The Way We See It

Clean energy: more than just wind and sun


Global warming has been consistently pinpointed as a growing problem. And what’s the cause of global warming? Why greenhouse gasses and the constant erosion of our precious ozone, of course. What’s more, we’ve discovered that we only have ourselves to blame for the mess.

The fossil fuels we burn daily are problematic, and in order to stop the vicious cycle of burn, emit and erode, enviro-friendly and resourceful organizations have begun to look at clean, alternative energy sources.

At this point, mostly everyone has heard of solar and wind energy as possible alternatives to fossil fuel. Both the sun and the wind are renewable resources that produce clean energy. Wind turbines are popping up around the state, and buildings are being retrofitted to harness and utilize solar energy, too. For now, the major problem is the cost-benefit ratio of these clean energy sources. But there are loads more ways to produce energy from alternative sources – the sources just might not be what one typically considers “clean.”

Yesterday, Jamie Samons, the public affairs manager for the Narragansett Bay Commission, told the Beacon that in addition to their wind turbines and research into solar energy, they’ve been considering turning methane into a power source. The methane would come from their “sludge digestion process,” a moderately pleasant way of describing what they do with the massive amounts of waste NBC “digests” each day. Normally, the methane gas emitted would simply be burned off; now, they’re looking to harness that energy. And Samons said it could provide up to 30 percent of their power.

That got us thinking, what are the other weird ways in which unlikely things could be turned into energy?

A quick Internet search yields a plethora of bizarre ideas, from using gases released in the cremation (yes, that kind of cremation) process to turning confiscated booze into bio-fuel. There are also ideas to turn coffee grounds into fuel pellets or to harness the energy of tornadoes. Most of them sound outlandish.

But what about this: using the kinetic energy released by people simply going about their day-to-day business. In Japan, they’re already testing out specialized floor pads that harness the energy released by large crowds, such as those in subway stations.

Then there are the scientists working on Microbial Fuel Cells, which would, like some of the other alternative ideas, break down waste to release energy. This technology could be especially beneficial to astronauts, who can do nothing more with their waste now than eject it into space.

Although it may seem like these energy sources are a long way from being perfected now, they’re not impossibilities. The turbines we see today aren’t just landmarks; they’re physical representations of the fact that, when it comes to alternative energy science, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment