Surprise! You Already Depend on Renewable Energy

We're not all still travelling by horse and buggy, right?  And if I'm correct many of us use mobile phones instead of landlines now?

I just want to double-check because to hear the national discourse on shifting from traditional electricity production towards a greater reliance on renewable energy and efficiency makes one wonder how the United States has ever progressed on anything.  Ever.

It’s too expensive!

It’s not realistic!

It’s just so…so…difficult!

Change is hard, people, and yes, it can cost extra money. But the fact is a lot of us left our horses in the barn quite a few years ago and purchased cars, just as many of us said goodbye to Ma Bell and invested in cell phones.  The good news is that right now there are a lot of forward-thinking people doing a lot of hard work to help us shift towards cleaner energy, without most of us even realizing it.  So here’s a brief and very, very incomplete introductory list of how renewable energy and energy efficiency are already secretly powering parts of your everyday life:

  1. Do you eat food?  Then you've probably eaten something grown or raised at one of 8,000 farms that use solar power, or of the 1,400 farms that have wind turbines.
  2. Do you use the internet?  Ever tried using Google?  Then you've searched for your high school flame with a hand from wind, solar and energy efficiency.
  3.  Do you live in New Jersey?  Do you go to the bathroom?  Then you may rely on solar and wind power to treat your waste.
  4. Do you like ice cream?  Then you may have tasted the sweet, sweet energy of wind power.
  5. Do you channel your inner young-Wall-Street-tycoon and drive around town in a new BMW?  Then landfill gas may have powered your car’s construction, hotshot.
  6. Do you use shampoo?  Then wind turbines may have helped you to bring out hair’s luster…or maybe gotten rid of that stubborn itch.
  7. Looking forward to happy hour?  Then saddle up to the bar and grab a glass of wine courtesy of solar and wind power or a pint of  beer that’s brewed with the power of beer waste.
  8. The U.S. military wouldn’t toy around with renewable energy, at least not for any critical operations, would they?  Well some soldiers in remote front lines in Afghanistan are relying entirely upon solar energy to power up their computers, radios, command centers and lights.
  9. Do you like the L.A. Lakers?  Me neither.  But the 1,727 rooftop solar panels on the Staples Center help power up the team’s home court so you can watch Kobe Bryant yell at his own teammates.
  10. Ever taken the subway to Coney Island?  A 76,000 square foot solar roof will greet you as you exit the train and mentally prepare to wrench your neck on the Cyclone.  (Come to think of it, if you've ridden public transit just about anywhere you've been at least partly powered along thanks to renewable energy and energy efficiency.)
  11. Do you ever turn on the lights at night?  Well… ahem

Okay, so skeptics out there might have been waiting for this last one, pre-written rebuttals in hand.  The current role of renewables shouldn’t be oversold, and I'm not going to do that here. But the fact is, depending on where you live, there’s likely a wind turbine spinning away or a solar installation that’s collecting the sun’s power and sending at least some electricity to the grid and to your home or work.  Are solar and wind still just a rounding error in the big electricity generation scheme of things?  Yep, but their role is growing, and in an economy as massive as that of the United States, that rounding error can infiltrate our everyday lives in a surprising number of ways.

And you haven’t even lifted a finger yet.