So what is all this talk about “fracking” and is it a good solution for our energy needs? Well, it depends on what you mean by “good”. If you are talking about a short-term emergency energy solution, then you could say it is “okay” (but certainly not “good”.) If you are talking about long-term and sustainable practice, then it’s a great big “NO”. You can argue for it until you are blue in the face, but when it comes to the final product and what it takes to get that product, “fracked” products are bad news. To put it in a short essay, the folks at gracelinks.org have put it succinctly, so we will repost their work in its entirety for you here:
“The United States is home to what some estimate to be the largest known shale gas reserves in the world. Often referred to as the “bridge fuel” that, according to the oil and gas industry, will aid in the country’s energy transition from coal to renewable sources like wind and solar, natural gas now fuels nearly 40 percent of the country’s electricity generation. Natural gas use has soared in recent years, but so too has the controversy surrounding the environmental, public health and social impacts of how the fuel is obtained.
The Marcellus Shale formation, located in the Northeast U.S., is of particular interest to the oil and gas industry, not just because of its large, untapped reserve, but because of its proximity to major population centers. That proximity, however, also raises significant public health concerns. Of primary concern is the potentially damaging impact of natural gas drilling on water resources. A new process conducted by drilling companies has the potential to increase pollution exposure, and concerned members of the public; some state and federal regulators and the environmental community are keeping a close watch on the process.
The method combines a new form of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing – more commonly known as fracking. The process blasts open fissures in underground shale-rock formations by injecting a high pressure combination of fluids, chemicals and proppants causing the fossil fuel to flow to the production well. During the fracking process, millions of gallons of fracking fluid – a mixture of water, sand and toxic chemicals – are injected into the ground to break up the shale and release natural gas. While each company’s formula is a closely guarded secret, in some cases the mix includes known carcinogens.
Some of the fracking fluid remains underground where it could potentially contaminate groundwater in the future, but much of it is brought back to the surface as wastewater. That wastewater contains fracking chemicals as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials and metals found in the surrounding soil. The wastewater is often pumped into holding ponds where it can leak and settle into surrounding groundwater, and impact wildlife. The contamination of groundwater is of major concern for those who live near drilling operations and rely on drinking water wells. And the contamination of watersheds that provide drinking water for millions of people in cities hundreds of miles away from any natural gas drills poses a significant threat as well.
While the natural gas industry argues that fracking will create new jobs, the potential harm to water resources could endanger existing economies. Most proposed gas drilling projects are located in rural areas where a ready supply of fresh water is essential to agriculture, tourism, sport fishing, hunting and manufacturing. Drilling accidents, which can and do happen, can have a profound impact on these industries, and the boom-bust cycle of energy extraction can irreparably change the way of life in rural communities. For a cautionary tale, just look to mountaintop removal mining for coal and the devastation caused to Appalachia’s ecology and public health.
Federal and state responses to the threats to water resources posed by fracking have been mixed at best. At the federal level, regulation is insufficient due to certain explicit exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act granted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The EPA is just now starting multi-year research into the impacts of fracking on water resources, and while preliminary results will be available in 2012, the final report is not expected until 2014.
At the state level the picture is mixed. New Jersey’s legislature, for example, has approved an outright ban on fracking (pending the Governor’s signature), while New York is proposing to ban the practice from certain sensitive areas. Pennsylvania has already received billions of dollars in natural gas drilling investment, making tougher regulations a difficult sell. In all states, however, proper enforcement of any regulations on this rapidly expanding industry will be difficult for overburdened, underfunded and underprepared environmental agencies.
The role that natural gas fracking will play in the United States’ energy future is quickly evolving. The nation is shifting towards electricity generated by natural gas – over the past ten years 81 percent of new electricity capacity has been gas-fired – and state governments are playing regulatory catch-up with the drilling technology’s rapid expansion to meet this burgeoning demand. As states debate how best to protect air and water resources from any potential fracking side effects, the federal government is taking another look at its own imperfect research and oversight. New technologies like “micro-LNG,” which allow production of natural gas for markets without pipeline networks, add to the need for regulators to get a firm grasp on the changing natural gas landscape. Please check this page often as we will update with the latest fracking news and research.”
So, why are we reposting this and giving you the dirty details on the fracking debate? Well, being as we are purveyors of sustainable energy, there is no better autonomous solution (at the time of this writing) than solar technology. The other side may say that solar uses vast amounts of energy to create the panels and resources for the LEDs, but the same can be said about the initial costs and materials for the fracking and dirty energy industries. Let it be known that we are talking about sustainability and appropriate technology here, neither of which fracking is sustainable nor appropriate.
Go solar today! Don’t let them scare you into thinking it is not a viable option (okay, it isn’t so great of an idea at 90 degrees latitude, but how much of the world population lives at the north and south poles?) Once you have broken from the spell of a 100-year conditioning, you will find that there are alternative energy solutions out there (check Your Solar Link and their supply of off-grid solar lighting) and available to you at this very moment.
Take the power back!
There are many ways to dispose of those things in life we would like to never see again. One of those things is as old as biology itself, and that is waste generated by the organism (okay, we’ll just say it… feces.) Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder have developed what they call the Sol-Char, an off-grid human waste mechanism that uses the power of the sun to turn poop into coal. What sets this apart from other composting toilets is that it uses concentrated light/energy from the sun to essentially incinerate (at temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, around 315 Celsius for our overseas friends) the waste to a coal-like product that can be used as agriculture fertilizer or soil amendments.
The Indian Space Research Organization and US National Space Society launched a joint forum to develop partnership in harnessing solar energy through space-based solar collectors.
Image by NASA. An orbiting tower of solar panels, shown extending into space, could gather power to use on Earth.
Just like a solar satellite in the 2002 Bond movie “Die Another Day”, they are planning to launch giant, possibly inflatable structures of photovoltaic arrays and antennas that catch the suns rays and create a focused microwave beam back to collectors on Earth. A special receiving antenna on the ground — called a rectenna — would then turn the microwave energy back into electricity, which would be fed into the power grid.
Image from New Scientist. Sunlight is reflected off giant orbiting mirrors to an array of photovoltaic cells; the light is converted to electricity and then changed into microwaves, which are beamed to earth. Ground-based antennas capture the microwave energy and convert it back to electricity, which is sent to the grid.
The initiative, announced Nov. 4, is spearheaded by former president of India A.P.J. Kalam and the National Space Society, a nonprofit dedicated to making humanity a space faring civilization.
Space-based solar power has the potential to turn Earth into a “clean planet, a prosperous planet, and a happy planet,” Kalam said during a Thursday press conference announcing the Kalam-NSS Energy Initiative.
Addressing the press at the National Press Club in New Delhi, Dr Kalam said, “By 2050, even if we use every available energy resource we have: clean and dirty, conventional and alternative, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, coal, oil, and gas, the world will fall short of the energy we need.”
One of the major advantages of space-based solar energy harvesting is that it is not a ground-based solar energy resource. An array of solar panels stationed in a geostationary orbit around the world will receive sunlight for 99 percent time of the year. Plus there are no losses due to atmospheric interferences.
This partnership between the two countries is likely to gain strength as the United States has now removed some technology-transfer limitations which were forced on some scientific research organizations in India after the 1998 nuclear tests. Organizations like the ISRO and Bharat Dynamics will now have access to some sensitive and unique technology.
The U.S. military has already experimented with solar energy beaming and ways to deliver power to remote areas of the globe. For the US, the deal would potentially create thousands of jobs. For India, the project would mean huge amounts of clean energy which it could use to electrify its rural areas and help its economy to thrive.
Image from Himin Solar Energy. Dezhou Solar Valley in China.
The base will be a clean energy technology hub that China hopes will rival Silicon Valley in California. “This is an experiment. It is a big laboratory,” said Huang Ming – an oil industry engineer turned solar energy tycoon.
Image from Himin Solar Energy. Dezhou Solar Valley in China
The $740 million plan has attracted about 100 companies and factories, a research center and wide boulevards illuminated by solar-powered lights.
China’s Solar Valley in Dezhou (Promotional Video)
The main developer for the park’s plan is a company called Himin Solar Energy. It was started by Huang Ming who is often called the ‘Sun King’ of China. Although he says: “I prefer to be called solar madman.” The building that serves as headquarters for Himin Solar Energy is located at the Sun-Moon Mansion and is currently the largest solar powered office building in the world.
Image from Himin Solar Energy.
Sun-Moon Mansion – Himin Solar Energy’s headquarters. Night view.
Image from Himin Solar Energy.
Sun-Moon Mansion – Himin Solar Energy’s headquarters. Day view.
Image from Himin Solar Energy.
Sun-Moon Mansion – Himin Solar Energy’s headquarters. Day view.
An intriguing mix of raw capitalism and socialist planning is giving companies such as Huang’s Himin Solar Energy Group a shot at making a difference.
The city of Dezhou already requires that all new buildings be equipped with solar water heaters (the type made by Huang’s company). Last year they spent $10 million to install solar lighting along several miles of road.
Huang’s company is the world’s biggest producer of solar water heaters. It recently opened a low-carbon five-star hotel and is building Utopia Garden, a gigantic, eco-friendly luxury apartment complex – both with solar-heated pools.
“Renewable energy doesn’t mean people have to be uncomfortable,” Huang states.
Last year, China invested about $34 billion in solar panels, wind turbines and other alternative energy technologies, nearly twice as much as the United States, where green technologies spending unfortunately fell sharply.
Huang notes that, so far, solar energy is “a drop in the ocean” on the road to the major Environmental and Economical changes but he said that Dezhou offers a model for the future. “I like big plans,” he says.
Image from Himin Solar Energy. Huang Ming presents Dezhou Solar Valley.
Who would expect that the small islands of Hawaii are the solar hot water leaders within the United States!
Image from mauisolarproject.org
Check out the size of Hawaii’s solar energy market compared to other key states:
Source: Solar Energy Industries Association.
Considering the fact that Hawaii’s population is a mere 2.5 percent of California’s, it is not difficult to see why the 31st and 50th states deserve notice.
Image from mauisolarproject.org
Hawaii supports solar hot water with a mix of policies:
• An upfront solar hot water rebate of $750 for residential systems ($125/deferred kilowatt-hour for commercial systems)
• A state tax credit of 35 percent.
• The broader 30 percent federal tax credit.
• A requirement that all new single-family homes come with solar hot water system installed beginning in 2010, cutting energy costs by 30%.
What does this means for a typical residential buyer?
If the initial system cost is $7000 (a conservative estimate — Hawaii Energy Efficiency Program estimates the average initial cost is $6,620).
After the upfront rebate of $750, your contractor bill would be $6,250. With the 30 percent federal tax credit, your expenditures would total $4,375.
Finally, after the state tax credit of 35 percent, your ultimate costs would come to a mere $2,500. Of course, this is assuming that you have the appetite for these tax credits — check with a tax expert to see if this is the case.
A residential solar hot water system can pay off in 2 years, and a system lasts between 15-20 years!
As noted above, for a tiny island state with a population just over 1 million, their contribution to and example for the solar hot water market is truly commendable. Many of these efforts had developed from Hawaii’s lack of traditional energy resources and the related need to import oil and gas.
Their Renewable Energy Policy begins by explaining:
The objectives in the area of Alternate and Renewable Energy are to promote commercialization of Hawaii’s sustainable energy resources and technologies in order to reduce the state’s high dependence on imported oil, increase local economic development and reduce the potential negative economic impacts of oil price fluctuations.
Clearly, well-built motivation to implement renewable energy sources leads to prominent results.
The state of Hawaii has a goal of at least 70 percent renewable energy use by 2030. “Achieving this goal is nearly impossible without widespread use of solar water heaters,” Hawaii Sierra Club director Jeff Mikulina says. “The solar roofs bill is smart policy, sensibly crafted to smooth a transition toward zero-energy homes of the future.”
Image by This Old House.
Hawaii, which has always been a dream vacation destination and an ideal residence across the Pacific, has become a sensible renewable energy policy leader!
Kapalua, Maui, HI. Image by Your Solar Link – www.yoursolarlink.com
Juicebar Pocket Solar Charger.
This stylish, sleek and reliable pocket size Universal Battery Charger (Juicebar Solar Charger) is proven to be your best friend in a situation when conventional electric supply is not available or if you are trying to use eco-friendly renewable power supplies.
Great as a solar phone charger for any type of Mobile Phones, IPhones, PSA, PDA, Mp3 Players, Satellite Navigation, and much more.
Get it HERE.
SOLAR PATH LIGHTS.
Stainless Steel Conical Solar Path Light (Set of 2).
Path solar lights are an excellent choice for lighting your garden paths, walkways, driveway perimeters and other regions in your landscape. They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.
Featured Stainless Steel Solar Light set uses 2 ultra-bright LEDs for maximum light output and minimum battery usage.
The lights are safe around kids and pets and water and corrosion resistant.
Read more HERE
STONE SOLAR SPOT LIGHTS.
Stone Solar Spot Lights (also known as Solar Rock Lights) completely camouflage with existing landscapes and look like any other rock in your garden.
SOLAR GARDEN FOUNTAINS.
How to start using ecologically friendly energy to power up your garden fountains and other garden water features?
Why not go with a solar powered water pump?
To accommodate your needs the Solar Fountain Pump Systems we carry range from 2 to 8 Watt. Browse our collection of solar water pumps for your fish ponds and solar fountains.
Enjoy your garden water features and your energy savings at the same time. Make a note of the various power levels and the flow rate of the solar water pumps before your purchase.
Please write us your review after your purchase. Your opinion is important to us!
DECORATIVE SOLAR ACCENT LIGHTS.
Solar accent lights (Set of 2) create an enjoyable and inviting glow for your landscape.
They are designed to mark a place.
Solar Spot Light - $26.99
Super High Output Spot Light (4 Super Bright LEDs). Free Shipping!
Solar spot lights like this one rely on energy from the sun to charge their batteries and provide light throughout the night.
This means that there is no need to tap into the electrical grid for these lights to operate.
The solar spot lights will work consistently, even if the whole neighborhood is dealing with a power outage.
Learn more about Solar Spot Lights at http://www.yoursolarlink.com/solar-spot-lights, where we have a great selection of solar spot lights to choose from.
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