Did you know that you actually save money from using renewable energy resources like solar power? That is what Bucks County Audubon Society intends to do, because although non-renewable energy resources like fossil fuels appear to be the best option, solar can last up to 30 years and the long-term payoff can save you thousands. Not to mention the Sun is a renewable resource, meaning that the energy provided is infinite and renewable. Non-renewable resources are finite and are actually causing climate change to escalate because of the CO2 emitted during fossil fuel combustion. Not to mention the risky methods used to drill for oil in the Arctic which is leading to the extinction of polar bears.
Allow me to introduce myself as the new intern at Bucks Audubon. I have experience working with activist organizations like Defenders of Wildlife and received my degree in geography and environmental studies from Temple University this past Spring. Let me tell you, graduating during a pandemic is probably the worst case scenario for anyone. But I’m here to expose the truth about many things people never think about in their daily lives, like where our energy comes from. What powers our electricity and our air conditioning?
Well, 80% of our energy come from fossil fuels. We are accustomed to using fossil fuels and natural gas for power because they are cheaper to process. But the future of our energy lies in renewable energy. This ties into sustainability because we need to work within the means of what our Earth can provide. This is why solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric, just to name a few, are appealing because they cause little damage to the Earth and do not contribute to CO2 emissions. However, they are more expensive to process despite the long-term advantages.
So what is solar power? Solar uses the Sun’s light rays to create energy. They are made of silicon blocks that contain photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight. If you look on the roof in the back of the visitor center, you can see the solar panel installation. I think Bucks Audubon deserves a round of applause for the investment for cleaner energy!
Other forms of renewable energy are less popular because scientists are still looking into methods for making renewable energy accessible and affordable. Wind energy is right up there next to solar in terms of effectiveness. Wind uses large steel turbines that last almost as long a solar panels, using wind to create energy. Unfortunately, Bucks Audubon would a have a difficult time fitting these giant pinwheels on the property!
Geothermal energy, for example, uses heat trapped within the Earth from volcanoes and geysers to provide energy. It actually benefits the Earth but is only used in certain regions. Hydroelectric uses dams or pumps water into turbines although this has been controversial because of the effects for fish and aquatic life. Tidal energy, which also poses a threat to marine life, uses ocean currents to fuel generators. Lastly, biomass like corn is used to create ethanol, which is used in gasoline. Next time you go to Lukoil, check what it says on the pump. Last time I filled my tank with regular it said it contains 10% ethanol. It’s too bad it isn’t very efficient! This is the line between renewable and sustainable because hydroelectric and biomass are unsustainable.
So solar and wind are the most popular forms of energy, but there is no one option that is perfect, and if it is then it is most likely not as accessible. Solar and wind will both last around 25-30 years. But what happens after that? Just like with our outdated electronics, these structures that once provided energy may leach toxic chemicals that can get into our water. This is going to be an issue with solar particularly because they contain cadmium and lead. But humans are constantly thinking of new ways to repurpose products and use them for new products, so this is not a shock!
To end on a high note, the most important and pressing issue we are facing right now is finding methods to reduce CO2 emissions. If we introduce and evolve methods of renewable energy like solar power, particularly to people who are unsure of the issue, we will be looking at a cleaner future for generations to come. Which is the importance of sustainability and environmental stewardship, to leave the Earth cleaner and in better condition for future generations to come.