Ever Wonder How Dams Save You Energy?

We in America love our dams. They are symbols of American ingenuity. The water churning through the energy-producing turbines of the massive Hoover Dam is a symbol of what the country can accomplish when it puts its mind to a task. There are some 80,000 dams in the United States, and each provides hydropower to a nearby community.


Or so you’d think.



Untapped Potential


Untapped-potentialAs a matter of fact, very few dams are used to harness the energy-saving potential of water. Not even three percent of the nation’s dams produce power. Why? Dams, as we currently imagine them, are actually quite bulky, inefficient power-saving structures. So why are we talking about the potential of American hydropower if dams are an outdated clean energy source?


I’m glad I asked.


“Reviving hydropower does not mean recreating the hulking masses of concrete that defined mid-20th-century power development,” Brett Walton of Circle of Blue writes. “The prime spots are already plugged, and big new dams no longer fit the time . . . The alternative model is to make better use of infrastructure already in the ground.”



The 21st-Century Dam


The-21st-century-damLet’s find out what that alternative model looks like. If we lack imagination, it could be costly. As Walton writes, many 20th century dams are problematic: they clog our waterways, disrupting delicate ecosystems and sterilize our watersheds. But if we make minor repairs and additions to existing infrastructure, we could easily utilize the power of our nation’s rivers.


For example, adding a power turbine to an existing dam, although not perfectly ecologically sound, is much less destructive to the environment than erecting an entirely new dam. Structures called “pump storage” dams, which use excess energy to pump water from a low-elevation reservoir to a high-elevation one, are already clean energy success stories in European countries. And tearing down old, non-energy supplying dams could revitalize neglected ecosystems and chart a course for the new century’s dam decision-making process.


We haven’t figured out hydropower. But if we take a good hard look at the problem and choose our dam sites wisely, there’s no reason dams shouldn’t be a part of this century’s clean energy revolution.


Alternative Ways to Heating Your Home

It’s winter and for those who live in colder climates that means higher energy bills. According to an article in USA TODAY, winter heating costs are expected to average 10.5% higher in 2017, and in most residences, represent the highest household cost.

Think—and Heat Differently.

Think and Heat Differently in text imageryBy far, the most popular way to heat a home is with a furnace or boiler. Furnaces heat air and distribute it through the house using ducts. Boilers heat water, which is delivered through baseboard radiators or a radiant floor system, or heat air through a coil.

But what if you wanted to explore alternative ways to keep warm and cozy in your home? Well, the good news is there are plenty of choices at hand.

Which System Is Best for You?

Heat pumps in text imageryHeat pumps—Heat pumps move heat instead of generating it. They use electricity to move heat from a cool space to a warm space, so the cool space is cooler and the warm space is warmer. In the winter, heat pumps move heat from the cool outdoors into your warm house. Conversely, in the summer, heat pumps move heat from your cool house into the warm outdoors.

Solar Energy in text imagerySolar Energy—As its name implies, active solar heating uses the natural energy from the sun to heat either liquid or gas, and then transfers this solar heat to a storage system for later use.

Electric Resistance Heating in text imageryElectric Resistance Heating—This system is 100 percent energy-efficient because it converts all the incoming electric energy into heat. But it is also among the costliest, because most of the electricity is generated from coal, gas, or oil, which has a fuel-to-electricity conversion rate of only about 30 percent.

Wood and Pellet Heating in text imageryWood and Pellet Heating—Today’s generation of wood- and pellet-burning appliances are more efficient and powerful enough to heat most average-sized homes. They also burn cleaner.

Steam and Hot Water Radiators in text imagerySteam and Hot Water Radiators—Steam radiators are one of the oldest heating systems around. However, the process of boiling and condensing liquid into heat is not as efficient as more modern-day systems. Hot water radiators are very popular in newer homes. The most common types are baseboard or upright style.

Radiant Heating in text imageryRadiant Heating—Radiant heating systems deliver heat directly from a hot surface to people and objects in the room through infrared radiation. If you have ever felt heat from across the room from a stove top, you’ve experienced radiant heating.

Portable Heaters in text imageryPortable Heaters—When you need to supplement an inadequate heating system or central heat is cost prohibitive, portable heaters are a good alternative, especially if you only need to heat one room. Take safety considerations when purchasing one by making sure it:

  • Is a newer one with the most current safety features
  • Carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label
  • Is thermostatically controlled
  • Is properly sized for the room; not oversized
  • Is located on a flat surface, away from high traffic areas, children, and pets

Here are some more energy-efficiency tips.


Apple Inc. Makes Strides in Preserving the Environment

Apple Inc., a leader in technology today worth billions of dollars, has taken on strong initiatives to create an eco-friendlier and environmentally sound company. Apple has used much of its revenue to invest in multiple projects to adopt more efficient energy sources, focus on recycling, and remove toxins from their electronics.

Meet Liam

Apple-Inc-Makes-Strides-in-Preserving-the-Environment-robot-liam-iphonesApple wanted to solve the problem of waste that comes with throwing away old electronics or replacing them with news ones. The company’s solution: Liam. Liam is a 39-armed robot whose sole purpose is to break down old iPhones part-by-part to repurpose the materials inside of those parts. As per Apple’s video introducing the robot, Liam will take out the phone’s battery to rescue cobalt and lithium, remove the gold copper from the camera, and extract silver and platinum from the main logic board. This way, these elements can be recycled and used to make new products.

100% Renewable Energy

Apple-Inc-Makes-Strides-in-Preserving-the-Environment-renewable-energy-recycleWhile this is quite a heavy goal, Apple is determined to use energy that is made up of 100% renewable sources. In 2015, 93% of the energy used was created from these sources. In efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, Apple’s products have steadily decreased in their carbon make-up, and almost all of their stores, offices, and data centers produce clean and renewable energy. In the last year, the company has also reduced their energy and power usage in their facilities. Currently, Apple stated that they are building 200 megawatts of solar in China to begin counteracting their manufacturing emissions.

Use and Reuse

Apple-Inc-Makes-Strides-in-Preserving-the-Environment-use-and-reuse-recycleApple has vowed to protect and preserve the forest as much as possible. That being said, they have begun to use recycled products for their packaging. Not only are they recycling paper products, they have also vowed to reduce their water usage as well. In order to diminish the amounts of their products in landfills, Apple implemented the Apple Renew program. Apple Renew allows customers to recycle their devices inside of their local retail store or online. Not only does this promote environmentally sound techniques within the company, but to Apple’s customers, as well.

Taking Out Toxins

Apple-Inc-Makes-Strides-in-Preserving-the-Environment-taking-out-the-toxinsA lot of electronic products contain hazardous substances, such as mercury, lead, and beryllium. Apple wants to make products that are not only safe for the environment, but for customers as well. They have set high standards for checking each of their products for these types of materials. In order to implement these regulations, Apple needed a board of experts to advise the company on innovative ways to minimize toxins in products. And so, they created their own Green Chemistry Advisory Board made up of some of the world’s most elite toxicologists, researchers, and academics.



Solar Powered Metro Sets a Shining Example

Santiago, Chile, will soon roll out the world’s first public transportation system run primarily on solar powered energy. PR Newswire reports that electricity generated by a new solar power plant will fill up to 60 percent of Metro of Santiago’s energy demand starting sometime in 2017.



Who’s Making the Switch


Easy-Energy-Saving-Who's-Making-the-SwitchMetro of Santiago, an underground railway network, serves Chile’s capital city. The system was once described by SantiagoTourist.com as “very clean, efficient and packed like sardines during rush hours.” The system currently carries 2.2 million passengers per day in a city with a population of more than five million.



The Power Behind the Project


Easy-Energy-Saving-The-Power-Behind-the-ProjectThe Metro will receive power generated from the El Pelicano Solar project, a 100-megawatt solar power plant going up near the cities of La Higuera and Vallenar. An agreement between Total and SunPower Corp. says the latter will purchase 300 gigawatt hours per year for “the supply of clean, solar energy” to Metro of Santiago. Oil and gas company, Total, is the world’s second ranked solar energy operator with SunPower.



Why It Matters


Easy-Energy-Saving-Why-It-MattersEduardo Medina is SunPower’s executive vice president of global power plants. He says, “Solar is an ideal energy source for Chile because of the country’s high solar resource and transparent energy policies.”


Bernard Clément, Total’s senior vice president, Business & Operations of the New Energies division, agrees. “We are proud to partner with Metro in developing a new way of powering public transportation systems through competitive, reliable and clean energy.”



Fast Tracking Solar Powered Transportation


Easy-Energy-Saving-Fast-Tracking-Solar-Powered-TransportationIf all goes according to plan, construction of the solar power plant to fuel the metro system will begin later this year and should be up and running by late next year. That puts Metro of Santiago on track to run on mostly solar energy by late 2017.

Explore Chile’s Metro of Santiago, or learn more about solar power plants and the benefits of solar energy.