Environmental concerns have driven the public focus on green energy. However, the future of green energy might not be what everyone is expecting, especially environmentalists.
Proponents of green energy often quote Elon Musk, particularly his statements regarding solar energy and how the energy needs of the USA can be met by merely allocating a small corner of Utah and Nevada to solar farms. While solar technology has come a long way since the first silicon solar cells in the 1950s. Modern solar cells are more efficient, more durable, and a lot less expensive. Even with all the advances and improvement in solar technology, it still begs the question — what happens during nighttime? Without sunlight, solar technology is practically useless. While energy can be somewhat stored, the way power plants store electricity isn’t remotely similar to charging a battery. A better alternative is to use solar power for individual homes, reducing the draw to the grid. A 6-kW solar power system can usually provide enough electricity to power a household of four, as well as produce enough extra electricity to make up for nighttime use. However, this requires a reliable energy source during the night, and there are only two possible options.
Environmentalists have a love-hate relationship with hydropower. They laud its non-polluting aspects when it’s already running, but protest the environmental damage of its construction. Hydropower plants can steadily produce electricity. However, large patches of land will need to be submerged for one to be built. This destroys whole ecosystems, leaving wildlife without their habitat and the destruction of numerous species of fauna. Hydropower isn’t even green. Hydropower plants are known to produce methane and carbon dioxide — sometimes at levels higher than coal power plants. They contribute to global warming by destroying large swaths of oxygen-producing trees and once these submerged trees rot — they produce methane which is released into the atmosphere. Hydropower may be reliable, but it is not green.
One of the most reliable sources of clean energy is nuclear power. Nuclear power is reliable, clean, and safe. While environmentalists will often decry the use of nuclear power, often citing atomic waste and the horrors of Chernobyl, advances in technology have virtually eliminated the risk of meltdowns and have made the disposal of nuclear material 100 percent safe. Nuclear plants produce very little radiation. The surroundings of a nuclear plant within a 50-mile radius experience a mere 0.01 extra millirems per year. To put that into perspective, four to eight hours in the Caribbean exposes you to 1 millirem and living in Colorado exposes you to more than 60 millirems a year. Uranium is also close to being renewable as scientists have already harvested the element from seawater and are close to making the process less expensive.
A future with clean energy is possible — just not the way environmental groups imagine. The future will have free electricity provided by residential solar panels supported by an electrical grid run with nuclear power.