. electricity generation capacity in 2007, making it the second largest source of new power generation in the nation, second only to natural gas. Furthermore, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates each megawatt of wind provides approximately two job-years of employment and a skilled operations/maintenance position is created for every 10 turbines.
California Solar Projects - Aliso Viejo, Stockton, Ontario, and Anderson, Calif.
Carbonfund.org supports solar projects in California and local consumers are able to take advantage of clean, alternative solar energy which is decentralized and provides increase energy security. Carbonfund.orgs support goes toward helping to retrofit school and business facilities with photovoltaic solar panels.
According to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), solar energy currently represents less than one percent of the U.S. energy portfolio. However, the solar photovoltaic systems which are connected to the grid have increased almost 50% from 2006 to 2007. The U.S. is currently fourth, behind Germany, Japan and Spain, in the world for installed solar power. In addition, SEIA reports solar energy manufacturing in the U.S. increased 74% in 2007, which creates new jobs.
New Bedford Landfill Methane Project - New Bedford, Mass.
The New Bedford Landfill Methane project is a 3.3-megawatt renewable energy plant which uses otherwise wasted landfill gas (LFG) as a fuel to generate electricity. The LFG, which includes methane and carbon dioxide, is collected from the landfill to fuel four reciprocating internal combustion engine-generators. These produce electricity for export to the regional power grid. With support from Carbonfund.org, the project not only produces power, but helps to reduce the amount of methane released into our atmosphere.
The destruction of methane is important in the fight against global climate change because methane is approximately 23 times more efficient as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With this in mind, one of the real concerns about climate change is that as the frozen tundra of areas such as Siberia and northern reaches of Canada melt, an enormous amount of methane which was previously trapped in the ice will be released into our atmosphere.
North Country Landfill Methane Project - Bethlehem, N.H.
Carbonfund.org supports the North Country Landfill Methane project which safely and effectively disposes up to 7,200 gallons of landfill leachate a day from a municipal solid waste landfill in northern New Hampshire. This project not only prevents methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere, it protects the areas local groundwater from landfill leachate.
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center - Taylor and Nolan County, Texas
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center is the largest wind farm in the world and is spread across approximately 47,000 acres. The facility includes over 400 wind turbines for a total capacity of 735.5 megawatts. In addition to providing clean electricity, Carbonfund.org supports the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center because it financially supports the local communities and is a leading example of how wind energy can significantly contribute to the United States energy portfolio.
The American Wind Energy Association notes that wind energy could provide 20% of the U.S.s electricity, and wind is currently providing between 10% and 25% of the electricity for the countries of Germany, Spain and Denmark. For
the U.S., Texas is the largest supplier of wind energy followed by California, Minnesota, Iowa and Washington.
Summersville Low Impact Hydroelectric Facility - Summersville, W.V.
Summersville is home to West Virginias largest lake. Carbonfund.org has supported the Summersville Low Impact Hydroelectric Facility, which is located on the Gualey River. The project was the first of its kind to be certified as low impact in the state of West Virginia. By releasing 2,500 cubic feet of water per second, for each release the project generates clean renewable energy for southern West Virginia. To be certified as low impact by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, the project addressed issues such as river flows, water quality, fish passage, watershed health, endangered species, cultural resources, and allowing for recreation use and access.
Chino Basin Dairy Farm Biodigester - Chino Basin, Calif.
Biodigesters capture the methane generated by manure and transform it into a clean, renewable energy source. This particular biodigester in Southern California collects manure from ten area dairy farms and is responsible for reducing more than 8,000 tons of CO2 equivalent from the atmosphere every year, while also supporting local farmers and protecting the quality of the regions groundwater. Carbonfund.org supports the Chino Basin Dairy Farm Biodigester to help reduce methane emissions and global warming.
The U.S. EPA Climate Leaders program notes that more than two billion livestock exist in the U.S. and account for 7% for anthropogenic methane emissions.
New York State Landfill Methane Project - Rodman, N.Y.
The New York Landfill Methane Project serves the countries of Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Hamilton and in addition, destroys the methane emitted by a landfill by converting it into CO2 and heat. The CO2 is twenty-three times less potent as a greenhouse gas than the methane. In the future, additional plans may include capturing the waste heat and using it to heat a local greenhouse along with providing alternative energy.
Main renewable energy technologies
Three energy sources
The majority of renewable energy technologies are powered by the sun. The Earth-Atmosphere system is in equilibrium such that heat radiation into space is equal to incoming solar radiation, the resulting level of energy within the Earth-Atmosphere system can roughly be described as the Earth's "climate." The hydrosphere (water) absorbs a major fraction of the incoming
radiation. Most radiation is absorbed at low latitudes around the equator, but this energy is dissipated around the globe in the form of winds and ocean currents. Wave motion may play a role in the process of transferring mechanical energy between the atmosphere and the ocean through wind stress. Solar energy is also responsible for the distribution of precipitation which is tapped by hydroelectric projects, and for the growth of plants used to create biofuels.
Renewable energy flows involve natural phenomena such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal heat, as the International Energy Agency explains:
"Renewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth. Included in the definition is electricity and heat generated from solar, wind, ocean, hydropower, biomass, geothermal resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources."
Each of these sources has unique characteristics which influence how and where they are used.
Wind power Main article: Wind power
Vestas V80 wind turbines
Airflows can be used to run wind turbines. Modern wind turbines range from around 600 kW to 5 MW of rated power, although turbines with rated output of 1.53 MW have become the most common for commercial use; the power output of a turbine is a function of the cube of the wind speed, so as wind speed increases, power output increases dramatically. Areas where winds are stronger and more constant, such as offshore and high altitude sites, are preferred locations for wind farms.
Since wind speed is not constant, a wind farm's annual energy production is never as much as the sum of the generator nameplate ratings multiplied by the total hours in a year. The ratio of actual productivity in a year to this theoretical maximum is called the capacity factor. Typical