Renewable Energy: What? Why?
Our use of energy and its supply has become a global issue. As you visit and view the Boston Harbor Islands, it is evident that these sites are prime locations where we can harvest energy provided by the natural environment. Light from the sun can be harvested into electrical energy using solar cells. Wind in the air can be harnessed by using wind turbines. The waves and tides in the surrounding waters can generate electricity through hydroturbines. Waste from the nearby treatment plant can be used to produce energy. These sources of energy, which ultimately come from the sun, are all renewable, meaning that they are relatively unlimited in quantity or can be replenished quickly and easily. They are at work in daily operations around the harbor and are helping to eliminate air and water pollution, slow down the process of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels, and lower our dependence on imported oil.
Why Is Renewable Energy Important?
Recent spikes in the price of crude oil, and thus higher gasoline and fuel oil prices, have brought renewable energy into the news. Economic reasons, however, are only part of the reason to focus on renewable energy.
Fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, propane and others are used to produce gasoline and electricity. While demand for fossil fuels is increasing globally, there is a limited supply of them. In fact, many analysts believe that oil production will peak worldwide in the next few decades and then begin to decline. An increase in demand over supply will increase the cost, as will the mere threat of an oil shortage. As consumers, our dependence on oil makes us more vulnerable to price fluctuations and potential energy shortages.
Fossil fuels also have a significant impact on the environment. They produce emissions such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide that are the leading cause of air pollution and global climate change.