relies largely on fossil fuels to meet demands for energy, and energy
supply, delivery, and use practices are typically quite inefficient. Yet
these resources exist in finite quantities, and oil and natural gas are
becoming ever more costly as worldwide demand grows and existing supplies
are depleted. Fossil fuel extraction and combustion also harm the environment
and are changing the Earth's climate, with potentially disastrous economic,
environmental, and social impacts.
and efficiency - including clean vehicles and green buildings - make
each unit of energy go farther. Renewable sources of energy are continuously
regenerated by natural forces that can be harnessed with limited or no
adverse impacts and whose costs are largely immune to the laws of supply
are dependent, in large part, on the sun. Solar
energy may be used directly for heating and for the generation of
electricity. The sun's heat is also the key driver of wind,
whose energy may be tapped and converted into green power via wind turbines.
Sunlight is essential to plant growth as biomass, which can be used to
generate electricity and heat and to
drive vehicles in the form of bioenergy.
cycle, driven by solar-heated evaporation at the Earth's surface, condensation
in the atmosphere, and precipitation, yields another renewalbe resource:
The kinetic energy of water flowing downhill—typically rivers and
streams—may be tapped as hydropower.
panels being installed in Woods Hole, Massachusetts
ocean is a vast reservoir of energy that
may be used to generate electricity. It is possible to harness the energy
of ocean tides, dependent upon the gravitational influence of the moon
and sun, and ocean waves, which are controlled largely be wind. The ocean’s
thermal energy, produced by the solar heating of surface waters, may also
Sun and the Earth’s internal heat create geothermal
energy. This energy may be harnessed by utilizing the near-constant temperature
of shallow groundwater (between 50° and 60°F, or 10° to 16°C)
for heating and cooling purposes. In addition, geothermal reservoirs of
hot water and hot rock may be tapped for their heating potential and for
Widespread adoption of renewable energy has traditionally
been limited by unfavorable economics, irregular distribution, intermittency,
and other factors. There is great hope that these barriers will be offset
in the future by policy changes and technological advances and, perhaps
eventually, by widespread availability of hydrogen
acting as a storage medium for energy garnered from renewable sources.
Recent advances, combined with expanded application
experience, are making renewables increasingly cost-competitive with conventional
fossil-fuel-based systems. The rate of technological progress is accelerating,
public awareness of the adverse impacts of fossil fuels is growing, and
policy frameworks that level the playing field for renewables are emerging.
These trends augur well for a green energy future in the Cape & Islands
region and beyond.
Cape & Islands Energy Information
Clearinghouse and the Cape &
Islands Go Green Guide (CIGoGreen) for more information.