Renewable Energy: Where Are We Now?

Hello My hippies out there!

Today, we are going to talk a little bit about renewable energy! I live in California and a (somewhat) new legislation has been brought to light which basically states that California aims to have 100% of “retail sold” electricity taken from renewable energy sources! Isn’t that fabulous?! Now, what does that mean? Well, let’s take a look.

What is a “renewable energy resource”?

  • Renewable energy is any form of electricity-creating resource that can not be depleted by use and replenishes itself naturally such as: solar power, wind power, rain, tides, and geothermal heat. Unlike fossil fuels, these resources for energy creation will never disappear, well unless you consider the sun blowing up.. but, 220px-solar_plant_klthat’s a different story altogether.
  • Eligibility Standards are set buy The Energy Commission of California.
  • There are tons of requirements for each specific type of energy creation so it is difficult to list them all here but here is a link if you would like to know more: http://www.energy.ca.gov/2015publications/CEC-300-2015-001/CEC-300-2015-001-ED8-CMF.pdf

What is California’s end goal?

  • California released their plan a few years ago in 2002, in which they set specific goals for the percentage of retail energy to be created by renewable resources.
  • Our next goal is to have at least 33% of all retail energy (energy sold to public and businesses) collected by renewable resources by 2020.
  • Currently California is at 27% to our 33% goal (by 2020) already! For 2017 our goal was to make at least 20%, which we have passed with flying colors!

Where do we get our energy?

  • Currently, 39% of our renewable energy comes from wind power! Have you ever taken Wind-turbines.jpga drive to palm springs and seen all those windmills up there? Well, they are certainly doing their job!
  • The next highest resource would be solar at 23%. Boy do we have tons of that here in Cali!
  • After that, we have 19% with geothermal, 12% biomass, 4% small hydro power, and 3% solar thermal. WHAT? What are those?! Let’s go over that!

What are the renewable energy resources we have in California?

  • Well, we will gloss over wind and solar since most people know what those are, they are the most popular here and chances are you have seen a windmill here or a solar panel on a neighbors house.
  • Geothermal Energy (GE): Geothermal energy is energy taken from radioactive decay in the Earth’s crust. Much of collection of GE used to be only available near tectonic plate boundaries, but as technology advances we are seeing new ways to collect this type of energy. GE wells release tons of greenhouse gases but if we can collect these in stride while also curbing our reliance on fossil fuels we could potentially heal our atmosphere and curb global warming! Amazing! This is probably the best renewable we have so far, and as technology advances and allows us to harness more of this power, it will drastically improve earth’s condition!
  • Biofuel (biomass): Biofuel is a fuel created by biological process such as agriculture biofuelsand anaerobic digestion (as seen in some bacteria). This type of fuel can be collected directly from plants or indirectly from agriculture, and commercial, industrial, and domestic waste. When they talk about cars running on corn, this is what they mean! The hardest part about this fuel is the land mass needed to grow the crops to turn into biofuel as well as potential for high carbon emission and deforestation and land erosion from growing crops for fuel. Overall, biofuels produce more carbon emission than fossil fuels and may not be the best substitute for our needs. One seemingly feasible way to curb this would be with Algae! Some algae species have a 50% or more oil content which can be easily extracted and algae can be grown in many places with less impact on current environment such as specified ponds and even wastewater treatment plants!
  • Small Hydro (SH): Have you ever seen a movie where there is a little shack with one of those big wheels being pushed around by a river or stream? Well, that’s small watermill-shutterstock_152170721-600x398.jpghydro. When we talk about small hydro we are referring to hydroelectric power on a small scale, more for a local community or specific factory or business. Small hydro has a lot of potential for use, just needs to be enhanced before it becomes wide-spread.
  • Solar Thermal (ST): Basically, ST is a bigger and more bad-ass version of the common solar panels you might have to heat your house or pool. These solar panels focus tons of light energy and turn them into thermal energy or electrical energy which can be used on a much broader scale.

Which resource has the best outlook?

  • Most experts will agree that throughout the world, needs differ and each country, state, even city, will need to tailor their energy resources for their needs and what they have most readily available. Many will go so far as to say, however, hydropower and solar power seem to be the number one producers of renewable energy globally.

Are there any new advances in renewable energy?

  • YES! There are tons of scientists around the world researching renewable energy resources and new ways to create and collect the energy present in our world. Here are some of my favorites:
    • Artificial photosynthesis: This is a super cool new technology where a ‘bionic leaf’ so to speak, basically breaks water down into hydrogen and oxygen and uses bacteria to use the hydrogen from the water and carbon from the atmosphere to create energy! AND, just like plants, oxygen is released from this process!
    • There have also been crazy good advances in solar power whereas now they can collect the entire spectrum of color in light rather than our current solar panels which can only collect energy from the reds spectrum. (Violet to red in the visual light spectrum).

So there you have it! A little update on how we are doing with renewable energy, mostly in California, but as you’ve read, we are making great advances throughout the world! Isn’t science incredible!? Us hippies dream of a world where we worship (maybe not literally..) our earth and do everything we can to protect it! Well, here we are one step closer! As always, thanks for reading and feel free to leave a like or comment!

 

Peace and love,

M. Joy

 

 

Sources:

Senate Bill No. 584

RENEWABLES PORTFOLIO STANDARD ELIGIBILITY

California Energy Commission – Tracking Progress

MIT Technology Review

The Experts: What Renewable Energy Source Has the Most Promise?

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