Tag Archives: greenhouse gas

Aluminum Cans – CA$H in your hand?

No other material offers the versatility and environmental benefits of aluminum.

Aluminum is infinitely recyclable making it the material of choice for balancing the demand of a growing economy with the need to preserve the environment.

Since the first industrial production of aluminum in the 1880s, 75% of all material produced is still in use today.

The benefits

Aluminum recycling provides significant energy savings in multiple sectors:

Recycling aluminum requires 95% less energy, and produces 95% fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), than manufacturing primary aluminum. That is a GHG saving equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road for 12 months.

Today, the global aluminum recycling industry prevents close to 170 million tonnes of GHG from entering the environment every year.

Recycling 1 tonne of aluminum avoids the emission of about 9 tonnes of CO2 emissions – just 1 tonne of CO2 is equivalent to driving nearly 3,000 miles.

Recycling aluminum reduces the use of natural resources and chemicals (caustic soda, aluminum fluoride and lime) and eliminates the need for bauxite ore to be mined.

More than one million tons of aluminum containers and packaging (soda cans, TV dinner trays, aluminum foil) are thrown away each year.

Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.

Recycling aluminum beverage cans

The aluminum beverage can is the world’s most recycled packaging container.

Eight billion aluminum beverage cans are sold in the UK every year, and each one could be recycled over and over again, saving energy, raw materials and waste.  In the US, approximately 36 billion aluminum cans are landfilled annually. The cans that were thrown away had an estimated scrap value of more than $600 million.

cans-for-cash

It is estimated that over the past twenty years, the US population has trashed more than 11 million tons of aluminum beverage cans worth over $12 billion on today’s market.

A used aluminum beverage can can be recycled, reprocessed, remade and ready for re-sale in around 60 days.

In a whole year, that one can could be recycled eight times, saving enough energy to make 160 new cans.

Making one aluminum beverage can from raw materials uses the same amount of energy that it takes to recycle 20.  And if you really want to put this into an everyday context – recycling just one aluminum beverage can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours or keep a 100 watt lightbulb burning for four hours.

100 watt lightbulb

The future

Globally, close to 70% of all aluminum beverage cans are recycled, making it the world’s most recycled packaging product. Because aluminum is infinitely recyclable, it can be reused in applications vastly different from its previous purpose, and it can also be recast into its original form.

These properties make aluminum an ideal material for use in premium applications, even after being recycled many times. For example, a 50-year-old building facade can be recycled into the aluminum needed for the engine block of a new car with no degradation in quality.

So next time you go to throw that can of soda away – just remember you are throwing HARD CA$H away.

 

 

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Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

Advantages of Solar Energy

1. Renewable

Solar energy is a renewable energy source. This means that we cannot run out of solar energy, as opposed to non-renewable energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels, coal and nuclear).

We will have access to solar energy for as long as the sun is alive – another 6.5 billion years according to NASA. We have worse things to worry about; in fact, scientists have estimated that the sun itself will swallow Earth 5 billion years from now.

2. Abundant

The potential of solar energy is beyond imagination. The surface of the earth receives 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight) – 20,000 times more power than what is needed to supply the entire world.

3. Sustainable

An abundant and renewable energy source is also sustainable. Sustainable energy sources meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, solar energy is sustainable because there is no way we can over-consume.

4. Environmentally Friendly

Harnessing solar energy does generally not cause pollution. However, there are emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation and installation of solar power systems – almost nothing compared to most conventional energy sources. It is clear that solar energy reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This is an important step in fighting the climate crisis.

solar eco friendly

5. Good Availability

Solar energy is available all over the world. Not only the countries that are closest to the Equator can put solar energy to use – Germany, for example, has by far the highest capacity of solar power in the world.

6. Reduces Electricity Costs

With the introduction of net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes, homeowners can now “sell” excess electricity, or receive bill credits, during times when they produce more electricity than what they actually consume.

This means that homeowners can reduce their overall electricity expenses by going solar. Data from One Block Off the Grid reveals that adding solar panels to your home can bring in monthly savings of well above $100 in many states. In Hawaii, residents save on average $64,000 after 20 years!

Nowadays, most homeowners choose leasing or power purchase agreements to finance their solar panels. This drastically reduces, or in some cases completely eliminates, the upfront costs of a solar panel system, and allows homeowners to start saving money from the first day.

7. Many Applications

Solar energy can be used for many different purposes. It can be used to generate electricity in places that lack a grid connection, for distilling water in Africa, or even to power satellites in space.

Solar power is also known as “The People`s Power”, which refers to how easily deployable solar panels are at the consumer level (both photovoltaic and solar thermal).

With the introduction of flexible thin-film solar cells, solar power can even be seemingly integrated into the material of buildings (building integrated photovoltaics) – Sharp, a solar panel manufacturer with headquarters in Japan, recently introduced transparent solar power windows.

8. Shared Solar

Because of shading, insufficient space and ownership issues, 1/5 American homes are simply unfit for solar panels.  With the introduction of shared solar, homeowners can subscribe to “community solar gardens”, and generate solar electricity without actually having solar panels on their own rooftops.

9. Silent

There are no moving parts involved in most applications of solar power. There is no noise associated with photovoltaics. This compares favorable to certain other green-techs such as wind turbines.

10. Financial Support from Government/State

Government and state rebates have become available both on utility-scale and for the majority of homeowners. This means that the effective costs of solar panels are much less than what they used to be. In some cases, the price of a residential photovoltaic system can be cut more than 50%.

As of 12/31/2008, the U.S. government offers a 30% tax credit with no upper limit. Chances are your home is also eligible for other grants and rebates.

11. Low Maintenance

The majority of today`s solar power systems do not require a lot of maintenance. Residential solar panels usually only require cleaning a couple of times a year. Serious solar manufacturers ship 20- or 25-year warranties with their solar panels.

12. Technology is Improving

Technological advancements are constantly being made in the solar power industry. Innovation in nanotechnology and quantum physics has the potential to triple the electrical output of solar panels.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

1. Expensive

Is solar power really expensive? This is probably the most debatable aspect on the entire solar energy pros and cons list. The driving forces behind the development of solar energy are rooted in politics. Solar power is incentivized to compete against other energy sources on the market. On the other hand, the U.S. government, similarly to the rest of the world, provides incentives to every major energy production market – not just solar.

In 2010, coal received $1,189 billion in federal subsidies and support for electricity production while solar is not far behind at $968 billion.

Nowadays, the best solar panels can in many situations be cheaper than buying electricity from the utility. This wouldn`t have been possible without incentives.

2. Intermittent

Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times (e.g. morning and night). Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not our first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. However, solar power has fewer problems than wind power when it comes to intermittence.

3. Energy Storage is Expensive

Energy storage systems such as batteries will help smooth out demand and load, making solar power more stable, but these technologies are also expensive.

Luckily, there`s a good correspondence between our access to solar energy and human energy demand. Our electricity demand peaks in the middle of the day, which also happens to be the same time there`s a lot of sunlight!

4. Associated with Pollution

While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution.

The bottom line is this: There’s nothing that’s completely risk-free in the energy world, but solar power compares very favorably with all other technologies.

5. Exotic Materials

Certain solar cells require materials that are expensive and rare in nature. This is especially true for thin-film solar cells that are based on either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

6. Requires Space

Power density, or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential when looking at how much power can be derived from a certain area of real estate of an energy source. Low power density indicates that too much real estate is required to provide the power we demand at reasonably prices.

The global mean power density for solar radiation is 170 W/m².[5] This is more than any other renewable energy source, but not comparable to oil, gas and nuclear power.

 

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