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Sunny Charlottesville by Heidi Hahn

Renewable Energy in the Charlottesville Area

Heidi Hahn

Hawaii Outdoors Institute: Final Project

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sunny Charlottesville

Through Hawaii Outdoors Institute I have learned about teamwork, adventure, and the importance of respecting nature. Our world provides us with the ability to survive and interact with the gifts of nature, so while we are here we should make sure to leave it better than we found it. In modern day society the United States uses a majority of energy that comes from nonrenewable energy sources, such as petroleum (37 percent), natural gas (25 percent), and coal (21 percent). These energy sources harm our environment because they pollute air and water, damage public health (increased rates of mortality and morbidity and higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome), contribute to wildlife and habitat loss, and global warming emissions. Hawaii is an expensive area to live in because everything imported to the islands uses nonrenewable energy sources and have to travel a far distance. In 2014, Hawaii imported 90% of the energy it consumed, and in 2015, the state had the highest electricity prices in the nation. Hawaii heavily depends on petroleum oil and relies on oil for 75 percent of its electricity generation, this causes the electricity prices to be three times higher than the U.S. national average. In Hawaii it is more efficient to invest in solar panels because of the abundant source of solar energy year round, the geographical barrier of shipping nonrenewable resources to the islands, and the harm it brings to pollute such a beautiful and cultural place. “When fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity, they emit harmful gases that are the primary cause of air pollution and global warming. SolarCity’s carbon footprint per unit of energy production is 95% lower than that of fossil fuel power plants” Solar City (SolarCity is the leader in full-service solar power systems for homes, businesses and governments providing custom design, financing, installation & monitoring). All the problems that come with nonrenewable energy sources have encouraged us to come up with new technologies to lessen our consumption of these harmful forms of energy.

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Renewable energy on the other hand is a clean energy source, relatively inexpensive overtime, and is constantly being replenished. Renewable energy consists of sun (solar), wind, falling water (hydropower), bioenergy/biomass (agricultural and animal residues), biofuels, biogas, geothermal, ocean water (wave energy), and hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources are on the rise in interest, but are still only consumed by 10 percent of energy consumption. The rise in interest for renewable energy creates opportunities for new jobs, companies, and technologies. Former President Barack Obama is suggesting, “The more we are using clean energy, renewable energy sources, the less environmentally problematic facilities end up being a problem for everybody, but particularly for folks who have to suffer the consequences of some of these facilities.” He is claiming that we should advance as a whole nation to become sustainable economically, environmentally, and become a global leader in the development of alternative energy sources. In a place where the sun shines all year, like Hawaii, it is easy to justify investing in solar panels for a residence and switch over to the environmentally friendly movement. 

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If the movement of solar energy continues and more people invest in solar panels, then overtime the installation and marketing prices will lower. This movement will make it easier for people to get environmentally involved. Every person involved is helping improve our environment and contributing to the market. In my local area of Charlottesville, Virginia we have tax cuts for those who invest in solar energy to encourage members of the community to get involved. Solar panels will eventually pay for themselves because the initial cost will be paid off in saving from not having to pay nonrenewable energy costs. Additionally, loans are available through banks to encourage people to invest in clean and renewable energy. Also, if we continue to use fossil fuels in high quantities then the supply will be depleted and the cost of these resources will skyrocket leaving those who did not invest in clean energy less access to affordable sources. We will be working together as a community to stop the exponential process of global warming and leave a positive footprint on this earth. We cannot let this process continue and leave the issues for future generations to the energy sources we are faced with.

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My family is environmentally conscious in how we consume our electricity. We always turn off lights when they are not in use, limit our water use, and we use a programmable thermostat to save energy. With these practices my family’s electric bill is around $140 a month. If we invested in solar panels that amount would hopefully decrease overtime to around nothing per month! The installation of solar panels at my home would be around $15,000 which we would have paid in electrical costs in about nine years. Solar panels have very low maintenance costs, so the initial installation will be the only big pocket expense. This means my family would be saving a significant amount of money, help the environment through using clean energy, and stop using harmful energy sources such as fossil fuels. 

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My plan to bring solar energy back to my community is to work with my parents on getting solar panels installed on our home as well as encourage others in my community to do the same. As I apply to colleges this year my goal is to major in environmental sciences and intern for a local renewable energy company. Hawaii Outdoors Institute has taught me ways to conserve and preserve our environment through everyday individual choices and always lending a helping hand in cleanup projects to fix poor choices other individuals in our society have made. I have learned to be aware of our environment and led to a brighter and more informed future. Through the hands on experience I discovered opportunities to help contribute to the environmental movement and become a helpful member of my community. This institute has opened my eyes to a world full of possibilities and I hope to continue my passion for our natural world. 

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Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy | GreenMatch. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.

Society, National Geographic. “Non-renewable Energy.” National Geographic Society. N.p., 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 17 July 2017.

“Uncover the Benefits of Solar Energy.” SolarCity. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.

40 Facts About Solar Energy.” Conserve Energy Future. N.p., 08 May 2017. Web. 17 July 2017.

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