The White House Science Advisor Says We’re Doing Something Right

It’s the beginning of a new year and a lot happened in 2022 that we can’t forget. Some bad, some good, and some neither. Let’s hope this carries into 2023. Specifically, all the major advancements in environmental awareness which were groundbreaking last year.

Wind energy generated a record amount of electricity, solar power has improved greatly, and nuclear fusion is a growing industry with much less waste than other forms of nuclear energy. According to the NYTimes, White House Science Advisor Arati Prabhakar said, “This is such a wonderful example of a possibility realized, a scientific milestone achieved, and a road ahead to the possibilities for clean energy.” 

Wind energy is a well known industry. Many can be put in uninhabited, fairly small areas, and are incredibly efficient. A single wind turbine alone can power a house for a month after running for only 46 minutes. Together, wind turbines generate about 140 gigawatts of energy a year in the US. That’s enough to power for 43 million homes a year, or a bit more than ¼  of America. One-quarter of our country, powered by wind. It can save 330 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year. Clean, environmentally friendly, wind. It is the fourth most used power source in America alone.

Solar panels have made huge changes to how we see power and electricity being generated in the future. At first, there were many doubts about solar power. People believed that it would never be able to sustain any amount of electricity while being worth its cost. Today, it covers millions of homes and provides electricity to many people. Although only about 8% of individuals have solar panels, that is 26.5 million people. Their efficiency has gone up 22% last year alone. Unfortunately, solar panels are less efficient than wind turbines and so there aren’t as many solar panel “farms”, but they are cheaper and much easier for an individual to use and own. It’s never too late to consider getting some yourself.

Nuclear Fusion has made a breakthrough. Nuclear fusion is the process of taking an atom with a low atomic number and fusing its nucleus with that of an atom with a higher atomic number, releasing a large amount of energy. The reason this is so important is that the amount of energy being released is significantly higher than the amount of energy required to produce the reaction, meaning that scientists can use electricity to create more. That reaction is called a breakeven. 

This differs from solar and wind power because they rely on a non-human power source to power them and harness that energy. Powered by deuterium and tritium, extremely common elements in nature that can be derived from sea water and lithium. This type of machine could, in the future, potentially power itself using only a few gigawatts in the beginning. In the most recent breakeven, two megajoules of electricity went into the reactor and 3 megajoules came out, 33% more energy than was put in. The nuclear waste is also very limited and not very dangerous, meaning it’s easy to contain.

In the year 2022, humanity made great advancements in our technology. With large increases in solar power efficiency, many more wind turbines being made and developed, and nuclear fusion being a viable source of energy, we’ve been doing some good for the planet.

If you would like to do some research on your own, or learn more about wind, solar, or nuclear power, then click here for more information.