Report Unveils that U.S. Solar Industry Employs More People than Fossil Fuel Industry

by Genna Gores

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, reveals that the renewable energy industry employs more people than the entire fossil fuel industry (including petroleum oil, natural gas, and coal). The report goes on to compare employment opportunities between 2015 and 2016 for all types of energy within the Electric Power Generation sector, which includes: solar, wind, geothermal, bioenergy, hydropower, nuclear, fossil fuels, and other generation/fuels. It is evident with this report that solar and other renewable energies are a rapidly growing industry with increasing employment opportunities for Americans. Continue reading

Long Range Power Transmission

by Matt Johnson

One of the problems that has grappled electrical engineers over the last few decades is the long-distance transmission of power. As the shift towards renewable energy continues, we are finding more and more electricity being generated farther and farther away from consumers. With an unavoidable power loss directly related to transmission distances, engineers have found themselves in a tough situation. The Economist (2017) dives into one technology, ultra-high-voltage direct-current connectors, as a particularly promising solution. Electric power grids were standardized on alternating current (AC) in the late 1880s and 1890s, and have stayed that way ever since. Alternating current travels like a wave: the energy shimmies back and forth through a conducting medium. As the distances of transmission increase, it takes more and more energy to push this wave through. Inherently, the more energy you put in, the more that is lost. Direct current on the other hand is a steady flow of energy, there is no oscillation. Therefore, over transcontinental distances, direct current power lines are much more efficient. The power lines are cheaper to build, because a smaller wire can carry more power: reducing weight and cost. Whereas the transformers for AC are relatively cheap, the comparable thyristors for voltage conversion in DC are pricy; but these prices are justified by increased transmission efficiency, especially over long distances. Continue reading

Nanowires are Hot

by Griffin Merians

A study conducted in Taiwan and published in Nanoscale Research Letters, found that the use of silicon nanowires can be used to improve solar thermal energy efficiency. Solar energy is the most abundant source of renewable energy on our planet, and using thermal energy to capture this energy could play a key role in increasing our use of this form of alternative energy. Solar thermal energy is comparatively inexpensive, easy to implement, and efficient compared to many other forms of energy, and using silicon nanowires could be the latest breakthrough in improving this efficiency. Silicon and silicon nanowires are used extensively in photovoltaic electrical energy generation, but have not traditionally been used extensively in thermal energy collection. However, new research into the thermal properties of silicon nanowires has found they are significantly more efficient in thermal conversion than traditional silicon plates. Continue reading

Is Gaming the Future of Saving Energy?

by Abigail Wang

It’s common knowledge that a big problem in environmental issues is the need for people to undertake individual, personal energy-saving initiatives. Scientists and environmental activists trying to push people to care more about personal energy decisions may have found an answer to their struggle in gaming. By making mundane things fun, people might be more open to cutting down energy usage. A few companies have already developed games for both companies and individuals to implement better energy actions. Energy Chickens, created by a group of researches and developers at Pennsylvania State University, is one of the latest apps on the market. The game assigns a chicken to each household appliance and the user is responsible for keeping the chickens healthy by maintaining low energy consumption. Healthy chickens grow and lay eggs, which can be exchanged for market items to customize your chickens. If a user increases his or her energy consumption with particular appliances, the chickens associated with those products will grow sick and not lay eggs. Continue reading

Samsø Inspiration

by Chloe Rodman

New York Times’ Diane Cardwell (2015) writes about the impact that Samso, a 44 square-foot island off the coast of Denmark, has been making in regards to clean energy production. A majority of the island’s 3,800 citizens decided that they no longer wanted to rely on foreign, costly fossil fuels. Rather, they made it their goal to become completely powered by green energy. This $80 million project has resulted in 10 wind turbines as well as solar, geothermal and plant- based energy systems. These four methods have allowed the island to thrive, producing more energy than it consumes. Samso, which used to be primarily dependent on coal and diesel, has become a role model for many other islands around the globe, which are also striving to wean off of fossil fuels. The Samso Energy Academy was created to educate others about new forms of green energy. Many individuals are sent to the academy to learn about the island’s methods and return home to teach their own communities about the changes they can make. Continue reading

Will Sage Grouses Stop Green Energy Development?

by Abigail Wang

The debate over the fate of the sage grouse, a bird known for its elaborate mating display, has been ongoing for over 15 years. Due to the species’ alarming population decline in the United States, the development of green energy in the West has slowed considerably. Environmental groups have thus become divided in answering the difficult question of wind and solar energy expansion versus wildlife protection. Continue reading