Sun and Wind – Our Future


During our excursion to the Museum of science, we learnt various uses of the energy which reach the Earth from the Sun. These energies are known as Solar or wind energies and are renewable energies that are also used for our greenhouse operation. Electricity can be generated from both Solar as well as Wind Energy. WWS (wind, water and solar) is being considered as the source to replace of coal and oil in near future. We all desire to live sustainable, healthy lives and yet electricity produced from these means is expected to be less costly. For this purpose, we first will need to evaluate the amount and geographical distribution of these resources.

The heat from the Sun is harnessed by humans using a variety of technologies. Energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation emitted from the Sun that falls on Earth every hour is even more than the energy consumed by humans in a year and is known as “Solar Energy”. Such energy is then converted into usable thermal or electricity energy by man. Current commercial solar cells can convert about 20% of the sun’s energy into electricity, so one cell meter square can generate up 200 watts under ideal conditions. That’s enough electricity to run a MP3 player or an electric pencil sharpener but wouldn’t be enough to use a microwave or a hair dryer. Photovoltaic converts solar energy directly into electricity; On the other hand, lenses and mirrors help turn water into steam which can drive turbines in order to provide electricity.

We acknowledged the fact that wind energy is actually converted form of solar energy. There are many issues relating to a wind turbine impact on the surrounding environment, and these contribute to the significant level of disadvantages of wind turbines. These include impact on wildlife and noise pollution. But, these have much smaller impact as compared to fossil fuels. For example, approximately 40,000 birds are killed by wind turbines every year, which is 50 times less than birds killed by oil spills. Careful selection of location can minimize these impacts.


Renewable Energy


There is no perfect source of energy but humans have some options besides fossil fuels.  One of these is solar power, and that is a good bet for the future compared to nuclear, wind, geothermal , hydroelectric or biofuels.

 Even so we don’t yet know how to use all the sun- photovoltaics-  available for heating, thermal heating with mirrors and directed into a turbine.   However, in many regions like California and Texas- maybe not Boston, the solar power will be getting cheaper so that it’s only 2X the cost of coal heat.  At the same time solar energy needs more technological solutions to boost up efficiency and invent better storage options.  We can expect this to happen but who knows when.

As for nuclear power we do not yet have either a perfect storage or recycling system: dry cask storage is not safe enough to take care of waste cheaply and well.  Nuclear does take care of greenhouse gases though.  So that is why it accounts for 20% of American energy.  

Wind power is the most  popular around the US and of course Germany too.  Here in Boston the windmill farm offshore might take care of one (2005 level) full year of the US national energy demand.  However people have to tolerate  50 ft. towers only 7 miles off the coast.  Most people think that new technology will grow fastest in the wind area above all.

MIT Reactor Core

Although it seems strange, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology- in the city of Cambridge has on its campus a small nuclear reactor core surrounded on the outside by concrete. It was built in 1958, then renovated in 1975. This reactor runs on enriched Uranium 235 and is used to generate neutrons. It does not generate enough high pressure or hot temperatures to make heat energy.
Instead, the neutrons are created for use in experiments, mainly for cancer treatment research. In fact there have been some amazing breakthroughs using this reactor to deliver therapies to cells by the high speed reactor. Still it is a very basic level of science and has not resulted in cancer curing therapy.

Energy Outlook: 2009-2030

The report summarizes the growth of the energy market for 2009; this year has seen an upturn in energy as well as a downturn in the overall economy. The momentous influence on energy demand and markets are linked to unclear factors, such as the uncertain oil prices, greenhouse gas emissions and choices made by energy investors.
The report presents long-term projections of energy supply and demand- including price estimates through 2030. On the demand side, of course the demands of developing countries, especially China, are strong. This, plus the efforts of oil supplying countries to limit access to resources will lead to higher oil prices over time.
However, in the U.S. the demand for oil has slowed down due to stricter corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards coming at the same time as oil price rises. Plus, there is no federal policy about limiting greenhouse gas emissions and this has impacted decisions of investors in the electricity market. This points to the growing need for policy change in GHG.

The IDE (International Development Enterprise)

IDE is a twenty seven year old organization focused on small farming as the way ahead for people in rural poverty around the world.  Paul Polak, IDE founder, explained how technology tools plus a guiding idea accomplished that:  For example, with the Treadle Pump and farmers’ own time/money invested, farmers greatly increase their irrigation capacity as well as their motivation to grow more crops.  The pump costs only $25 dollars but earns at least $100 profit in the first year of use.  

Polak’s institute not only sells the farming tools but also a structure for marketing these same tools to bigger numbers of farmers.   So it’s much different from a usual charity.  Farmers who buy the tools learn technology and the business of selling at the same time.  It’s very smart and I think a lot of innovation at one time.  In this way Polak proves he really does care about the other 90%.

Green Boston


 In Boston, the City Hall has a two floor roof garden park which Mayor Menino wants to represent his promise to the environment made by the city and its Energy Officer Jim Hunt after the “National Green roof Conference” of Boston in 2006.   Mayor Menino is keeping his promise to make Boston one of the first environmentally sustainable cities in the USA, for example by enforcing a Zoning Policy to create as many green buildings as possible in the private and public sector.  

Plus, next to City Hall is an expanding T system that promises to cut down on transportation pollution in Boston.  It’s all part of making transport greener, by using alternative fuels in city vehicles, including hybrid, bio-diesel and natural gas engines.   City Hall also helped an electrical union build its giant wind turbine in Dorchester on the Southeast Expressway. This provides wind and solar energy for the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and shows how efficient Boston could become in the future.

Finally, the colorful roof garden has more than just beauty and symbolism; it is also a useful oasis in the city.  They sedum species of bushes hold rainfall, cutting drainage on the building and then recycling the water back to the skies.  Furthermore, the bushes and flowers insulate the building by holding in a quarter of the heat/cool air in summer/winter.   The result is a net gain for the green biomass of Boston.