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Earth Day 2020: Transforming the Environment with Technology

Posted by Kristi Longballa

Tags: Smart Home

In recent days, technology has been a lifeline that is keeping households together. Thanks to the wonder that is Amazon, I can drop in virtually on my parents throughout the day to ensure they are thriving, and glimpse in real-time how my dad has put Alexa to good use teaching the cat how to open doors. I can stay on top of my increasing utility bill from the couch using a mobile app and enroll in an energy-saving program to get my usage back down while streaming the latest episode of Tiger King on Netflix. With smart plugs, smart bulbs, and a smart house, I can get dinner started, turn on the front porch light to welcome my husband home from a grueling day on the front lines, and remind the kids screen time is over (do as I say, not as I do, kids) all without missing a beat.

But in all seriousness, technology is allowing our children to stay on track educationally, while at the same time ensuring we can stay safe and get dinner on the table without stepping foot in a grocery store. Technology is keeping families connected, keeping the lights on, and delivering comfort and a sense of security in a very uncertain time.

We rely so heavily on all that technology has to offer, that it is easy to forget technology has often acted as a doubled-edge sword. It makes our lives easier but is also very capable of creating environmental damage. The Industrial Revolution brought forth substantial gains in financial prosperity, yet it took us nearly three generations to get control of the staggering pollution and compromised living conditions left in its wake.

However, after decades of learning how technology has resulted in the human population consuming natural resources quicker than the world can regenerate them and producing toxic greenhouse gas emissions that have contributed to global warming, we are starting to see a shift. For Earth Day 2020, we are celebrating the many ways technology is transforming the environment for the better. For the first time in history, through technology, we have the opportunity to leave our children with a healthier planet than the one we inherited.

Take a look at what technology is dishing up next:

Smart Grids

As any utility provider can tell you, “the grid” refers to the electric grid, which is the network of transmission lines, substations, and transformers responsible for delivering electricity to your home or business. The grid is the engineering marvel that enables the lights to turn on and your computer to power up each day. The grid is also an at-times unreliable infrastructure built in the late 1800’s that relies on pollution-emitting energy sources to work. Cue the smart grid. The smart grid uses modern technology to move the energy industry into a new era of reliability, availability and efficiency that will contribute to our economic and environmental health.

Solar PanelsSmart grids allow us to move away from the large, centralized generation plants of the past and toward a decentralized, dynamic grid that is made up of distributed energy resources (DERs). Generally, DERs are renewable energy resources, like rooftop solar, solar gardens and wind turbines, but they also include other energy assets, such as battery storage. According to SmartGrid.gov, rather than resorting to a single technology system, the smart grid utilizes numerous energy, distribution, networking, automation and sensing technologies to deliver energy into the 21st century. Smart grids allow for local energy production, where a household can produce clean, renewable energy from solar or wind generation and either store the excess energy in batteries for periods of lower production, or feed the excess back into the grid for use elsewhere. Advancements in battery technology make this a reality. According to the California Energy Commission (CEC) Integrated Energy Policy Report, a net-zero-GHG emissions goal by 2040 is a possibility through electrification strategies and smart grid technologies.

Smart Homes

I’m a big advocate for smart homes, as I am sure you grasped from my couch surfing episode discussed earlier. But the concept goes so much deeper than allowing me to stay rooted in my cozy spot on a difficult day. Smart homes advocate and create a green living environment with less waste. Again, utilizing modern technology, smart homes work on advanced sensors that help save energy in daily activities. Usually powered by a renewable energy source, smart homes track the presence of people in the house to make decisions that can help with sustainable living. They also employ natural waste management systems with built-in recycling methods, ensuring less waste in the home.

Smart Plug

And while not every homeowner has fully adopted the smart home concept yet, you can find a smart device in nearly every household. Those smart devices are shutting down energy-wasting appliances when not in use, keeping the temperature of your home comfortable while you are home, and automatically reducing energy use when you are out. Smart devices create a more efficient home, promoting decarbonization and reducing greenhouse gas emissions overall.

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EV) are experiencing a sales boom as more drivers seek to cut their carbon footprint and reduce gas costs. While EVs still make up a relatively small share of the automobile market, that’s expected to change. By 2025, it’s estimated that EVs will account for 20% of new car sales in the United States. The fuel and maintenance savings EV owners realize in switching from an internal combustion vehicle to an electric vehicle are well documented, as are the societal benefits associated with zero tailpipe emissions. EVs are a technological miracle in terms of what they can do for the environment.

Electric VehiclesEVs have the potential to function as a distributed energy resource by acting as dispatchable battery systems connected to the distribution system, reducing strain on the grid by feeding energy back into the grid when needed. In fact, an EV with a modestly sized 30 kWh battery can store as much energy as the average U.S. household uses in a day. According to a 2017 report by the Rocky Mountain Institute, EVs have enormous potential as grid suppliers.

As a conservation provider, our purpose is to help all people use our world’s precious resources more efficiently. Our team is committed to this single purpose, and we live it every day. If your company has sustainability initiatives in place and goals to meet, we would like to help you achieve them. Get in touch with us today to find out what AM Conservation Group can do for you.
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