Even though Pennsylvania has one of the largest coal-mining industries in the nation, the state has grown its green energy production considerably with plenty of room to develop more. By capitalizing on renewable energy, Pennsylvania has succeeded in providing more jobs and resources for its residents.
While green energy comes in many forms, the one thing the different methods have in common is that they come from renewable resources. From wind energy to recycling animal waste, green energy is the best option for a sustainable future. Pennsylvania primarily produces and uses these four types of green energy: wind, solar, biogas and biomass.
Wind is an abundant renewable resource that generates energy without polluting the environment. Wind turbines, which usually resemble giant fans, are used to turn ordinary wind into usable electricity to power homes and businesses. As wind hits the turbines the blades rotate, creating energy that is transferred to a generator. In turn, the energy in the generator is converted into electricity and delivered to the power grid.
Pennsylvania already has several existing wind farms, located in the Appalachian southwest, with lots of room for expansion. The wind turbines already established in the state can produce up to 750,000 kW of energy, which is enough energy to power 180,000 homes!
The sun is an infinite resource of energy. By capturing the sun's energy through a series of mirrored panels, it can be converted to electricity that powers homes, businesses and a myriad of devices. Unlike fossil fuels, solar panels produce no harmful emissions, making them a viable option for a sustainable future.
Homeowners and small businesses in Pennsylvania can earn rebates for installing solar electric and hot water systems through the PA Sunshine Solar program. Pennsylvania also has an ambitious solar provision requiring that solar energy make up 0.5 percent of electricity in the state by 2020. It may not seem like much, but that's enough solar energy to power 80,000 homes.
As plants grow, they store energy from the sun. Biomass uses the energy stored in crops, crop waste and non-food crops to create biofuels. The most common type of biofuel is ethanol, which comes from corn or soybeans. This is the type of ethanol you typically find in your gasoline. Pennsylvania, however, doesn't widely produce these crops so the state has never been a provider of this type of ethanol.
Instead, the state contributes to biomass production by using crop waste and non-food crops to create a biofuel called cellulosic ethanol. The benefit of this biofuel is that it uses resources that would otherwise be considered waste to create an energy that reduces pollution. Cellulosic ethanol can also produce up to 10 times more energy than corn ethanol. Pennsylvania is the only state to require the use of cellulosic ethanol in gasoline.
Pennsylvania boasts more than 63,000 farms, supporting 2.7 million livestock animals. As an answer to growing concern about harmful emissions released through animal waste, farmers are creating an energy alternative called biogas. This form of energy uses the decomposing bacteria found on animal manure to create electricity. Farmers can use biogas to power their farms and the leftover manure as fertilizer.