According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all forms of electricity generate some level of environmental impact. Environmental impact can be as invasive as mining operations or local as wind turbines killing birds. The overall impacts are dependent on the type energy being implemented, conventional or alternative. Our use of energy determines our environmental or carbon footprint. When we talk about our environmental footprint, electricity consumption is a major factor. If you totaled all the energy consumed in the US, 39% is used to generate electricity. Now while the majority of the electricity is generated from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, it is easy to see that while using non-renewable resources, our electricity production is affecting the environment.
Our renewable resources we use to produce electricity such as solar, wind technologies and geothermal by in large does not contribute to our local air pollution or climate change since the combustion of fuels in not existent. In order to reduce the corresponding pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, the reduction in the amount of fuel required to produce a unit of energy can be accomplished through: using energy more efficiently, combining heat and power through efficient generation and through more efficient end–uses.
With renewable energy we can succeed in accomplishing sustainability while providing limitless energy to our future generations. However, at this time alternative energy can be difficult to implement, considering political battles, and is often expensive to harness in large amounts. Other issues with alternative energies include aesthetics, specifically in regards to wind farms.
Approximately 85% of the world’s energy today comes from conventional or fossil fuel energy sources. Conventional energy sources like oil, natural gas, and coal are efficient but nonrenewable. Once a quantity of fuel is used, it cannot be replaced. This proves to be the main issues with nonrenewable energy, especially as we struggle to locate additional reserves. In comparison to alternative energy source, conventional forms are known to cause a variety of environmental issues and pollution. Harvesting and burning nonrenewable energy contributes to environmental issues like: deforestation, water and air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and various human health issues.
In comparison to the United States for electric power generation fuel sources in 2005, the following chart details Nevada's fuel sources for electric power generation.
Fuel Sources for Electric Power Generation in Nevada in 2005
|Fuel Source||Nevada (trillion BTU — %)||United States(trillion BTU — %)|
|Coal||193.2 — 50%||20,736 — 50%|
|Natural Gas||153.1 — 39%||6,035.8 — 15%|
|Petroleum||0.5 — 0%||2,469.1 — 6%|
|Nuclear||0 — 0%||8,149.1 — 20%|
|Hydroelectric||17 — 0%||2,670.1 — 6%|
|Renewable||26.5 — 7%||1,018 — 2%|
Source : apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/electricity.cfm/state=NV
As of 2006, Nevada ranks 21st for electricity generation from non–hydro renewable energy resources and in the world today based on percentages, energy produced by wind and solar are the fastest growing sources of electric power generation. The percentage increase is due in part to these resources provide a relatively small percentage of the total power generation. For instance in 2007, information from the American Wind Energy Association, wind energy surpassed 1% of the total US electric power generation.