Green Energy, Made by Green Energy
One of the most inevitable weaknesses of renewable energy technologies today when it comes to their “eco-friendliness” is that the raw materials themselves and the manufacturing process for the components are still largely powered by regular oil and coal-based energy sources. This means that even if your wind turbine produces no emissions, the trucks, the industrial machines, and factories that made its components did.
Why don’t we create facilities that produce green energy system components using green energy then? I’m sure all of us have been thinking about the same thing, but let us peek a little bit into the idea further, and find out the thing may or may not let this idea work perfectly.
The Greatest Hurdle of Renewable Energy Based Production Facilities
Without even trying to refer to a technical paper or study, one of the things that we can easily observe why this idea might not work well is the simple fact that renewable energy systems often have diverse components that came from many different industrial sources. In fact, even the sub-components of a single component in the system might also come from different places. Take a wind turbine for example. The manufacturing facility for the blades might be somewhere very far from the facility that builds the generator.
What does this imply? This means that we cannot simply “purify” the energy source because there a lot of different machines and vehicles that go into the process of creating the components of your renewable energy system. One might be able to power the turbine blade factory using hydroelectric energy, but the heavy-duty truck that will carry the turbines to the location would most likely be powered by standard combustion engines.
In order to “purify” the energy source, the entire raw material extraction, manufacturing process, and its delivery would have to all be powered by green energy. In short, we would require the energy infrastructure itself to change before we could even think about 100% green energy production for a renewable energy facility. As of now, that is still way ahead of our civilization, and it is most likely that we would have to release vast amounts of carbon emissions first to get our machines working (to build green energy facilities) towards this energy utopia.
It All Starts With One Step
Does it sound impossible now? A bit daunting and overwhelming perhaps, but ultimately, I think it is possible to change the source of energy for our production factories. It all starts with one step, and holding the will to continue moving forward after that. For some companies, this would mean first transforming their primary production facilities to accommodate the use of green energy. Take a look at some of these concepts:
- A few years ago, Sharp Corporation delved upon the idea of powering the new solar panel factories using solar energy. While their idea did not incorporate the raw material extraction process, the factory was specifically producing and manufacturing thin-film type solar cells. Thin-film solar cells only use 1% of the silicon needed for a regular panel, and they expect to minimize environmental impact by combining this lowered extraction energy requirement to the fact that the production facility itself would be powered by solar energy.
- Probably a more ambitious plan than what Sharp has in mind, the Sahara Solar Breeder Project of Japan attempts to create a production system that would almost be 100% powered by solar energy. The plan is to use the Sahara desert both as the location for the energy facility, and as a “mining ground” for silica. The basic constructed power plant/production facility, powered by the bountiful “Saharan” solar energy, would then create its own panels using the Saharan sand. With each new panel made from the desert, and with each watt of energy generated by these new panels, the facility would grow gradually, increasing its power output every few months or so, until it reaches the target power output of 100 gigawatts.
While it is true that the “green-energy-made-by-green-energy” idea might require the entire energy infrastructure to change, I believe that these starting steps and ideas are still important if we do want to eventually get to that point. We’d probably still have to burn a few barrels of oil and gas to do it, but at least we can cut off the line from there, and start producing green energy from components manufactured using green energy.
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