Use clean energy to protect our environment

by Jake Nath — University student

Renewable energy has become an important topic recently. Businesses are trying to advertise that they use renewable energy as much as possible and the government offers several incentives to use cleaner energy sources. 

Recently, there was a solar home tour in the Twin Cities. This event gave residents and business owners a chance to showcase how they use solar energy to provide energy in their homes and businesses. I decided to see firsthand how much energy you can harvest from solar panels here in Minnesota. I visited two places: one residential home and one business.

The owners of the residential home tore down a two-car garage to build a workshop to be completely heated by solar energy. The owners installed 8 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. The workshop is heated through solar panels that heat up the non-toxic glycol.

The glycol runs through the pipes that run underneath the cement floor. The temperature in the workshop averages about 55 degrees in the winter. Even during cold blizzards, it never drops below 40 degrees. Of course, during the summer the workshop does not need to be heated.

The owners redirect the heat to their home, where they use it to heat their water. They have used this since they built the workshop about nine years ago. 

The only maintenance theyâÄôve had to do to this system in the nine years itâÄôs been functional was one leak that had sprung in the pipes where the glycol is pumped through.

Another great aspect of this method to heat the workshop is that nothing can blow up, catch on fire or emit gas, which can happen when you compare it to traditional heating methods.

In addition to using solar power, they also built a mini garden on the roof of this workshop, where they grow a few different kinds of vegetables. The runoff water is collected in a tank, which is then used to water their gardens.

I visited the business Sunny Day Solutions on Como Avenue as well. Sunny Day Solutions installed a small solar thermal array right next to the building. They also installed solar panels on their roof. Around 50 to 60 percent of their electricity is powered by these solar panels, and an estimated 40 to 50 percent of their heat is also powered by them.

The business owner was in the process of building a workshop on the side of the building. For this, he plans on installing a solar wall on the south wall of the building.

Not only does Sunny Day Solutions use solar panels to help heat and produce electricity for their business, they also take on overall more environmentally friendly solutions for their infrastructure.

The business is insulating the workshop using straw bales instead of commercial insulation. Also, all of the lighting inside uses LED bulbs, which requires much less energy than fluorescent bulbs.

I believe this shows us there are better ways to improve energy sources and become more efficient.

To install all of this is expensive upfront, but it will save money in the future and help reduce our energy demand from sources that cause damage to our environment.

We need to push for this type of clean energy and encourage government leaders to endorse it as well.

I know that renewable energy is not a perfect solution; it still does damage to the earth.  However, it is significantly better than our current ways of getting energy, such as from coal, natural gas or petroleum.  Because of this, I believe it is important to use as much renewable energy as possible. 

Renewable, clean energy is the current answer to the energy problem. This is our world. It is the reason we exist, and itâÄôs our responsibility to take care of it.