Hydropower is the process of harnessing energy from water. Dams are the most common example of hydropower, and the largest producers of this type of electricity are China, Brazil and Canada. As of 2016, this power source accounted for 71% of the world's renewable energy supply.
Hydropower currently makes up 7% of total U.S. energy production, providing more power than wind or solar. While it's a renewable source, it's not without impact. The U.S. does not currently use most of its dams for hydroelectricity, and experts have criticized them in recent years due to their environmental and social impact. However, new technologies are improving how these plants operate, substantially reducing their impact on the surrounding ecosystem, specifically fish and other aquatic life.
In addition to committing to other sustainable resources, there are increasingly new opportunities for the U.S. to advance hydroelectric energy production, primarily through retrofitting old plants. Innovations in renewable technology have been an integral part of discussions, as many U.S. states make promises to transition to more eco-friendly techniques.
The Pros of Hydroelectric Energy
Just like wind and solar technologies, hydropower has crucial pros and cons to consider. It's essential to weigh the advantages against the negative impact on the surrounding ecosystem. Impact also varies greatly depending on the type of system and scale of the project. For example, in-stream turbine technology has less of an effect than conventional dams.
Hydropower is a carbon-free energy system. In comparison, coal has a carbon content of 78% and releases about 204.3 pounds of the gas per million Btu when burned.
Hydropower provides a domestic source of energy, creating autonomy in local communities and reducing the need to rely on external or imported resources, such as oil.
Hydropower provides reliable and consistent energy, often referred to as it's baseload power. This feature gives this energy source an advantage over wind and solar since their supply is weather-dependent. Hydropower can also store energy, offering providers control over the excess.
The Cons of Hydroelectric Energy
While this power source has significant advantages, you should also consider the drawbacks.
Hydroelectric plants disrupt and alter the ecosystem around them. One of the main criticisms is the impact on aquatic life, primarily fish migration and biodiversity. These issues are crucial considerations considering that dam construction can come with an irreversible effect.
Large-scale dams can damage local communities. Depending on the size of the project and the surrounding environment, the construction of hydroelectric dams can cause populations to be forcibly removed and alter the quality of drinking water downstream.
The Future of Hydropower
Today, workers remove more U.S. dams than build new ones. The key to promoting hydropower as a reliable and sustainable energy source is to innovate the technologies behind the infrastructure. By improving the conventional methods of producing this power and retrofitting the current infrastructure, the U.S. can tap into a powerful resource.
Innovative technology within hydroelectric plants could potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 billion metric tons. The next step will focus on new, smaller units that better adapt to the environment.
In-stream turbine technology provides an alternative to conventional dams. Similar to historic grain mills, this system harnesses hydrokinetic energy without dramatically altering the natural flow of water. The primary benefits of in-stream turbine systems include being less ecologically disruptive, more conducive to healthy aquatic life and less impactful on the surrounding ecology. One model, the Alden turbine, focuses on fish passages, or hydraulic structures that do not impede migration.
Hydropower is an underutilized technology when it comes to finding sustainable energy alternatives. The potential is expansive, and the benefits of new systems provide a reliable alternative to wind and solar options. With the innovation taking place within the industry, the opportunity to expand in the U.S. is significant.
Emily Folk is passionate about environmental sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter for her latest updates.
We Dig Ohio is an annual, one-day summit exploring urban agriculture and community gardening in the Ohio region, and an opportunity to expand your gardening expertise through panels of experts, educational sessions and hands-on workshops.
This year's We Dig Ohio Summit will have a strong emphasis on young gardeners, with the keynote presentation delivered by a panel of four accomplished young agriculturists ages 10-21. Continuing this theme, lunch will be prepared and served by the local youth gardening and culinary program, OSU Urban GEMS. The event also includes a sneak peek of the newly constructed Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation Children’s Garden (opening to the public May 2018).
In addition to the wide representation of Ohio gardeners, the summit will also feature nationally renowned leaders in the industry. These presentations will discuss the latest research, best practices, innovations and trends -- in not only community gardens and school gardens, but urban agriculture at large. Register now to reserve your place at the table. For details or to register: https://www.fpconservatory.org/events/we-dig-ohio-urban-agriculture-community-garden-summit/
Efficient Power Use in Off Grid Properties
When you take your home off-grid, you are making a bold, brave statement for the benefit of our world’s environment. In a home on the grid, the residents are essentially subsidizing their renewables with electricity generated by the network. Those houses do not need to conserve their power using energy efficiency techniques because if they run out of power, the lights will not go out. However, if a disconnected home drains all its energy, then it has to sit in the cold and dark until it creates more. What can you do to stop this ruining your dream of a life powered by renewables? Here are the top tips, and some of them are so old-fashioned you will wonder why you were not doing them already!
Put the Lights Out
Since illuminating your home can take up to 10% of the energy your home uses, something that your father may have done is appropriate: roam the hallways turning out the lights to save energy. You could even automate this process by installing a panel to control the times your lighting goes on and off. This controller also deters burglars while your house is standing empty. Although LED bulbs are expensive, it still works out positively in a cost-benefit scenario when you replace your five most used bulbs. Where you place the lights is also extremely important concerning efficiency. Illuminating corners lights two walls, doubling your energy efficiency at a stroke.
Start Sun Worshiping
In Ohio, there can be up to 15 hours of light per day. That means correctly placed windows can reduce your dependence on electricity, but you are still able to see where you are going when roaming your abode. Shading can diminish the amount of sunlight on particularly bright days or can reflect the light onto shaded areas. Switching your window panes to low E glass will also remove the heat from a sunny day if your home suffers from that.
Hot or Cold, Energy Always Needed
Proportionally one of the largest consumers of energy in the home, following these heating and cooling tips could see a 40% reduction in your electricity use. One of the most basic savings is to open the window instead of switching on the air conditioner. Use your knowledge of wind movements around your property to better place your windows for cooling. Heating your home with a wood fire will eliminate any electricity from the heating equation. Insulation removes extremes of hot and cold affecting your home and can reduce your energy footprint by up to 50%. As a beneficial side-effect, your house will be less susceptible to damp. Leave your thermostat between 18 and 20 Celsius in the winter. Each degree higher can increase your energy use by 10%. Similarly, in summer leave the dial above 26 C.
Turn Off Your Appliances
Having your appliances on by default can burn up as much energy as your lighting does. Turning them off is an instant saving, but which machines are best to pull the plug? Your electricity is DC already, and appliances that run on DC save you 10% of the electricity by not converting it to AC. Fridges should operate between 4 and 5C, whereas freezers are most efficient between -18 and -15C.
Alternative Back Up
There are moves to bring Hydrogen production to the home. Your house could have a fallback, renewable generator in the form of Hydrogen Fuel Cells and your worries of a blackout would recede.
We’re all looking to green our lives as much as we can, and if we can save money into the bargain too - then that’s all to the good. As we head into retirement and our senior years, making the most of our money is even more important. Many people are switching to solar power to help them save the environment and their bank balances too.
Retirees investing in solar power might want to think about using a lower risk option for solar power, but the gain is that by installing, monetarily you’ll get consistent and increasing returns which are similar to the sorts of returns that are associated with stocks and bonds. However, you won’t get the volatile and unpredictable results you sometimes can from investing in those markets.
Here are the benefits of investing as you start to think about retiring.
Save money on your bills
OK, so an obvious point to start with, but it can’t be overstated. Yes, there’s an initial outlay to kit your home out - but after that your electricity bill will either be drastically reduced or cut totally, depending on your use. That money can be put to other good uses. Think about the holiday you always wanted, or the extra income it will give you to spend on your family and loved ones.
Your house value could increase
An investment in something like solar power could mean that the value of your property increases. There are studies to show that many buyers are willing to pay more for a house that has seen fit to invest in solar power to conserve energy and reduce household expenditure in the long run. As more and more people learn about the benefits of solar power and seek to invest themselves, you’ll know you’ve done the right thing.
Long term solar can generate income for you
Some states have a market for something called solar renewable energy certificates, so you could potentially earn money for selling them. Another point to consider is that there are some utilities that will offer production-based incentives. These are handy because they will pay you for the electricity your panels create.
It stops energy company price hikes on your bills
Solar power will of course protect you against any future price hikes on your energy bills. If you use solar panels to generate your own power, you’ll make huge savings and not be at the mercy of huge conglomerates who push their prices up every year. In 2015 alone figures show that some companies increased their prices by as much as 9%. Keeping energy bills constant is one thing less to worry about!
Any money you make from solar power isn’t taxable
Unlike the returns you see from more traditional investments, your returns from solar come in the form of savings, rather than a fixed income - unless you’re using solar renewable energy certificates. This means they are not subject to taxation.
Going green at home isn't really that difficult. In fact, it is one of the first steps we should take towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. Through technological advances, people are living longer and more people are being born. While that is definitely a good thing, it also means there is more competition for the earth's resources.
There is only so much space, food and water to go around. That is why we must start living as sustainably as we can today. This includes reducing waste and conserving and/or reusing resources in your home. It is also about non-toxic living. What seems like a sacrifice today, may be critical for tomorrow--so, don't wait.
Another great thing about going green at home is this is often the more frugal option. We can all play our part in cleaning the air, preserving the natural landscape and reducing landfill waste. Here are 10 DIY ways to go green at home.
Commercial detergent leaves a lot to be desired. They come with a host of chemicals that can pollute the water supply. In addition, there is an unnatural fragrance that lingers on your clean clothes. This includes dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener; many are rated high for toxicity or simply unregulated. Instead of washing with potentially toxic detergents use something natural or make your own.
2. Add low-flow showerheads and faucets
You really don't need that much water to get clean. In fact, some people argue that it actually isn't even that healthy to shower everyday. You strip your body of its natural oils, leaving your skin dry. You then try to replace those oils with chemical-filled lotions.
It just doesn't make sense. Unless you're sweating in the sun all day, you really only need to shower once a day. If you can shower every other day, even better. So, replace your showerheads and faucets with low-flow covers. These can certainly be worth your while if you have leaky and outdated faucets.
3. Reuse washing machine parts
When your washing machine is ready to give up, you probably won't even be able to repair it. But, don't toss it all out just yet. You can still use the drum. It has eyelets around the rim where you can add wheels and a lid for a top. Then, place a comfy cushion on the surface. Now, you have a moving and futuristic-looking ottoman. It can also be used for storage of blankets, toys and more. You can replace the cushion anytime you like. It's also as comfortable as any store-bought ottoman.
4. Turn off all of your lights at night
Unless you have trouble with vision, you really don't need any lights on at all. This helps to conserve energy and usage out of your lightbulbs. You don't want to have to replace lightbulbs every week because they are being overused. The world only has so much power to go around. There are increasing numbers of resources competing for that power. Do your part by turning all of the lights off.
5. Grow your own vegetables
You can use pots, a soil bed or even mason jars. It can be a traditional vegetable garden or pots of herbs. Nonetheless, growing your own food helps to reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Use your pet to power your cell phone
If you have a hamster, you can be sure it likes its exercise. This is why there is the hamster wheel. Well, you can attach a small generator to your hamster wheel and connect it to your phone charger. Every two minutes your hamster spends on its wheel gives you around 30 minutes of talk time. Your hamster gets its daily dose of exercise, and your phone gets charged.
7. Replace windows
You can lose a lot of energy through your windows. If you're heating up your home, the heat can leak out through your windows. Then, you have to use a higher heat setting just to make up for it. As a result, you pay more in energy costs. Instead, consider installing double-paned windows. If those aren't in your budget, storm windows can also be used.
8. Get a programmable thermostat
You don't even need an electrician to help you. The benefits of a programmable thermostat is they regulate your heating and cooling spending. Most of them also come with a built-in energy saving program. In addition, you can customize it to represent your schedule. You don’t need to cool or heat your home all day.
9. Wash in cool water
Unless water is boiling, it doesn't have more hygienic benefits than cool water. In fact, a study by Vanderbilt University showed that cold water has the same hygienic benefits as hot water. Yet, hot water takes more energy to maintain. So, switch to cold. Water is water.
10. Use cloth instead of paper
You don't have to use paper to clean up every mess, you can use cloth. They are cost effective and reusable. You can even make rags out of old towels and t-shirts. The same is true of napkins, you can use cloth instead of paper versions. Just maintain and wash them.
Going green is not difficult, daunting or expensive. Many of the tips above are quite easy and inexpensive. Moreover, it doesn't take much time to change how you run your home. These simple steps will have you well on your way to cutting costs, helping the planet and saving energy. You’ll realize you don’t even miss your old way of life. You can survive just fine, thank you very much.
The thought of a decomposing pile of waste sitting in or near the home might be a little off putting to some people, but it's not nearly as much of a hassle as it may seem at a glance. In fact, compost not only provides health and vitality to your garden and lawn, it plays a major part in cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, landfill overflow and even weed control.
You've probably seen scary statistics, like the World Wildlife Fund's study that claims we will need two earths to sustain ourselves by the year 2050, or that the earth's fish supply will run out by the year 2048, but that doesn't have to be the case. As buzzy and ubiquitous as the green movement has become nowadays, there's a reason it's everywhere. According to the EPA, the amount of landfills that exist in the U.S. has been steadily shrinking for the past 20 years or so. This may sound like a good thing, but in actuality we produce more garbage, so the land fills are bursting at the seams with greenhouse gas and sometimes toxic substances. Some landfills, like Cecil County Central Landfill in Elkton, Maryland even require relocation and remediation by third-party companies like Sevenson Environmental. The growing garbage problem is starting to get stinky. Luckily, there's a lot you can do at home to combat it (and look like an earth-saving hero to all your friends), starting with the simple act of composting.
Why It's Helpful
The EPA reports that approximately 17 percent of all methane gas emitted in the U.S. comes from landfills, which lump dangerous refuse with helpful organic material. By starting a compost bin or area for your family, you are lessening toxic contributions to already overcrowded landfills. The EPA estimates that if every household composted their yard trimmings and food scraps, it could reduce the municipal waste stream by up to 25 percent. Furthermore, The United States Composting Council's findings show that for every one ton of composted waste, .25 metric tons of greenhouse gases are prevented. A Sierra Club study concluded that a family of four could easily create 500 pounds of compost in a year.
A Quick How-To
Did you know that you can compost egg shells, cardboard pizza boxes, nail clippings, old wool or cotton clothing, bills and even condoms? And the list goes on. All you need is a bin, bucket, soil and motivation to make the world a better place for your children. The recipe for compost is simple: use approximately a 1/1 ratio for soil and scraps, alternating approximately four-inch layers. A properly tended compost bin doesn't smell or breed harmful bacteria, as long as you don't add any fats, meats, dairy or oils. Once you begin your foray into greener pastures, be sure to aerate the soil with holes or earthworms. This also quickens the decomposition process. It is also important to stir your compost intermittently so it doesn't become impacted. From there you can use it to make the most beautiful,nutrient-rich garden that your home could ever need— and the earth will thank you
With a population of over 7 billion, our world is currently home to more people than it’s ever seen before. This all-time high in population means more of the Earth’s resources are being exhausted now than ever before. It’s crucial that as human beings we do our best to create as little carbon footprint as possible and keep our planet clean! How green do you think your city is? What can you do individually and as a community to make a difference within your city?
1. Get Waste Management Under Control
One of the most important steps to take is to get waste management under control. Consider how much waste you discard of each day. Think back even farther, and consider how many goods you actually use in a day. See if you can come up with alternatives to using so much paper or plastic. What can you do to simply use less in general? Using less each day means there is less waste for you to discard of at the end of the day as well.
When you do find that you need to throw something away, consider sending it somewhere other than the landfill. Paper, plastic and glass can be recycled; and if you’re discarding of fruit or vegetables, you might look into creating a compost bin for your garden. The natural breakdown of organic matter creates a nutrient rich soil – a perfect fertilizer for fruits, vegetables or flowers.
2. Create Efficient Public Transportation
What can you do to use your vehicle less? Not only will you save in gas money by doing this, but you also eliminate a huge environmental footprint. If you’re in a city where you have access to a bus or train, consider these modes of transportation as options. If these are not easily accessible, you might consider carpooling to work or to school.
According to Denver, Colorado car accident lawyers at The Sawaya Law Firm, in 2013, over 2 million people were injured in traffic accidents in the United States. Fewer cars on the roads could mean fewer accidents.
Those fortunate enough to live in larger cities often have more access to public transportation, as well as the ability to walk to and from work and school. Even if the distance is a little too far to walk, you might consider biking to your destination.
How does your city fare as far as walking and cycling paths are concerned? How is the bus system within the city? If you notice a lack in public transportation, check in with different organizations or with City Hall to see what you can do.
3. Buy Locally Grown Goodies
Keep resources circulating through your community by buying locally grown foods. Utilize this opportunity to rally together as a community. Are there any community gardens in your area? You might gather with others who have an interest in locally grown goods, and start a city farm or something similar in your town or city.
Many things can be done around the home to make it more environmentally friendly. Mother Earth is good to us and it's only fair we give something back by looking after her better. Living in a more environmentally friendly way doesn't mean we have to start growing all our own food or slapping solar panels on the roof, (although these will really help!), even small improvements make a big difference when they're all added up.
One of the simplest, yet most effective ways of reducing energy use in the home, is by improving insulation. Cold drafts enter the home through gaps by windows and doors, and warm air escapes by the same route. Older houses are the biggest culprits in the war against cold drafts, but cheap and effective solutions exist that will soon have the place warming up nicely. Double glazing is an unbeatable way of slashing heat loss at windows, but sadly it isn't the budget option. For home insulation at a more modest price, take a trip to the DIY store for insulating tape to seal up all the gaps in window frames and above and below doorways – the difference will be felt almost immediately. The most attractive insulation fix is installing a new window treatment. Whether it's sleek custom shutters fitted to the interior of the frame or heavy drapes to block out the cold, both options will provide effective insulation.
The heat of the moment
Get into the habit of turning the heating thermostat down slightly in cold weather. A matter of one or two degrees is hardly perceptible to inhabitants, but it shaves a load off energy bills. Programmable thermostats take the guesswork out of it and make all the adjustments; so it is well worth the investment in terms of energy saved. If the heating comes from a furnace, ensure the filter is cleaned out monthly for optimum performance. Today, furnace technology has advanced enormously so if a replacement is planned, check out what's on offer as there could be savings of around 25 percent to fuel bills.
Are there a lot of old, creaking appliances in the home that should be retired? Electrical appliances generate about 18 percent of a home’s energy bill. If those appliances are ancient models functioning on less than 100 percent efficiency, then that is just a waste of money and energy. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends any appliances over 10 years old should be replaced with new models bearing Energy Star ratings.
Sweat the small stuff
Many small changes of behavior can make big differences in greening up the home. Try some of these for starters: Don't buy food contained in excessive packaging, use environmentally friendly cleaning products, switch to low energy light bulbs, share baths or even better take a shower, fit aerators on all faucets, reduce trash by composting organic matter, recycle as much packaging as possible – and that's just the beginning!
A truly modern household should be embracing all of the lessons we have learned about protecting the environment. The good news is, it is not just the environment that's protected; in the long run we'll all save money.
Spring is on its way, and for many people, that means that it’s lawn care season. For people who are serious about their lawns, selecting pesticides can be a difficult business. Pesticides are associated with many dangers of many varieties, and for consumers without formal training in toxicology, it can be tricky to decipher labels and figure out exactly which chemicals are as scary as their names sound.
Luckily, many experts on the subject are more than happy to discuss the safety risks (and benefits) of different pesticides, and the enterprising lawn care lover can find plenty of good information online regarding pesticide issues. Here’s some basic information about pesticides and what everyone should know about them.
Costs to the Environment
Pesticides can pose huge risks to the environment. Ever since the publication of Silent Spring, most members of the public have been aware that pesticide use can have negative consequences on our planet. Pesticides are designed to kill, after all, and chemicals that kill one organism aren’t likely to be good for other organisms with which they interact.
The problem with killing any species is that it will likely have unforeseen impacts. Ecosystems are more complex than most people realize, and killing off a creature have longer term consequences than chemical manufacturers are willing to admit. Species diversity is an essential element of most any ecosystem, and even small disruptions can lead to big problems.
Costs to Your Family’s Health
Pesticides can have nasty effects on the human body, too. Again, pesticides are designed to kill. You wouldn’t want to spread many of these substances across your morning toast, and you won’t want to breathe them into your lungs on a warm spring morning. Don’t neglect your family’s health, or the health of your neighbors; the long-term medical costs will not be worth the minutes you save caring for your grass.
Pesticide use poses risks to all members of your family, no matter the age. Prolonged pesticide exposure has been associated in studies with both Parkinson’s Disease in the elderly and with a myriad of developmental problems in the young. Whether you’re a still-developing nuclear family with small children, or a retired couple looking to live out your years in peace, you should be aware of the dangers to your health presented by pesticides.
Costs to Your Pet’s Health
Unfortunately, pets can’t read. Your family’s chocolate labrador won’t be able to avoid lawns saturated with harsh insect killer unless you physically prevent her from doing so. Pets are among the populations most vulnerable to pesticide hazards, and are liable to simply dig
straight into pesticide-rich soil, or even bottles of chemical themselves, and poison themselves. Do your research and avoid this sad hazard.
Costs to Your Lawn’s Health
Here’s the ultimate irony of pesticide use on lawns: they’re not even good for your lawns, the one thing they’ve been designed to do. Sure, pesticides may give you some control over the patterns in which your grass grows, but grasses have evolved over the millennia in ways that are necessarily designed to please 1950s American aesthetics. A growing number of young people have jettisoned the idea of the buzzcut lawn, preferring the untamed, shaggy style that nature intended.