The Atmospheric Solution | Teen Ink

The Atmospheric Solution

December 10, 2020
By NolanSwanson BRONZE, Hemet, California
NolanSwanson BRONZE, Hemet, California
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

The world is quickly deteriorating due to the continual release of fossil fuels into the atmosphere.  Many believe that the solution is solely to convert all power generation to wind and solar power.  Wind and solar energy are clean renewable sources of energy, they are also rather cheap to produce.  However, they create material waste like broken parts.  Some other less discussed solutions are nuclear power, geothermal power, and hydropower. 
Solar panel waste alone in the world will become the next environmental disaster as it currently stands.  Without a way of efficiently recycling panels, we will be forced with 78 million tonnes of solar panel waste by 2050.  This is due to panels only lasting up to 25 years and then being thrown out.  Solar panels are a solution to the current atmospheric problem but will cause physical damage to environments across the globe.  Habitats will be destroyed and landfills will be overflowing.  Without an efficient method of recycling panels, they will not be a permanent solution.

Wind power seems like another obvious solution to the problem at hand.  Wind power creates 0 fossil fuels just like solar.  However, the problem comes in the long run once again; solar panels only last 20 years and the recycling process for the turbines is incredibly expensive and inefficient.  The physical waste of solar panels will reach 42 tonnes by 2050.

Most people look down on nuclear energy due to the events at Chernobyl when a nuclear power plant exploded, destroying the landscape for centuries.  Most people are unaware of how nuclear power actually works though.  Nuclear power uses nuclear reactions like splitting uranium in order to generate heat.  The heat will generate steam which is funneled through steam fans in order to produce electricity.  With the current systems for nuclear power in place, we have filled one football field with nuclear waste.  This is estimated to drastically decline as we reach more advanced technologies and techniques to dispose of the waste.  There are 2 main types of waste produced besides atmospheric wastes in the process. Low-level waste can be stored for a while and then disposed of in landfills, this waste is minuscule.  Then there is high-level waste which must be stored hundreds of feet underground for thousands of years.  There are other even more minuscule wastes that are kept in specially engineered storage containers for hundreds of years in order to halt their impact on the planet.  Currently, there are 437 active nuclear reactors on the planet that are packed into 31 different countries.  The value of nuclear power due to its low waste and high output is recognized by another 60 countries who are interested in constructing their own reactors.  

Hydropower is the process of constructing a dam over a fast running water source.  The water that flows through the dam falls creating kinetic energy which is then converted into mechanical energy and electricity through hydropower turbines.  Hydropower creates 0 carbon emissions, boosts the economy of local areas, and it is completely renewable as long as there is water.  However, the construction of these dams can cause huge environmental disasters and the like.  One example of this is the Three Gorges Dam in China which is the largest hydropower dam in the world, it can filter 4.1 million cubic ft/s and cost a whopping 203 billion yen or roughly 32 billion USD.  However, the construction of this damn uprooted over a million people that were living in the region.  The habitat around the area was completely destroyed in order to make room for the building crews and materials.  Besides being expensive and the construction causing possible damage, hydropower is a very good way to make energy with less waste than any of the listed solutions so far.   

The least recognized solution so far is Geothermal power.  Geothermal power is often near a volcano or a location with steam wells.  The reliance on steam wells makes it difficult to construct them in mass.  They work by digging 1-2 miles deep into the ground, hitting a pocket of water that ranges from 300 degrees Fahrenheit to 700 degrees Fahrenheit.  The water is then sucked out of the ground, turning into steam as it hits the surface which is filtered through steam turbines in order to produce electricity.  The heat from the plants is either recycled into the air after being cooled or it will be pumped into direct use for commercial heating.  There is absolutely no waste produced by these facilities besides the occasional replacing of parts.  Some more of the downsides of geothermal power include the tremendous amount of water used and it can damage underground roots harming nearby plant life. 

The solution to humanity’s environmental disaster is not one of these, but all of them.  The implementation of all of these on different scales will offset the use of fossil fuels.  Using these methods you can have solar and wind as the more commercially viable option to the average household, while nuclear and hydropower and used more by governments, finally geothermal plants due to their exclusivity they are limited to certain areas but the price makes them an option available to anyone ranging from a business owner, to researchers, and to governments alike.  The invention of new renewable energy sources in the future should be a key research topic for the world as well as innovations in the recycling of solar/wind and in the maintenance of nuclear, geothermal, and hydropower sources.  Another key push in the R&D department should be for a direct way to clean and siphon our atmosphere of harmful CO2 into clean 02. 



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on Mar. 17 at 1:49 pm
NolanSwanson BRONZE, Hemet, California
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
That's cool, nice job!