"America’s swelling thirst for oil is one of our leading economic and national security problems. We use a quarter of the world’s petroleum, but have just three percent of known reserves. As a result, we’re importing more than half the oil we use each day from some of the most unstable regions of the world- spending more than $20 billion each year on Persian Gulf oil alone" (Lashof and Hwang1).
There are effective technologies that can substantially reduce our need for foreign oil and help alleviate environmental harm. For instance, Photovoltaic energy, another term for solar energy, as well as wind power, are unlimited sources of energy that does not cause environmental harm, nor do they cost anything. Energy-efficient designed homes using renewable energy sources are demonstrated technologies that are readily available. In addition, the energy efficient designed buildings allow consumers to save money by improving the building layout, which limits the loss of useful solar gain. Photovoltaic, wind energy, and buildings designed to be energy-efficient, are concepts of the future that should be recognized as a current solution to eliminating energy waste, energy costs, as well as environmental damages.
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What many people do not know is the unrealized potential of photovoltaic and wind energy. Joel Davidson states, " As fossil fuels are depleted, the scramble for the few remaining pockets of conventional fuels will continue to destabilize the world political and economic situation, leading to ever-greater conflict and confrontation. Meanwhile, a virtually limitless and globally available source of energy- solar electricity and wind – offers a solution" (9). Not only is wind and solar energy universally available, it is virtually free. Solar and wind powers are becoming increasingly popular with home and business owners, resulting in lower initial investments because of improve manufacturing techniques. Initial investment in a photovoltaic system for a home costs, "… approximately $20,000 which include labor and materials,"(Zoellick and Posner 14). New kinds of photovoltaic panels are dramatically bringing costs down and government rebate programs are also cutting homeowners costs by as much as 60 percent in some states ( Suess and Long 18). Since owners’ of the photovoltaic systems does not pay electric bills, the initial investment is paid back through savings on non-existent energy bills. Mike Sagrillo in Home Power magazine mentions that, wind generators can cost from $1000 to over $3000 for residential systems. After the initial investments are paid off, through savings, the owner can cut down on overall expenses. Finally, the result of owning a photovoltaic or wind system concludes in overall benefits.
The opposition to photovoltaic and wind technology has some concerns. The problem with the photovoltaic systems is that at night there is no sunlight. However, solar panels can store the suns’ energy in batteries for use in bad weather or at night. Therefore, there are no downsides to owning a photovoltaic system. In addition Mike Sagillo states, “ noise from the blades rotation during high winds is a significant factor in the opposition argument for wind power generators…"(9). Although wind energy does not produce any harmful by-products, it cannot be used in regions with no wind. Until the people understand the benefits of renewable energy, money will be lost in utility payments, energy will be wasted and the environmental will continues to be harmed by wasteful byproducts.
There are many benefits to having energy-efficient buildings. One benefit is to orient the longest wall of building towards the south, to better distribute solar radiation throughout the year. According to Bill Steen of Straw Bale House, "…heat gain can be limited during the summer months, when extra heat is undesirable, if the houses are properly oriented in order to work with the natural cyclic movement of the sun, receiving heat from sunlight in winter and excluding hot sunlight by shading in the summer"(251). Windows and photovoltaic panels should be placed on the south side of the building because the sun shines on the building from the south, as it rises from the east and sets in the west, meaning that the house can absorb more energy especially with the photovoltaic system. Another benefit is to increase the amount insulation in the exterior wall and have proper ventilation in the building. By implementing these energy-efficient designs, power will be conserved because heat in the winter and air from air-conditioning in the summer will not escape, resulting in less use of the heaters or air conditioning units. As the El Paso Solar Energy Association states, "A energy-efficient home design will not only lower your utility bills, it will be comfortable. Comfort is priceless"
Energy-efficient technology needs to be utilized sooner than later. Buildings with energy-efficient designs, cuts energy waste by utilizing solar gain and maximizing insulation. Energy costs are diminished using photovoltaic and wind energy because the source is never ending and the consumer does not pay monthly electric bills. Unlike oil and coal, newer technologies will reverse environmental damages due to its lack of releasing harmful byproducts into the environment. If the government starts to become more energy-efficient, then the consumer will become more energy-efficient. This reduces the need to look for oil in unstable areas. This also saves the government substantial amounts of money that could be used in furthering research in new technologies and offering tax incentives for the homeowners. Implementing energy saving concepts will help reduce environmental harm as well as financial burden.
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