The GREEN Connection: Electrical Services, Carbon Footprints and Individual Energy Efficiency
With the flip of a switch or the tap of a button, we power our individual worlds, never giving a second thought to thesource of power or the expenses and consequences of consumption. In this two-part post, we will examine the connection between the use of electrical services andcarbon footprints, and offer tips for green living throughincreased, individual energy efficiency.
First, what is the source of these much-needed electrical services? We will start by taking a basic look at the production of electricity… the most complicated and capital-intensive industrial process in the world. The primary production methods are as follows:
Coal, a fossil fuel, is burned to heat water, which powers a steam turbine (a rotary mechanical device). This is the most common method used for power generation
Interesting Fact: Coal-fired electric power generation emits nearly 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, for every megawatt hour generated!
Nuclear power (the use of sustained nuclear fission) is generated by extracting uranium ore from the Earth’s crust, converting the uranium into ‘yellowcake,’ which is further converted into uranium hex, which is then used to fuel a nuclear reactor.
Interesting Fact: A single ton of natural uranium, which is the equivalent of burning16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil, can produce more than 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity!
Natural Gas, a naturally occurring gas mixture, which consists primarily of methane and contains other hydrocarbons such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen and hydrogen sulfide, is heated to power a gas or steam turbine.
Interesting Fact: Power generated with natural gas emits approximately 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal-fired power, for every megawatt hour generated.
Hydroelectric power is generated by using the gravitational force of falling (e.g., rain) or flowing water (e.g., waves).
Interesting Fact: By volume of installed capacity and construction, the Three Georges Dam in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, China, is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, with a capacity to produce 22,500 MW of electric power.
Oil, like coal, is heated to power a steam turbine.
Renewable, naturally replenished power includes hydroelectricity, wind-powered turbines, solar power (a.k.a.Photovoltaics) and geothermal heat.
Once the turbines generate the electricity, it is routed tens, hundreds or even thousands of miles on a network of high-voltage transmission lines, to distribution substations that service residential and business districts. In short, this is the process behind the production of electrical services.
Unlike other resources we consume, however, the environmental impacts associated with electrical services go largely unnoticed by the average consumer. Apart from the consumption choices being made at the individual level, the burning of certain fuels causes carbon dioxide, which has the potential to cause global warming. While we willnot argue for or against the concept of global warming, we will examine specific practices you can take to reduce your individual carbon footprint.
Read on to learn more about electrical services and carbon footprints.
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