Questions and Answers

Are there enough renewable energy resources to meet all of our energy needs?

The earth receives enough solar energy in a little more than one hour to supply global energy needs for an entire year. It would only require that we cover a couple percent of the entire land area of Arizona with solar electric modules in order to produce enough electricity to meet total US needs. And that is only considering solar energy. If we add in wind, hydro, wave, biomass and geothermal sources, there are clearly sufficient renewable resources to meet our energy needs. However, technical limitations such as equipment efficiencies make it challenging to convert our entire energy economy to renewables in the near term.

What are renewable energy resources?

Renewable energy resources do not get used up, but instead are able to continuously supply us with energy over long time periods. If we utilize solar energy today, for example, there won’t be any less available tomorrow. On the other hand, non-renewable resources such as oil and coal are limited and can be used up. If we continue to over-use non-renewable resources they will eventually become scarce.

How much of our energy supply in the US is currently supplied by renewable energy resources?

Renewable energy supplied about 8% of total US energy needs and 10% of US electricity consumption in 2009. The largest shares of renewable energy came from hydroelectric energy and wind.

How fast is the use of renewable energy growing?

While we have a long way to go before renewable energy becomes the predominant form of energy we use, renewable energy use is growing at a high rate. The US solar energy industry was one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy in early 2011. During the period of 2005 through 2009, many renewable energy technologies sustained high average annual growth rates. This included utility scale solar PV (102%), grid-tied solar PV (60%), biodiesel production (51%), wind power (27%), ethanol production (20%), and solar hot water heating (19%). Looking to the future, the Energy Information Administration projects that renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation through 2035.

What sort of contribution are Tribes making to the development of renewable energy?

Native American Tribes are playing a significant role in the effort to develop renewable energy. This includes projects throughout the US to develop wind, solar, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy resources, as well as efforts to increase the energy efficiency of Tribal facilities. Like the Yurok Tribe, many of the Tribes in coastal northern California are pursuing sustainable energy projects.

What is the link between renewable energy and climate change?

It is generally accepted that the burning of fossil fuels is affecting the earth’s climate. When we burn fossil fuels -- coal or natural gas in a power plant, gasoline or diesel in an automobile engine, propane or natural gas in a furnace or hot water heater -- carbon dioxide gas is emitted into the air. This has caused the carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere to climb to alarming levels, rising 35% since the 1800’s. Increased levels of carbon dioxide cause the earth’s atmosphere to trap more heat, resulting in rising global temperatures. Because of this warming we are already seeing reductions in the earth’s perennial ice coverage, rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, and impacts to animal habitats and ecosystems. Using renewable energy instead of fossil fuels can help us reduce and eventually reverse these climate change impacts.

What are the opportunities for renewable energy development in Humboldt County?

Humboldt County has a wealth of renewable energy resources. Humboldt already gets about one third of its electricity from biomass energy resources, but that is just the beginning. There are opportunities to develop large amounts of wind and wave energy, as well as significant opportunities for the development of additional biomass energy and small run-of-the-river hydroelectric power. If we work to develop these resources, we can use renewable energy to provide the majority of our electricity needs and a substantial portion of our heating and transportation needs. Development of these local resources will help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, create a large number of local jobs, keep more energy dollars circulating in the local economy and generally improve the energy security of our community.

Website by Schatz Energy Research Center.