Renewable Energy Technology and How Young People Can Lead the Way
The term “Tech for Good” isn’t just about social change. It can mean technology that’s good for the environment, either by helping prevent negative impacts or reversing them. Renewable energy is a hot topic, especially in this economic climate where the reliance on fossil fuels has sent energy bills skyrocketing. But the continued dependence on oil and gas goes beyond a financial expense. It’s literally killing the planet. Renewable and sustainable energy technologies are the answer — and it seems our children understand this much better than us.
Renewable Energy — A Brief Introduction
Renewable energy means an energy source that won’t run out. Solar energy, for example, will always be available as long as we have a sun — and if that ever changes, we have bigger problems to worry about! Solar panels absorb light and heat from the sun and transform it into electricity. Some people have concerns that, in a country not known for its sunny days, solar power isn’t viable long term. However, that’s okay, because there are lots of other types of renewable energy that can all work together to power not just the UK, but the world.
Wind power uses huge turbines to transform the kinetic energy of the wind flow into electricity.
Geothermal energy comes from the heat trapped within the Earth itself. This geothermal energy can heat up underground reservoirs, then the steam can power turbines and generate electricity.
Hydropower uses the energy from running water to generate electricity. This may be the natural flow of a river or from a specially designed plant to encourage water to flow in a specific way.
Renewable Energy is the Future
According to Statista, the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels has dropped by around 20% since 1970. The government here has made a commitment to hitting “net-zero” emissions by 2050. This means that any emissions the country makes that contribute towards global warming, sometimes called the “Greenhouse Effect”, will be offset by positive environmental contributions. An important part of that is switching to alternative, renewable energy solutions. Anyone who’s ever been up North at the East Coast will have spotted the huge wind farms visible from the shore. These record-breaking wind farms include Hornsea One, which is now the largest offshore wind farm anywhere in the world.
So, what happens if we don’t continue to invest in the technology behind renewable energy? For a start, oil, coal, and gas will eventually run out. Plus, invasive methods to collect more fossil fuels are damaging the planet. Fracking, a way of cracking rocks to access natural gas, releases harmful gases into the air and may even pollute nearby watercourses. Burning coal and oil releases carbon dioxide and other harmful gases into the air that contribute towards climate change. That’s why we talk about lowering our carbon footprint. Any changes we make that mean we’re producing less carbon could mean slowing or reversing the process of climate change.
Ultimately, climate change means a warmer world, melting icecaps, a loss of habitats for wildlife, vastly reduced biodiversity, and massive danger to life — for humans, as well as animals. One frightening statistic based on the current rate of sea level rises is that by 2100, the sea could have risen by over 8 feet if we do nothing to halt climate change.
How Young People are Involved
Young people, particularly those under 18, seem more inspired by these statistics to make a change. A recent study from the University of West Bristol concluded that 84% of young people believed in the impact of climate change, compared to only 69% of adults. 72% of under 18s said they were prepared to change key habits in their lives to stave off the onset of climate change. Only 62% of adults were prepared to make the same commitment.
As well as making the small changes like fewer international holidays or eating less meat, kids and young people could also be transforming the way we think about energy. Joachim Tamaro is a youth leader in Kenya, exploring how solar energy could power refrigerators to transform local fishing communities. Over in the States, the Manhattan Beach City Council recently ensured at least two seats were saved for children of different ages to provide input on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. El Dorado County has its own youth commission, that recently proposed and helped implement plans to reduce waste and improve air quality. By giving young people more than just a token seat at the table, corporations and governments can really benefit from the fresh perspective and technological acumen of the “climate generation”.
Getting Your Kids Excited About Renewable Energy Technology
Have you talked to your own kids about the environment? You’ll probably be surprised about how much they already know. Combine that with the passion for technology that most younger people have, and that’s a powerful force for change. To get your kids talking about the technology behind renewable energy you could:
· Discuss news stories around energy, such as the recent price hikes.
· Find out together how a wind farm works, or look out for solar panels as you travel around.
· Get engaged in community learning groups such as Girls Into Coding, focused on hands-on coding, girls education in STEM, and providing interactions with empowering women in STEM and leading women in tech companies.
· Bring tech education home with small projects such as creating a miniature wind turbine.
Perhaps this passion for renewable energy and technology is because climate change is more personal for our young folks. They have to live in this world, raise their families, educate their own kids — perhaps they feel that it’s now their duty to be better stewards of the environment than the previous generations have been. Young people recognise that climate change is not a risk. It’s an emergency, and it’s happening now. Advocates for change like Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg are often the face of the many protests held by young people, but it’s the up-and-coming technological innovators that could really make the difference this planet needs.
Contact Girls Into Coding to learn more about inspiring young girls in tech projects that could change the world.