The Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy and its Impact on the Construction Industry
“Renewable energy is derived from sources which are naturally replenished and practically inexhaustible.”
Renewable energy is a “greener” more sustainable way to consume energy that will create a long-term solution to the exhaustion of fossil fuels.
The world has been hugely dependent on fossil fuels for energy, burning more than 20 billion tons of carbon into the environment every year. These fossil fuels are becoming depleted, and demand for energy is increasing. Now, the construction industry and other industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels are transitioning to using sustainable and renewable resources to become less dependent on these fossil fuels.
In some places, such as the European Union and the United Kingdom, commitments to transitioning toward renewable energy have already been made. The EU countries said in 2007 that 20% of its energy would be renewable energy by 2020, similarly, the UK committed to 15% of energy usage being renewables.
Despite renewable energy’s ability to positively impact the environment, there is a debate about which forms of energy are truly “renewable.”
Here are some energy sources that are considered truly “renewable”:
Solar converts sunlight, a naturally replenishable and inexhaustible resource, into electricity.
Geothermal energy is the heat found directly in the earth. This natural resource can be used for commercial purposes for heat and electricity.
Tidal and Wave Power
Tidal turbines can generate electricity from the changing of the ocean’s tides. In a similar way, electricity can be captured from the ocean’s waves.
Wind can be converted into energy using wind turbines. However, wind turbines only generate energy 70-85% of the time, so their effectiveness is controversial.
Biomass is organic materials that can be used for fuel. These materials are different from fossil fuels, but a offer a speedy alternative for replacement. Biomass can be replenished rather quickly, making it much more sustainable than fossil fuels which are depleted much quicker than they can be replaced.
Waste can be incinerated with little to no oxygen and turned into electricity or heat. Waste can also be repurposed as fertilizer.
How will renewable energy impact the construction industry?
40% of energy consumption in the United States and 19% of energy consumption worldwide comes from the building sector of construction. To counter this negative impact on the environment, the construction industry is making the move toward renewable energy.
Energy related projects provided more than 2 million construction jobs in 2016. This is equivalent to 31% of the entire construction workforce. Of the 2 million jobs, 1.4 million of them were in the energy-efficiency category. This large representation of energy efficiency is a predictor of the direction that the construction industry is headed.
Why has renewable energy not been fully adopted?
The major drawback and limitation of fully switching to renewable energy is that it is hard to find and produce. The production of renewable energy is expensive and relies on some unpredictable variables, such as the weather conditions.
The transition to fully renewable energy sources depends on the collective commitment of every industry in a cooperative effort to harvest and produce these renewable energy sources.