Did you know the U.S. State Department gets energy from both wind and solar farms? The Department works to make facilities and operations both in the U.S. and in embassies and consulates around the world more environmentally-friendly. That means efforts to operate more sustainability, implement recycling and waste management systems, reduce water usage, reduce emissions, and to use renewable energy.
Below are photos taken at the wind and solar farms from which the State Department gets energy!
Wind turbine at the wind farm from which the U.S. State Department gets energy.
This post was written by Katherine Cunningham, an intern at the U.S. Department of State and currently a senior at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She majors in International Affairs with a concentration in International Environmental Resources.
“Saudi Arabia is located in the Sun Belt, where the returns from solar plants would be the greatest” (Picture and caption from Michael Urban/AFP)
As the world confronts climate change, countries are turning to alternative energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to reduce greenhouse gas output. These two alternative energy sources are renewable, which means the source will always be available in the future. This is in contrast to nonrenewable sources, such as oil and gas, of which there is a definite or finite amount on the Earth’s surface.
Saudi Arabia is one country that is pursuing a renewable energy program and recently completed a solar farm project in its capital Riyadh. As a country known for its large oil reserves, this is a very impressive project. According to RenewableEnergyWorld.com, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer, and 80 percent of its exports and revenue come from the production and sale of hydrocarbon resources. Saudi Arabia is also the largest oil consumer in the Middle East, and if it doesn’t reduce its energy demand, it could become an oil importer by 2030. Therefore, as a country that receives some of the most intense sunlight in the world, Saudi Arabia is diversifying its energy sources by utilizing the power of the sun. According to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., Saudi Arabia receives about 105 trillion kilowatt hours of sunlight a day which equates roughly to 10 billion barrels of crude oil in energy terms.
Solar panels, made up of photovoltaic cells, are a renewable energy source that work by using light energy from the sun to generate electricity. The Saudi Arabian solar farm located in Riyadh consists of 12,684 solar panels and was completed in early 2013. By 2032, Saudi Arabia hopes to produce 16 gigawatts (GW) of solar power (photovoltaic) and 25 GW of concentrated solar power, allowing the country to reduce domestic consumption of oil, decrease its release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and even export electricity to countries in Europe. You can learn more about Saudi Arabia’s plan to export electricity here.
It is clear that the Saudi Arabian government is excited about their solar energy initiatives. At a recent talk held at the Center for Strategic & International Studies on April 30th, 2013, Saudi Minister of Oil Al-Naimi recognized the importance of solar energy when he said “we hope solar energy will help meet a growing share of our electricity needs – and even help us create a thriving solar industry and expertise in the Kingdom.”
How will Saudi Arabia’s investment in renewable energy, specifically solar power, benefit the country beyond the reasons listed above? Consider that the electricity will be used for water desalination and agriculture, as well as to power water pumps, refrigerators, air conditioners, heaters, and communications equipment. Would a renewable energy project work in your country? If so, what type of project would be best?
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.
er alternative that is growing in popularity around the world is geothermal energy.
Geothermal energy methods (Courtesy of Department of Energy)
Geothermal energy is thermal energy that is both generated by and stored in the Earth. Simply put, it is the heat from the Earth and can come from everything from hot water (like hot springs) to hot rocks a few miles underground. When you hear “geothermal energy” in relation to renewable energy, people are usually talking about geothermal electricity, which is electricity generated by that geothermal energy, or heat.
To learn more about how energy from the Earth is turned into a source of electricity, check out this helpful site. Geothermal is especially popular in areas that are volcanically active, such as Iceland and New Zealand, where there is an abundance of very hot rock and water underground due to the volcanoes.
0″ height=”400″ />The three main forms of renewable energy are wind, solar, and water. While geothermal and biofuel are two up and coming renewable technologies, but this post will focus on the three largest and most popular forms.
So what is renewable energy? It is energy that is created from natural resources (sunlight, wind, rain, etc.), and the “renewable” part means it naturally replenishes itself. Fossil fuels like oil and gas, which are the most commonly used forms of energy right now, are non-renewable. There are only so much of them in the world, and one day they will run out; unlike renewable energy sources, fossil fuels take millions of years to form and thus cannot be easily or quickly replenished.
Wind power refers to the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy like electricity. The most common large-scale wind power is created by wind turbines or windmills. One common criticism of wind power as a large-scale source of energy is that wind can be variable (sometimes it is not windy enough to generate a lot of power), which can also make it more suitable for certain areas than others. To learn more about wind energy, check out the website of the Global Wind Energy Council. There is information on the science of wind turbines, new technologies, and statistics, among other things.
Solar energy converts sunlight into electricity, either directly through photovoltaics or indirectly through concentrated solar power. You may have seen solar panels on the tops of buildings. To learn how solar cells work (you may have used a solar power-charged calculator or cell phone charger), check out this site.
Hydropower (water power) is power that comes from the energy of falling water, and is commonly used as a term to describe the conversion of that energy from falling water into electricity. Hydropower can rely on a dam to harness power, or capture the kinetic energy in rivers or streams without needing dams. For more information on hydropower, explore the National Geographic page on the topic.
Does your community use any of these renewables? Do you have a preference?
” alt=”" width=”336″ height=”428″ />The July theme for the blog is energy. We will be discussing different types of renewable energy sources, interesting programs popping up in communities around the world, exciting new technologies, and a variety of other topics. In addition, we will have video interviews and guest blogs from industry experts telling you about some of the programs different organizations are implementing to raise awareness about energy conservation.
What would you like to know about energy? Tell us and we will try and include blogs about it this month!
day.jpg” alt=”Global Wind Day logo” width=”271″ height=”258″ />Global Wind Day is June 15, 2012! “It is a day for discovering wind, its power, and the possibilities it holds to change our world.” The event is organized by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). It started in Europe in 2007 and went international in 2009, and last year it was celebrated with 230 events in 40 countries! To find an event near you, check out this site.
Are you interested in wind energy? Click on the graphic of the big turning wind turbines to see what is going on inside of wind turbines and how they capture the energy of moving air and convert it to electricity. Check out the FAQs page for answers to basic wind energy questions like how do you measure the wind, how long does it take to build a wind farm, and do wind turbines affect human health? If you have a particular question, you can fill out the form and the experts at Global Wind Day will answer you!
Have you ever seen a wind turbine or wind farm? Are you interested in wind power as an alternative form of renewable energy?
” width=”424″ height=”160″ />Twenty years ago Germany had passed a law to provide limited support for the small-scale production of renewable energy. At the same time, Wolfgang Zirngibl, the Mayor of Ascha, a village of 1,500 near the Czech border, saw an opportunity to change his community. Ascha had very few businesses of its own, and most of its residents commuted to their jobs elsewhere. The community did have a number of farmers, and the village is surrounded by agricultural fields and forests. As Germany goes, Ascha is also quite sunny. Taking advantage of the new renewable energy law, Mayor Zirngibl and his supporters laid out a plan for his community to begin producing some of its electricity and heat using renewable energy and local resources. The final goal would be to create an energy-independent community. This initiative was based on four pillars: 1. Renewable energy is environmentally friendly; 2. Ascha has sufficient renewable resources; 3. Renewables are likely to be less expensive over the long run; and 4. Investments in renewable energy will keep more economic value in the community and the region.
Ascha, Germany (Courtesy Photo)
Progress toward the village’s final objective of becoming a net energy producer has been steady over time and is quickly coming to fruition. As of 2011, solar panels, a small hydropower plant, and a biogas-fueled turbine together produced over 120% of the community’s electricity needs. With the installation of district heating, the village also covers over 50% of its heating needs using renewable energy. To limit the amount of energy needed to reach these goals, the community started by reducing energy demand and by investing in the improvement of the energy performance of its houses and buildings. By increasing the energy efficiency of the structures and by changing consumption patterns, less heat and electricity is needed in each household. In addition to decreasing the amount of energy needed to meet its renewable energy objective, these investments have two other features: they have lowered the monthly heating and electricity bills of residents and much of the work has been done by local contractors. The renewable energy facilities have had a similar employment effect.
Beyond the employment effects and the lowered energy costs, investing in renewable energy in Ascha has created a class of energy “prosumers”. Prosumers are producers and consumers of energy. While the ownership structure of each renewable facility in Ascha is different, each is owned by one or more residents of the village or by the village administration itself – from which all citizens benefit. The German people’s continued support for renewable energy policies can be traced, in part, to the fact that over 20% of German households have ownership stakes in renewable energy producing facilities – be they solar panels, wind mills, biogas plants, etc. This democratization of the production of energy has opened similar opportunities to households, villages, cities, and towns across Germany. Ascha is but one example of the ways that Germans are using renewable energy to forge a more sustainable future.
This post was written by Dominic Marcellino. He has been a Fellow at Ecologic Institute in Washington, DC since the fall of 2008. His work focuses primarily on energy policy (including bioenergy, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation), climate change policy in Europe and the US, as well as emissions trading systems. He regularly leads transatlantic study tours and exchanges for American and European policymakers and stakeholders. In 2008-09, he spent eleven months living and working in Germany as a Robert Bosch Fellow.