Examining the relationship between 'green energy' and 'green engineering'
WRITTEN BY CONOR MACGUIRE. Can a green engineering application, system or process be really ‘green’ without manufacturers and service providers first making sure that the energy input too is green? The answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding "no!"
The relationship between ‘green energy' and 'green engineering’ deserves a careful study, for organizations and groups advocating greater adoption of green engineering applications and practices often ignore the fact that the manner in which energy is produced and used to manufacture even seemingly organic and environment friendly products might not be in tune with the green movement.
Consider this: What if the people are made to (subconsciously) accept ‘gas’ instead of solar and wind power as a ‘green’ fuel’? Sounds weird, but MNCs such as Shell, Statoil & GDF Suez have been lobbying business groups and governments to do exactly that. Green engineering experts aim to realize the goal of designing and manufacturing products or devising services that have least possible negative impact on the environment and human health. Using green energy to power manufacturing facilities and commercial premises -- to begin with -- is one of the many things that can be done to achieve this objective.
What if, for example, a facility producing recyclable products with little or no possible harmful effects on the environment during and after their usage is actually powered by a non-renewable energy source?
Green Engineering, as a field of study or business practice, without first making it a topmost priority to use green energy for all tasks, big or small, is largely ineffective in the long term. Take the case of Valvoline, a US $7 billion conglomerate that sources non-renewable petroleum supplies from other companies, and produces recyclable motor oil products.
While organizations such as Intel and others have no doubt done an excellent job at using geothermal, small-hydro, solar, biomass and wind energy to satisfy most of their energy needs, the goal to use 100% green energy (as proud Kohl’s Department Stores did, for example) for most companies labeling their products as green is far from over.
Ensuring green energy input is one of the most important but often misunderstood green engineering principles. Besides energy input, there’s yet another aspect that needs to be looked into while correlating green engineering and green energy – energy efficiency. For instance, Installing a small motor but at the same time creating a highly energy-inefficient device labeled as ‘green’ too is not the way forward. It is lazy engineering, as James Dyson puts it.
Green engineering is not necessarily the domain of experts specializing in areas such as sustainability, environmental science or renewable energy. Several sub-sets fall under this category: civil, electrical & industrial engineers, for example, may also adhere to green engineering principles.
It’s high time that all those in various industry verticals who think they’ve been partaking in the green movement come face to face with the reality and understand ‘green energy input for actual green engineering’ principle.
Posted 31/03/2014 by Reg Tucker
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