Power Grid and Maintenance (09:45)
Yul Kwon describes the immense amount of energy that Americans use each day, exemplified by the Daytona 500 race. Thomas Edison started the first electric power plant in New York in 1882, bringing light and streetcars to major cities. A blackout in 2003 brought to light the interconnection of a regional power network and the necessity of a team at PSE&G, which patrols and repairs power lines.
Coal Power and Pollution (07:35)
Maintaining a constant supply of power requires thousands of power plants, half of which are still fueled by coal. Fifteen mines in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming provide most of the county’s coal through surface mining. Though the coal here is low in sulfur, it is still one of the largest pollutants.
Risks and Cost of Nuclear Power (04:29)
The U.S. government promoted nuclear power as the clean, cheap, and safe power of the future when the first nuclear reactor was built in 1957. Due to high construction costs and the risk of accidents with devastating consequences, only one reactor is currently under construction and far fewer are in use than leaders predicted.
Natural Gas and Fuel Demand (05:32)
The discovery of the cleaner and safer fossil fuel, natural gas in the 1950s, led to an expansion of a huge underground gas pipeline network. A team guides the gas tanker Neptune into dock in Boston to supplement the natural gas in winter with fuel from overseas.
Energy Independence and Risks of Natural Gas (04:37)
Geologist Terry Engleder found a massive shale deposit under New York and Pennsylvania that could meet America’s natural gas needs for decades. Hydraulic fracturing releases gas from the shale by pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground. Many are concerned about this method, which can pollute water sources and cause health problems for animals and humans.
Renewable Energy: Wind Power (07:32)
With 36,000 wind turbines in the U.S., energy from wind is the fastest growing renewable energy source. Michael Brower uses a map with sensors that show wind conditions and patterns to identify new locations for wind projects. Randy Deputy maintains the wind turbines along the Columbia River Gorge, and most of this power goes to California, which has set renewable energy goals.
Energy Loss and Cow Power (06:20)
Thermal mapping expert Larry Davis measures radiating heat from residential and industrial areas to show how much energy people waste, largely through inefficient buildings. American homes now use more energy than industry, but Vermont dairy farmers have found a new way to provide energy to their communities. Cow manure produces methane, which a system captures and sends to a generator, then to the grid to power a few hundred homes.
Solar Power and Creative Solutions (03:50)
Kwon argues that communities in the U.S. are gaining awareness of where their energy comes from and how they use it. At a church in Washington D.C. pastor Earl Trent has inspired his congregation to use energy more efficiently by installing solar panels on the church roof. NASCAR has also taken initiative to build a solar-powered facility and use more efficient fuel.
Credits: Electric Nation (02:30)
Credits: Electric Nation
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