The Race for Clean Energy and its Impact on Oregon
Recently American celebrated the 51st annual Earth Day. A lot has happened since 1970 when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and saving the planet, and Oregon and Washington are committed to doing more. If you’re curious about how the race for clean energy is impacting Oregon, read on. Maybe you’ll discover ways that you can help the cause.
Oregon’s Clean Energy and Coal Transition Act of 2016 transitions the state’s utilities off coal generation by 2030 and mandates that at least 50% of each utility’s power must come from clean energy sources by 2040. Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act, which was passed in 2019, is one of the most aggressive legislation in the nation advancing carbon-free electricity. It requires a complete phaseout of coal power by 2026, a transition to totally carbon-neutral electricity by 2030, and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.
As someone that enjoys spending time in nature, the idea of clean energy and less dependence on fossil fuels excites me. But like just about anything, it’s not as simple as it seems. Believe it or not, there are also some negatives associated with generating clean energy. There are no simple answers. Having an objective perspective is essential, as are continued discussions about the best way to achieve our goals. So, what possible disadvantages could come from free energy?
The main concern about clean energy has to do with its impact on wildlife. For example, the Biden administration recently announced the pursuit of offshore wind farms to generate clean energy. Many marine biologists and oceanic organizations are still concerned about the impact of offshore wind turbines on waterfowl, whales, and the fragile underwater ecosystem. It’s similar to the concerns over hydropower and its effects on fish migration and reproduction.
Once the main concerns are identified, efforts shift to mitigating the impact. Recent research into wildlife behavior and advances in wind turbine technology have helped reduce bird and bat deaths. For example, wildlife biologists have discovered that bats are most active when wind speeds are low. Using this knowledge, the Bats and Wind Energy Cooperative determined that keeping wind turbines still during times of low wind speeds might reduce bat deaths by more than half without any significant reduction in power production.
Other wildlife impacts may be alleviated through the improved placement of wind turbines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has taken a leadership role in this effort by organizing an advisory group that includes representatives from the utility industry, state and tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations. Together, they make comprehensive recommendations on enhanced wind farm sitings and best management practices.
Other key concerns over clean energy include:
- Weather dependence: A significant change in weather conditions can have an impact on energy production. If there is no steady flow of wind or water, turbines can’t turn.
- Limited to specific areas: The sources for renewable energy are not available in all locations due to the need for optimal weather conditions. For example, solar power is hard to generate in dreary coastal climates like the Northern Oregon coast.
Many people believe that the pros of clean energy vastly outweigh the cons. Benefits of clean energy include:
- Reduced environmental impact: Renewable energy results in a lower carbon footprint and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and other chemical pollutants.
- Less maintenance: Since renewable energy sources come from natural resources, it requires less maintenance in the long term.
- Lower cost of operation: Compared to fossil fuel production, renewable energy results in a lower cost of operation. The majority of costs are upfront during installation and development.
The only real solution to escalating energy demands does not seem to be a popular option, and that’s reduced consumption. If we were to collectively work on driving less, consuming less electricity, and buying fewer products, our need for all types of energy would significantly decline. It all comes back to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can make a difference.