Written by Iyeh Mohammadi
Illustrated by Janell Lin
The advent of Britain’s Industrial Revolution in 1760 changed the world drastically. With machinery replacing human labour, goods were manufactured faster and with better quality. New inventions improved people’s lives while lengthening their lifespans and humans experienced a population boom like never before. Unfortunately, this also changed our relationship with the environment forever.
Coal was the main driving factor of the Industrial Revolution, being a more efficient fuel source than water or wood, and without it, all industrialization efforts would’ve gone up in smoke. But as a fossil fuel, coal was not only a non-renewable resource, it was also made primarily of carbon. The use of coal—and later, petroleum and natural gas—released huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and their effects on Earth would go unnoticed until centuries later in the 1960s. The global climate crisis is here, and we’ve only got ourselves and fossil fuels to blame.
It’s not all grim and dark though. As we become more and more aware of the effects of fossil fuels, we’re actively moving away from them towards more renewable resources. Biofuel, like energy crops and organic industrial waste, is a popular renewable energy source, as is hydroelectric and nuclear energy. However, the main renewable energy on the rise is wind energy. How does it work? Strong winds turn the turbines, giving them the mechanical power needed to turn generators and produce electricity. Wind farms, which are groups of many turbines, can produce a lot of electricity at the same cost as fossil fuels, sometimes, even less. They also have a much smaller impact on the environment. Over 80 countries use wind energy, and with turbine designs improving every year, these wind farms are more efficient than ever; for example, more than 40% of the Netherlands’ electricity is supplied from wind. But these wind farms aren’t perfect: not only do they take up more land than normal electric generators, these large turbines are also unsightly and noisy. And on top of that, they have to be built on rural areas which can lead to the industrialization of the countryside.
That’s where off-shore wind farms come in. They might cost more to build and maintain, but the off-shore winds these turbines use are stronger and steadier than the winds on land. They impact the environment at an even lesser extent, and the world isn’t sleeping on this. Hornsea One, the largest off-shore wind farm in the world, is located 120km off the shore of England and will power one million homes in the UK by the time of its completion in 2020. The complete turn of one turbine in this wind farm can power a single home for an entire day, and this is only one of the 37 off-shore wind farms in the UK; other countries are following suit.
With global emissions on the rise, these wind farms are great tools that countries can use to achieve their environmental targets to reduce their emissions. It might take a while but we are moving closer and closer to relying completely on clean energy, and we have to say, the winds of change have never felt so good.