Tag Archives: Technology

United States Carbon: Climate Change

Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (ghg) in the atmosphere have increased dramatically in the past few decades. Solar energy is a renewable resource available within every geographic region of the U.S. with great potential to significantly reduce our nation’s ghg emissions.

Quick Facts

  • Top sectors producing ghg emissions in the U.S.: the electric power industry (33%), transportation (28%), industry (20%), and commercial and residential combined (11%)
  • Both concentrating solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) technologies produce clean, emissions-free electricity that can help reduce U.S. ghg emissions
  • Solar heating and cooling systems can provide about 80% of the energy used for space heating and water heating needs.

Overview

Many scientists now agree that climate change is caused by an increase of greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions in the atmosphere. The ghg emissions in the United States come from a variety of different economic sectors, with the most prominent sectors being the electric power industry (33%), followed by transportation (28%), then industry (20%), and commercial and residential combined (11%).[1] While there may be not be one technology that can reduce all U.S. ghg emissions to zero, solar technologies come close. Solar energy is a solution to climate change and can significantly reduce emissions in each of these sectors.

Electric Sector

More than a third of U.S. ghg emissions result from the burning of fossil fuels for electricity usage in buildings and homes. Both Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and Photovoltaic (PV) technologies produce clean, emissions-free electricity and can feed this electricity right back into the U.S. grid. Solar Heating and Cooling (SHC) technologies can also be used to displace the need for electricity. As of Q1 2013, the U.S. now has over 8,500 MW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.3 million average American homes.[2]

Transportation Sector

Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are widely seen as one of the near-term climate change solutions in the transportation sector, especially when these vehicles are charged by a station powered by solar energy.

Industrial Sector

The U.S. is a highly industrialized country, and therefore a large portion of our ghg emissions stem from the industrial sector. The manufacturing of common materials such as aluminum and steel are energy intensive and generate high levels of ghg emissions. One of the main uses for energy in the industrial sector is for boiler fuel, meaning that energy is needed to generate steam or heat water, which is then transferred to a boiler vessel.  Another use for energy is for process heating, when energy is directly used to raise the temperature in a manufacturing process, such as in drying paint in the automobile industry, and cooking packaged foods.[3] Solar energy can offset the need for fossil fuels by generating high-temperature and medium-temperature heat from CSP and SHC technologies.

Commercial and Residential Sectors

The commercial sector includes buildings such as offices, malls, warehouses, schools, restaurants, and hospitals, while the residential sector consists of homes and apartments. Both commercial and residential buildings spend the majority of the energy consumed on space heating, space cooling, and water heating. This is a perfect application for SHC technologies, as the SHC systems can provide about 80% of the energy used for space heating and water heating needs. Furthermore, solar air conditioning can be used as a clean, emissions-free solution to meet cooling needs instead of using electricity.

Life-Cycle Assessment

Solar produces less life-cycle ghg emissions than conventional fossil fuel energy sources.[4] While there may be some ghg emissions produced during the manufacturing and recycling of the solar system, the generation of energy from the solar system results in zero ghg emissions and zero environmental impact.

To learn more about United States Carbon and our energy reduction technology that will help you become greener, cleaner, and more socially responsible please contact us at (855) 393-7555 or visit our website: www.unitedstatescarbon.com

United States Carbon: What’s energy efficiency and how much can it help cut emissions?

Energy efficiency means using less energy to provide the same service. For example, a compact fluorescent bulb is more efficient than a traditional incandescent bulb as it uses much less electrical energy to produce the same amount of light. Similarly, an efficient boiler takes less fuel to heat a home to a given temperature than a less efficient model.

The phrase ‘energy efficiency’ is often used as a shorthand to describe any kind of energy-saving measure, though technically it should be distinguished from energy conservation – a broader term which can also include forgoing a service rather than changing the efficiency with which it is provided. Examples of energy conservation include turning down a thermostat in the winter or walking to the shops rather than driving there.

Increasing energy efficiency often costs money up-front but in many cases this capital outlay will be paid back in the form of reduced energy costs within a short time period. This makes efficiency improvements an attractive starting point for reducing carbon emissions.

The scope of the savings – and the techniques required – depend on the situation and location. For homes in cool countries such as the UK, the most effective measures include increasing insulation, draught proofing, installing good-quality double-glazed windows and switching to more efficient appliances and light bulbs. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimates that these improvements could reduce annual CO2 emissions from British homes by around 17 million tonnes by 2020 – around a tenth of the 2008 residential total.

By contrast, increasing efficiency in non-domestic buildings often means focusing on ventilation and air-conditioning, in addition to lighting, heating and appliances. Many such buildings have achieved savings of around 25% after undergoing a refit to increase efficiency.

Energy-intensive industries, such as iron, steel and cement manufacture, have become more efficient over time due to new equipment and better re-use of waste heat. For example, a hot pipe containing a chemical that needs to be cooled can be used to heat up other chemicals (this is known as ‘heat integration’). Motors are used widely in industry for a variety of tasks, such as pumping, mixing and driving conveyor belts. The installation of efficient, correctly sized motors and drives can result in energy savings of 20–25%.

Vehicles have also become more energy efficient over the decades thanks to factors such as improved engines and lighter, more aerodynamic designs. The potential exists for further improvements and in EU the emissions of the average new car is set to decrease from 150 to 95 grams of CO2 per km by 2020. The CCC forecasts that the introduction of efficiency improvements to cars, vans and HGVs could reduce CO2 emissions in the UK by 12.3 million tonnes by 2020 – around 10% of total for surface transport in 2008.

Improving energy efficiency does not necessarily translate into reduced CO2 emissions: the savings depend on the situation. If the energy is supplied from fossil fuels – such as petrol in a car or electricity from a coal-fired plant – then improved efficiency will cut emissions. But if the energy is supplied by a low-carbon source such as electricity from nuclear or renewables, then improving efficiency may have little impact on emissions. (When comparing electric and non-electric appliances, it’s important to consider the efficiency of the power generation, too: switching from a 90% efficient gas boiler to a ‘100% efficient’ electric heater will increase energy use and emissions if the electricity comes from regular fossil fuel power plants, which themselves are highly inefficient, losing much of the energy in their fuel as waste heat.)

Energy efficiency is always a good idea. Whether it results in energy savings depends on what we do with the money we saved. In some cases, efficiency savings can be offset by changes in user behaviour – the so-called ‘rebound effect’. One example would be that insulating a home may make it more economic for the resident to maintain a higher temperature, increasing the standard of comfort but reducing the energy savings.

Nonetheless, improving energy efficiency is a key tool for reducing CO2 emissions, alongside energy conservation and low-carbon energy sources such as renewables and carbon capture and storage.

To learn more about United States Carbon and our energy reduction technology that will help you become greener, cleaner, and more socially responsible please contact us at (855) 393-7555 or visit our website: www.unitedstatescarbon.com