Children are the future.
They are also curious and want to know what the future will look like for our planet when they reach adulthood.
A fourth-grade class from Green Bay’s public schools recently submitted questions on renewable energy and the environment to WPRs, “The Morning Show.”
Greg NemetAssociate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, he joined the show to answer these questions.
These answers were edited to be concise and clear. However, the children were perfect.
Hailee, My team and I wondered: How are solar panel made? And is it really clean to make them. Or do we use fossil fuels?
Greg Nemet: Great question. There are many benefits to solar. There is no fuel. There is no fuel. There are no moving components. It’s also made from silicon, the second-most abundant element in Earth’s crust.
RELATED : Sierra Club Wisconsin official warns against increasing natural gas investment
It is really not important to worry about where the energy comes. This could be done with coal, as it is in certain places, or with renewables or even solar. There is the possibility that we could create a breeding system that uses solar to make more of it, and then it would be clean. Although there are some emissions from the way we heat solar today, they are more than offset by the clean solar energy. … It’s a situation that is improving as the system gets better.
Register for daily news
Stay connected with WPR’s newsletter
Bristal: My team was asking me: How much energy are wind power plants producing each year?
GN:This is exactly what my students are answering in the problem set exam theyll take this week. The math you learn in middleschool is all we use in that class. It is all you need to answer important questions like this.
There are many sizes of wind turbines. They have grown in size over the years. For the ones we see in our state, you only need one wind turbine to power approximately 1,000 homes. We are starting to do bigger ones like this one. Offshore wind turbines could be coming to the Great LakesYou can get approximately 5,000 homes from one turbine. Because it’s easier to get them all working together, wind turbines are often installed in groups. Large wind farms might have 200 turbines spaced 100-200 meters apart but connected in a single farm. One wind farm could power approximately 1 million homes if it had these large offshore wind turbines. That’s roughly half the state’s homes. As the wind turbines grow in size, you can get large amounts of power.
What should you do if it isn’t sunny or windy and you rely on renewable energy? This has been a major question recently and we’re beginning to get answers. Because it’s not always sunny and windy, you combine renewables like wind and solar. Storage is something that was once prohibitively expensive that we are now able to do in large numbers all over the globe and in our own states. The batteries can be used to store power for just a few hours. Perhaps we can change how we use energy so that we don’t use it all the time when it is plentiful and avoid it when its really scarce.
Colten: How many calories does one person consume in a day?
GN(who clarified some data points via a follow up email): This will be a question that I’m going put on my problem set next year. It’s a great question. It’s one those questions that sounds simple, but is not easy to answer.
First, it all depends on who you’re. Energy is not just electricity. It can be transportation that supports gasoline in a vehicle and heating, which is like burning natural gas to heat your body. You can see that the average person uses 63 kilowatt hours per day.
RELATED : Wisconsin’s largest utility company plans drop coal by 2035
Those are some abstract units. It’d be like three space heaters being on full blast all day. One person’s energy usage is equivalent to three space heaters running continuously for a day. The U.S. average was four times. It’s about 1 percent in Africa. It really depends on where you live and who you are in terms energy consumption.
Gillian: When was electricity discovered for the first time?
GN:You can see electricity in nature if you go back. People have seen electric eels, and some fish, but that was long ago. Lightning is evident. Science made progress in the 1600s and 1800s. We now know about magnetic fields and how electric fields are related. We began to understand electricity’s production in the 1800s. However, we also started to make it ourselves and begin to fully use it.
This is a real innovation burst, probably more than any other time in the last 200 year that we had electricity, then lighting, and radio and television. All of this was possible because of the invention of harnessing electricity in late 1800s. It was a fundamental invention that people saw but didn’t realize we could actually harness it. Now, it is a critical infrastructure that we all depend on in our daily lives. It’s not just for gadgets. It’s something we depend on.