EnviroTech: Putting the ‘Eco’ in Economy

June 3, 2015

5:07 pm

Envirotech or environmental technology is a field of science that focuses on reducing the human impact on the environment through technological advances or improvements.

So what does the widespread use of these technologies mean for the overall economy of a country?  Here are 5 examples of envirotech, how they work, and what their financial impact looks like on the economy. While the economic benefits outlined here are focus on the UK economy, the same benefits can apply to the United States.

1. Wind Turbines

In layman terms, wind turbines use wind to make electricity — the wind turns the iconic blades, spinning a shaft which is connected to a generator, which converts the kinetic energy into electricity.

On both a local and national level, the manufacture and design of wind turbines creates employment demand. With the growth of the wind industry, companies which build wind turbine production and installation facilities in the UK, such as German company Siemens, are investing millions of pounds and creating thousands of jobs manufacturing turbines. At the beginning of 2015 there were 5,958 wind turbines in the UK, making it the world’s sixth largest producer of wind power.

Another benefit of wind turbines is that it helps stabilize electricity costs for consumers and businesses, along with being a sustainable and clean form of energy.

2. Solar Panels

Solar panels are another well-known piece of environmental technology used to generate electricity. Solar energy in many respects has become a household name. They work by allowing protons (particles of light) to knock electrons from atoms, which generates a flow of electricity, and are typically installed on the roofs of houses or buildings. Solar generates clean and sustainable electricity without polluting the environment with toxic and harmful emissions.

The solar industry can support hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Less than five years ago solar energy barely factored in the UK energy mix — now, it has reached 5GW capacity, sufficient to power 1.5m homes, and is made up of 16,000 jobs. Solar panels can also reduce the electricity bills for the tenants of houses with panels installed, by relying on them to generate electricity instead of the mains grid.

3. Geothermal Heating and Cooling System

Although not as distinguished as other environment technologies, geothermal heating and cooling systems are an incredibly efficient and sustainable use of natural resources. These systems operate via sub-surface conductive heat transfer, using the naturally renewable temperature of the earth’s crust as a heat source in the winter, and as a heat sink in the summer.

At approximately four feet into the earth, there is a continuous temperature of around 55 degrees Celsius all year round. In buildings with a geothermal system, pipes are placed at this 4-ft level and throughout the building — the system pumps a liquid through the pipes to absorb the heat from throughout the house. The heat exchanger takes the heat from the liquid and uses it to heat the air inside the house. In the summer this system can be reversed to allow an air conditioning to replace the heating system.

From a financial standpoint, as these houses are tapping into a natural source, utility bills can be reduced by 40 to 60 percent. In terms of geothermal power production, small power plants can be economically built for applications in communities, as well as providing economic growth and jobs in rural areas.

4. Smart LED Bulbs

Inside the house itself, one of the best examples envirotech is Smart LED Lighting. LED lights produce less heat, use less energy, and last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. There are many variations and features of Smart LED bulbs, such as the ‘Philips Hue’ System.

The Philips Hue is a remote controlled lighting system which can alter the brightness, colour, and timing of the lights within the house. From Wi-Fi spots miles away, the user can manage the house lights from a tablet or smartphone. By being able to change the brightness and lighting stasis within the house, Smart LED bulbs are environmentally friendly. They allow the user to reduce the energy being used throughout the house, as well as turning off those forgotten lights within the house, reducing both electricity bills and light pollution.

5. Smart Meter Revolution

Smart Meters record real-time electricity and gas usage in a household or business and wirelessly transmits data as energy is being consumed, sending the information back to the utility companies.

This allows these companies to better match demand with supply, and benefits households who install the meters as they provide a much more comprehensive picture of energy use within the home. They help give individuals more control over the amount they use, which adds up to a more secure and environmentally friendly lifestyle. British homes and businesses could be nearly £14 billion better off thanks to the roll out of smart meters.

As a result of how fundamental and rewarding envirotech is for local economies, those who are adopting the sustainable lifestyle are being acknowledged and rewarded. For instance, Paul Robinson Partnership, a Norfolk based architectural practice are sponsoring a prestigious local award which has been established to recognize the green pioneers and innovators in the area who are leading the way in their use of environmentally friendly practices.

In general, the widespread use of envirotech ensures a more sustainable management of our future. By adopting solar energy technologies, for example, developing countries can ensure they don’t repeat the mistakes of highly industrialized countries in creating an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels, and instead jump directly into the Solar Age.

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Recent graduate who enjoys writing about technology, social media and music.

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