EDITORIAL

Renewable energy inspires awe and hope

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There’s something about renewable energy that – if you care in any way, shape or form about the long-term health of the planet – is just simply exciting.

Perhaps it is the grandiose scale of green energy projects.

In Johnston, a team of wind energy specialists are currently assembling what will become, by far, the largest onshore wind array in the state. These turbines are mammoth testaments to our technological prowess – craning far above the tallest trees and buildings and serving as a beacon of forward thinking vision that can be seen from many miles away.

In Warwick, a 37-acre solar array on Kilvert Street was ceremoniously flipped on, turning what used to be a literal swamp of electronic manufacturing waste into a complex of sci-fi looking structures comprised of 15,800 panels that will generate enough electricity to power every municipal building in the city – and possibly even some of the school buildings as well. In Cranston, work is set to be complete soon on a 60-acre site, one of the largest in all of New England.

Perhaps it is the concept of evolving in how we power our society.

Since we first captured electricity into a battery in 1800, we have exponentially progressed from inventing electrical motors – that now power at least one component of just about everything that moves – to a practical incandescent light bulb in 1879 which are still in use today. However, electricity has fascinated humans since the first of our species witnessed lightning strikes in the distant plains.

For the longest time, generating electricity was a problem that revolved around one concept – how can we make this turbine spin continuously enough in order to turn a generator and produce electricity, without requiring so much of the fuel that it becomes cost prohibitive?

The answer to that question for more well over a century has been to literally set fossilized carbon – comprised of everything from long decayed plant matter to the long-dead chemical remains of ancient living beings – on fire in order to heat water and create enough steam to turn a turbine attached to a generator, and transmit the resulting electricity through wires throughout the country.

We’ve found other ways to do that, of course, from harnessing incredibly dangerous chemicals that remain toxic to our bodies and environment for thousands of years to trying to replicate the action of our celestial sun (that one has yet to yield realistic results, but give it a couple decades).

However green energy has always been the rallying cry for people who have become disillusioned by the idea of fossil fuels being the only way to do things effectively. Through hydroelectric power, solar power and wind turbines, we harness the energy given to us by the planet, naturally, that occurs all the time at no charge.

Now, obviously harnessing that power and transmitting it into usable energy is where the cost factor comes into play, and that is why we’ve been unable to this point to see the expansion of renewable energy to the point that we know it needs to be. However, given that some reports say we’re on track to run out of oil in close to 50 years, and coal within about 100 years, that tide is turning.

Forward-thinking investors and businesses are turning their attention to renewable energy, as it is quite literally the only future we have if we want to continue to enjoy a world powered by electricity without choking to death on our own emissions.

This is a good thing, and something that we hope to continue to be amazed by many more times in the near future.

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