The Live Green UMich team recently attended an evening meeting hosted by Students for Clean Energy. We took our seats in a Dana Building classroom with about forty of the club’s members. The meeting began with an icebreaker and flowed into an educational presentation hosted by Kamryn Hayes ’21, a member of the Students for Clean Energy education team.
Kamryn highlighted the growing reliance on current renewable-energy resources and endorsed the importance of investment in new technologies, as many of the energies that we consider “green” (such as solar and wind energy) are not totally sustainable. In her presentation, Kamryn cited numerous, potential renewable-energy technologies of the future–she intelligently acknowledged the benefits and downfalls of each.
The first technology in her presentation was space-based solar energies. According to Kamryn, this technology “gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth.” Its main benefit is increased efficiency as compared to classic solar energy, and its main drawbacks are that its “feasibility is uncertain,” it would be highly expensive (due to its reliance on the production of satellites), and it would contribute to the issue of space junk.
The second technology that Kamryn listed in her presentation was nuclear waste power. Per Kamryn, “Only five percent of uranium atoms are used in a typical fission reaction, and the rest is just waste.” Fast reactors can be developed to harness the energy from this waste. The main benefit of this technology is that it would deal with the nuclear waste problem; it would reduce uranium half-life from one hundred years to thirty years. The main drawbacks are that nuclear waste in unsafe, expensive to deal with, and this technology may increase the risk for terrorism (through the use of plutonium–an element in nuclear waste).
The third technology was embeddable solar power, a technology composed of “transparent solar photovoltaic cells that could replace window panes.” The main benefit of this technology is that “it would pay for itself within a year if installed in a skyscraper,” and the main drawback is that it is super inefficient in its current state, maxing out at around 8% efficiency.
The fourth technology is algae, which, per Kamryn, can be genetically modified to produce biofuels. Its main benefit is in its yield: an algae farm can produce 9000 gallons of biofuel per acre. The technology’s main drawback is that biofuels still must be burned.
The final technology that Kamryn cited was human power. This energy form could perhaps be the most “green,” and would involve individuals wearing “a system to harness energy from movement to power small devices (such as cell phones).” However, this technology is very new, and is far from commercialization and widespread use.
Kamryn closed her presentation by mentioning other renewable energies of the future: flying wind turbines, magma, and hydrogen power, to name a few. The main point of Kamryn’s presentation rang true, as startling as it was: The energies that we currently consider renewable are not completely sustainable, and we must proactively ideate and explore potential, future renewable-energy sources.
Interested in learning more about Students for Clean Energy? Check out their website.