Renewables are a category of energy sources that are not depleted by use. The most common examples include water, wind, and solar power. These energy sources regenerate themselves, unlike fossil fuels such as coal and gas that are only available in finite amounts. In 2016 renewable forms of energy accounted for 10% of U.S. energy consumption and 15% of all electricity generation. It also accounts for 63% of the energy produced in Canada.
Solar power is energy captured from the sun that has been converted into thermal or electrical energy. Because the sun reliably and predictably shines every day, solar energy is the most stable and abundant power source on Earth. Given that it does rely on the sun, solar panels, although easy to maintain and install, can not produce electricity at night and in bad weather conditions. How the sun’s heat and light is captured varies by technology. Common methods include: photo-voltaic, solar heating, and artificial photosynthesis.
Over the past decade solar power has grown 68% per year in the United States. In 2015 it still only accounted for 0.6% of their net utility-scale electricity, however associated solar energy costs have dropped 63% over the past five years which has begun catapulting and expanding the industry.
Wind - Wind is a form of solar energy. Wind is produced by uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun and is affected by the Earth’s rotation and surface inconsistencies. There are two categories of wind turbines: horizontal axis and vertical axis, both are propelled by wind forces. Their turning motion converts kinetic energy into mechanical energy which can be subsequently used or converted into electricity.
Windmills can be dated back to 2000 B.C.; today the tallest wind turbine in the world is located in Hawaii, U.S. and is as tall as a 20 story building. The use of wind turbines has increased 25% in the past decade and in 2015 supplied 4.7% of the energy used in the United States.
Hydro and tidal energy are both produced by the movement of water and produce no emissions. Hydroelectricity is produced by water moving over a turbine and spinning blades connected to a generator. Commonly - water is released from dams or flowing water runs over turbines in rivers. Hydropower accounts for 7% of the total U.S. energy use, 16% worldwide. Among renewable energy sources in the U.S. Hydro supplies 44% of of the total utility-scale generation. Canada is the world’s third largest producer of Hydropower, it accounts for 60% of the Nation’s energy use. It is also home to the world’s largest source of hydropower - Niagara Falls.
Tidal energy is a form of hydropower that creates electricity by converting energy obtained from moving tides. Tidal projects tend to be expensive due to the large structures that need to be built in a water environment. Because this form of energy relies on large tides, there are few places where they can be profitably built. One of the few tidal projects in North America is located in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia in the Bay of Fundy - home to the world’s largest tides.
Biomass is a renewable form of energy created from plants and animals. Biomass energy usually comes from burning or converting sources into liquid biofuel and can even aid in carbon dioxide reduction. Common raw sources include: wood, agricultural crops, waste materials, and animal manure.
Because of the abundance of agricultural and forestry wastes, biomass is the largest form of renewable energy in Europe and accounts for 4% of the energy production in the United States. Biomass is mostly used by Industry with 51.5% of biomass being used to make products.
Geothermal is a renewable energy source that comes from heat produced by the Earth. Underground reservoirs of hot water and steam can be utilized through heat pumps to directly heat or cool homes and water. Geothermal energy can also be used to generate electricity by turning turbines.
Since the societal shift towards cleaner energy sources the Geothermal industry is estimated to be worth $30 billion by 2020. Each year over 60,000 new geothermal heat pumps are installed in the United States alone, although it still accounts for less than 1% of their total energy production.
Oil + Gas
Also known as fossil fuels, these are nonrenewable energy sources derived from organic matter within the earth. The type of matter created depended on the combinations of organic matter that had been mixed within the earth. These raw materials are most often removed from the earth and then converted into products such as gasoline and heating oil.
The United States (U.S.) consumed 7.17 billion barrels of petroleum products in 2016, accounting for roughly 36% of the country's total energy use. As of 2015 the U.S. had the ninth largest oil reserves and fifth largest natural gas reserves on the planet. They were the largest consumer of both.
Public Policy covers all laws and regulations put in place by the government for a certain society of people. It is designed to be in the best interests of all citizens and is usually created to fix a specific problem.
Canadian environmental policy is developed and implemented by Environment and Climate Change Canada, part of the Canadian Government. Their most significant environmental public policy is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). It was implemented in 1999 and includes numerous plans and policies for protecting the Canadian environment.
Infrastructure is the basic setup of systems. This term can be applied to many different scenarios including within technology, businesses or a physical location. Examples of infrastructure include: networking equipment and servers; sewage, transportation, and communication systems; and business assets such as pipelines.
Environmental infrastructure is anything that supplies densely populated areas with water supply, waste disposal, and pollution control services. The costs and difficulties associated with building and maintaining these structures highly depend on the natural resources available to the geographic area.
The United States government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure every year, contributing $416 billion in 2014 for water and transportation infrastructure alone.
Waste management is the collection, transportation, disposal, and sometimes containment of any waste items. There are many regulations and health codes that govern how waste is managed.
In the United States the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) controls all waste initiatives through the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Western part of the country is currently home to the most landfills, 186,346. In 2013 Americans overall generated close to 254 million tons of trash, and recycled and composted around 87 million tons of waste - a 34,3% recycling rate. Source reduction, recycling, and composting are all growing industry trends to reduce landfill volume and adverse environmental affects.
Urban Development is the improvement of a city or town through development and building. 54% of the global population lives in urban areas and is expected to increase 1.5 times by 2045. The populations in cities currently produce 80% of the global GDP. Urban Development in the United States is managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They control activities such as enforcing Federal Fair Housing laws and revitalizing urban centers and neighborhoods.
Urbanization is known to contribute to sustainable growth through increasing productivity and facilitating greater innovation and idea sharing.
Mining is the process of removing minerals from a mine. Commonly mined geological materials include: coal, quartz, cobalt, bauxite, gold, and fluorspar. Coal mining in the United States (U.S.) is statistically the most dangerous industry to work in. There are 400 coal powered electricity plants in the U.S. and they account for 30% of the Nation’s power. Recent sustainability movements have been fighting the use of fossil fuels due to their non-renewable status and resulting high emission levels. This “war-on-coal” has led to 191,000 mine workers losing their jobs in the U.S. since 2014.
To power something is the act of supplying mechanical or electrical energy to that device. Mechanical energy can be converted into electricity and vice versa. The latest updates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration depict roughly 65% of electricity coming from fossil fuels, 20% from nuclear energy, and 15% from renewable energy sources. The U.S. is the second largest energy consumer in the world, Canada ranks sixth.