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Sustainability and Solar Energy by City Tech Blogger Lina Zheng

Climate change is a major topic around the world especially with a rising environmental consciousness. According to NASA’s Global Climate Change Website, the definition of climate change is “climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.” Moreover, this website addresses the main causes of climate change which are human activities, especially fossil fuel burning. The process of burning the fossil fuels produces large quantities of carbon dioxide which increases greenhouse gas levels raising the average surface temperature of Earth. Fossil fuels can be burned in air to provide heat. This heat can be used in home furnaces and it can to supply electricity.  Moreover, the increasing use of fossil fuels in industry, transportation, construction since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution has made a great impact on climate change.

One of the ways to decrease the use of fossil fuel is to increase the use of solar energy which is the topic of this paper . Solar energy is a renewable form of energy that comes from sunlight that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Explanation of solar energy and how it work from an article written by the Office of Solar Energy Technologies of U.S titled “How Does Solar Energy Work?” is that “the solar radiation is also known as electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. While every location on earth receives some sunlight over a year, the amount of solar radiation that reaches any one spot on the Earth’s surface varies. Solar technologies capture this radiation and turns it into useful forms of energy.”  The most common application of solar energy is solar panel.

Solar panels are devices that collects and converts sunlight into electricity that can be used to power electrical loads. Probably the first solar panel we students use is calculators. These solar-powered calculators use a small piece of solar cell to provide the power instead of batteries. When there is a light, this small piece of solar cell can generate a certain voltage and current to keep the calculator working. Nowadays, the use of solar energy is much more varied and used to a larger extent. For example, solar electricity is one of the applications of solar energy. It becomes increasingly accessible due to its lessened cost, it’s popularization and promotion by governments. Solar water heating systems is another example of how solar can be used in home as well. Solar water heaters use a rooftop cell to absorb sun’s heat and transfer it to the water tank. Uses for solar water heating expands to heated swimming pools as well. Moreover, some people think solar-powered vehicle may be the future.

My major is Mechanical Engineering technology concentration on Industrial Design. In my view, sustainability is a very important consideration during the process of designing and manufacturing. DFE is an important term that runs through our work is is short for Design for Environment and is a way to include environmental considerations in the product development process and  provides organizations the necessary information to reduce the negative impacts of climate change in order to create a more sustainable environment. We should take environmental considerations  seriously during in the process of designing and manufacturing in order to produce more sustainable and environmental friendly products. For example, designers can use reusable, sustainable, environmental friendly materials . Also, designers should take global warning, water pollution, air pollution, and other environmental impacts into consideration during the product development process to reduce or eliminate the negative impacts or climate change, and to eliminate the use of fossil fuels and increase the use of solar energy.

Global warming is effecting the Earth more seriously everyday. We should do whatever we can to protect our  one-and-only Earth. We may run out of fossil fuels someday, but sunlight will always be in stock.

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  1. The use of fossil fuels is one of the major contributors to climate change and solar energy is one of the available sources of clean energy. Another form of clean energy that is not that popular is nuclear energy. Nuclear energy has a negative connotation. The word “nuclear” by itself immediately make people think of radiation and harmful elements for living organisms. But nuclear energy has some benefits like zero air emissions, small land footprint, and minimal waste.
    Just like solar energy, nuclear energy is a type of energy that produces zero air emissions. The Nuclear Energy Institute reported in 2019 that the United States avoided more than 476 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear energy requires a small amount of energy. A nuclear facility that produces 1,000 megawatts can be run in a 1 square mile of land. To produce the same amount of energy it will take 360 more land with wind turbines and 75 more land with solar panels. Finally, the waste created by nuclear energy is extremely dense meaning it does not take a lot of space. It is estimated that nuclear waste in the United States over the past 60 years could fit in a football field. This waste can be recycled and reused for more nuclear energy after some time.

    Reference:
    3 reasons why nuclear is clean and sustainable. Energy.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2022, from https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/3-reasons-why-nuclear-clean-and-sustainable

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