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Is Green Energy Attainable in the Near Future?
There are many “arguments” that naysayers like to give when insisting that “green energy” can never replace fossil fuels (not surprisingly, most of these protests come from the oil and coal industries). One argument has to do with the lack of infrastructure. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has often pointed out that the arid, sunny American Southwest is the “Saudi Arabia” of solar – however, getting that energy from where it can be readily generated to regions where it is needed would require the construction of a massive central power station, as well as transformers, relay stations, power lines…

Or would it?

Thinking Outside of the Box
First of all, a green energy future requires some serious “thinking out of the box.” We as a society and a culture are so used to the idea of “centralization” that it’s difficult to imagine anything else. However, the problem with centralization is that when the “center” goes down, it takes everything else down with it. The result – widespread blackouts such as has happened along the Eastern seaboard and in California more than once.

The second thing to keep in mind is that a green energy future will not – and cannot – rely on any single renewable source. It will require multiple solutions and multiple sources that integrate wind, solar, biomass, building orientation, new ideas involving windows and ventilation and even locally-available resources that include geo-thermal and tides.

Exciting Trends in Green Energy
But what is the most exciting green energy trend is the idea that every individual structure should be its own mini-power generating facility.

In fact, there are many private homes and an increasing number of commercial and public buildings in which this becoming reality. Employing a combination of cutting-edge green power generation and storage technology, these structures are – in theory, at least – capable of operating “off the grid.” However, that is not to say that the grid will not be useful in the future going forward. These systems can also feed power back into the grid for storage against times of shortages and outages. Such decentralization of electrical power can go a long way toward minimizing the inconvenience and mitigating damage caused by widespread power outages.

NECA/IBEW Projects Showcase what Can be Done
Two labor organizations – the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are leading the way in North America. In partnership with private industries and federal and state governments, the engineers, designers and workers represented by these unions are currently involved in two projects in San Leandro, California and Salem, Oregon that represent the latest green energy trends and will be serving as models for building construction and energy efficiency in the future. The first project is a “net zero energy” (ZME) structure that has come as close to producing as much energy as it consumes as any building in the country. The latter is addressing the issue of storing electrical power from renewable sources, an issue that has been particularly challenging.

Through these projects and joint efforts on these green energy trends, we shall indeed see a day when such things as blackouts, brownouts and the numerous social, financial and environmental costs associated with fossil and nuclear fuels are things of the past.

Learn more about offsetting fossil fuel generation with renewable energy at the Salem Smart Power Center:

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