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Today, fossil fuels account for 85% of the United States’ energy production, yet we know that this source is finite. Not only do fossil fuels contribute to climate change, but as this resource becomes scarcer its prices will increase dramatically. For this reason, researchers have looked to alternate forms of energy that will be more environmentally friendly, cost effective and renewable.
One developing form of clean sustainable energy is offshore wind. Offshore wind technology utilizes wind turbines to generate energy near large bodies of water. When the wind blows, the blades of the turbine are propelled and this motion converts the wind into electricity. The electricity then travels through cables that run along the ocean floor to shore. These turbines can either float on platforms along the surface of the water or can be fixed to platforms that are attached to the ocean floor. According the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, offshore wind technology could harvest enough electricity to power 42 million homes by 2030. Although Europe boasts 53 offshore wind projects, this form of renewable energy is still an untapped resource in the US. The trend, however, seems to be shifting because the Long Island Power Authority is currently reviewing a project proposal from Deepwater Wind to begin construction of a wind farm off the coast of New York. Not only would this project mark the beginning of offshore wind energy in the US, but it also has the ability to create 300 jobs for New York residents. The LIPA has until December 17th to reach a decision, but this project is a hopeful step forward for offshore wind power in the US.
Another form of renewable energy is hydrokinetic or tidal power. Tidal power uses large underwater turbines in areas with strong currents to harvest energy from the continuous kinetic motion of the ocean’s tide. Tidal power is a promising form of renewable energy because 70% of the Earth is covered in water, providing ample opportunity to tap into the energy provided by water currents. Another benefit of tidal energy is that tides are a much more predictable resource than solar or wind. For this reason, tidal energy may have a bright future. The US Naval Facilities Engineering Command has signed an $8 million four-year contract with the University of Washington to develop half of its energy production from tidal power by 2020. The team plans to set up facilities in the water surrounding the naval bases in order to cut energy costs, increase reliability of the power supply and transition to a more sustainable form of energy production.
A third source of clean renewable energy is geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is produced by harnessing heat directly from the Earth’s core, either from hot water or rock. In the US, the most common form of geothermal energy is produced from hot water reservoirs in the western states. The largest of them is “The Geysers” in Northern California. Steam can also be used to power a turbine, generating electricity. Although geothermal energy has been produced in the US since 1960, there is still much more room to expand. Currently, the US leads in geothermal energy with 124 projects as of 2014. In addition, the Geothermal Energy Association’s 2014 report states that up to 50% of California’s, 60% of Nevada’s, and 60% of Utah’s geothermal resources remain untapped. This leaves much potential for increased geothermal energy production in the US.
Transitioning to clean and sustainable forms of energy is both environmentally and financially beneficial, and eventually we will have no other option than to leave fossil fuels behind. For this reason, investment in and development of renewable energy technologies is of vital importance.
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