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Examining Idaho's Sources of Energy

Updated on October 26, 2016

Idaho's energy options

Examining Idaho’s Sources of Energy

By Mad Maxx Pages

Sources of energy are known to give us light when it is dark and heat when it is cold. It can be costly both to humans and to organisms. Emissions are known to cause air and water pollution. These following sources of power that supply energy to Americans can be a concerning risk to the environment in different ways. Some sources of energy are renewable and some are non-renewable. Some sources of energy are supplied by fossil fuels and some sources come from natural occurrences with the help of technology over time. Fossil fuels is a fancy way to describe a fuel from the remains of our past. The burning of fossil fuels like natural gas, coal and oil are hazardous to all life and a contributor to global warming. All fossil fuels are nonrenewable. Solar power, wind power, geothermal energy, and other renewable resources are not like fossil fuels and pose less of a threat to the environment and its creatures. Idaho has come a long way over the last two-hundred years. Idaho has gone back and forth between renewable and non-renewable resources over many decades. Idaho has also gone to efforts to safeguard the environment and wildlife throughout time. Many resources can be found throughout the world and parts of Idaho that produce energy that also pose threats to the environment from damaging emissions as well as hazardous wastes that beg the question of whether Idaho should convert to a smarter more practical source of energy that might be a more positive impact to Idaho life.

Natural gas emits sulfur, mercury, carbon dioxide into the air. Burned natural gas also produces nitrogen oxide. These emissions attributes to global warming, only they contribute less pollutions then coal or oil. Drilling disturbs lands which causes erosion, stripping the grounds of necessary minerals and polluting streams. Natural gas itself and the ways it is extracted causes air and water pollution as well as playing a role in the threat of earthquakes. It can contaminate ground water, drinking water, and wells (Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d.). There are no existing coal plants in Idaho and it is not mined there either. Coal is provided from mines in Wyoming and Utah. Coal supplies roughly two-fifths of energy to resident households (EIA, 2015). Coal affects birds, soil, plants, tree, flowers, water, fish, and prey in the Idaho. Now Idaho uses low-sulfur coal to reduce gasses and fly ash (Idaho Power Company, 1995-2016). Coal brings along pollutions through toxins and gasses such as heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, iron, acid, methane, carbon dioxide, mercury, and nitrogen oxides. Coal pollutes the air which puts humans and organisms at risk for respiratory distress. The risk to water threatens aquatic life, humans and thriving organisms (SourceWatch, 2015). In Idaho, Hydropower is used more than any other state besides Washington. Idaho runs into a problem from the environment that slow down production such as snow melting and river flow due to global warming (Ramseth, 2015-2016; Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d.). Hydropower satisfies roughly half of Idaho’s electricity demand. Coal-fired plants in Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Montana pitch in another 35 percent. A handful of natural gas plants and hundreds of wind turbines make up most of the remainder of energy and pollution (Ramseth, 2015-2016).

In the mid 1800’s, natives used geothermal energy & by the 1890’s, Idaho had its first district heating system in Boise (Idaho.gov, 2016). Mining Discoveries started and lasted from the 1860’s to the 1880’s. The mining made it possible for the rise in population in the area. In the 1860’s, Elias Pierce, a miner, found gold in the Nez Perce, clearwater mountains in Idaho. Shortly following, a mining site was established near the Salmon river. Mining camps were later established. In the early 1900’s, during the WWI era, the Idaho-Oregon Light and Power Company started to be constructed (Buckendorf, Bauer, Jacox, & the Arrowrock Group, Inc, 2003). Later came Idaho Railway Light & Power, Idaho Power & Light, Great Shoshone and Twin Falls Water Power, and Southern Idaho water Power. These five companies merged their resources to form what is now Idaho Power. They survived hydroelectric energy and still do today (Idaho Power Company, 1995-2016). In the 1950’s, Oxbow, Brownless, and Hells Canyon Dams where under construction to double Idaho’s power. Around the same time, steel towers also made an appearance as a new way to supply power. During this time, Idaho took up concerns about the fish that lived and migrated in the Pacific Northwest over concern that the dams caused a loss in fish. By the 1960’s, Idaho was working on the problem. When Idaho could build no more dams, they turned to coal burning in the 1970’s. Idaho wanted to make Idaho even safer for animals in the 70’s by studying how to better protect birds and prey, on top of efforts to make fish safe. Because birds would sometimes be electrocuted by power lines, Idaho switched them out for nesting boxes. Also by the 70’s, Idaho had become reliant on hydroelectric power (Idaho Power Company, 1995-2016). Electricity (Hydroelectric) power plants run in Idaho. Three-fifths and four-fifths of hydroelectric energy is supplied to Idaho residents. It is because of hydroelectric energy that Idaho has one of the “lowest average electricity rates in the nation” (EIA, 2015). Only about one-third of Idaho residents use electricity. The Institute for Energy Research says that the most energy supplied in Idaho is by conventional hydroelectric, natural gas second, and coal last after wood, wind and geothermal energy (INSTITUTE for ENERGY RESEARCH, 2010).

These energy sources in Idaho over time have effected global warming through the release of carbon. It has effected the climate and water temperatures. They cause a threat to wild life by allowing trees to become overrun by insects causing trees to be contaminated and increasing the risk of fires. This would be the case for plants as well. Native and some walks of wildlife might find themselves affected in such cases as severe effects caused by global warming due to emissions (Whitehouse.gov, n.d.). The effects to air have been known to cause asthma in addition to global warming. Melting of the water has been a cause for concern as well for aquatic life, in addition to any spills or contaminations that may have occurred over time with the extraction or use of energy resources. Fish have been known to show levels of toxins and that are also found in their surroundings as well as the habitats of other organisms that have been threatened. It is important to Idaho that steps be taken to keep its environment and organisms safe from harmful discharges. Idaho is one of the lowest of states in the U.S. when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming (State of Idaho, 2016).

Considering that wind power can be problematic in the winter because of snow and because Idaho has been stretched to its limits with dam producing energy to the point of needing coal, Idaho should look more into bring back geothermal energy as its main source of energy. Geothermal energy comes from the heat of the earth and its rocks and natural steam. Through the work of heat and steam, energy is created. Geothermal energy is practical because it does not cause pollutions that are harmful to the environment in comparison to any other energy sources. This power regenerates itself and is reliable, it reduces the planets dependency on fossil fuels (Ryan, 2005-2009). While Geothermal energy is efficient and doesn’t contribute much to the spread of pollution, electricity is still needed to run heat pumps and geothermal energy doesn’t work soundly with wells, and they can disturb wildlife that live in trees and the ground close to the earth’s surface (Comfort Pro, Inc,. 2016). Geothermal energy however works year-round and uses existing heat instead of creating heat. It is ideal for Idaho because Idaho is serious about its part in the safe keeping of its environment and natures creatures.

Geothermic energy is relevant in southeastern Idaho By Raft River (Idaho Public Television, 2016). If done correctly, this source of energy could provide energy 24 hours a day without interruption due to seasonal changes. No one should be opposed to geothermic energy. The health benefits & pollution cuts caused by other sources of energy would be worth the conversion to Geothermal energy. It’s understandable to be opposed due to the threats to the surface of the earth, but those risks outweigh the threats and pollutions causes by burning fossil fuels and their impact on humans, wildlife, and the environment. Idaho would have to figure out how to convert its uses to work with wells but it does sell heat pumps that work with geothermal energy. There are a few problems in Idaho holding the state back from converting to Geothermal energy; there isn’t state government backing and the state is more attentive to the energy of wind power. Idaho also doesn’t have active prospects (Snake River Alliance, 2012). If it were not for these reasons, geothermal energy might receive full support. The problem now isn’t the changes to one’s electricity bill where you could save up to 70% with a geothermal heat pump in place of your water heater, but it’s the cost and installation. Geothermal heat pumps can cost anywhere from three thousand to nearly eight thousand dollars, and even more expensive models are available. Some pumps with installation can cost as much as twenty-five thousand dollars (CostHelper, Inc., 2016).

The impact geothermal energy can have on the environment comes with advantages. Unlike other forms of energy, and even renewable resources like wind power and solar energy, geothermal energy does not excrete emissions like non-renewable energy resources. It is also inexpensive; up to 80% over fossil type fuels (Berrizbeitia, 2014). The negative impact on the environment comes from its consumption which causes trapped gases beneath the earth’s core to be released from geothermal wells such as carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfides; emissions so low that they favor the environment. Rivers have been found to have arsenic and mercury at levels that have no real environmental impact, although the two cause risks to health. Most problems that have been brought to attention have been found to work with the environment under special circumstances because of the type of resource this energy is and how it works. Bore holes and testing seems to take most of the negative impact, the rest is anticipated problems that come with the production, extraction, and use of geothermal energy. The risk of pollution to the air from power plants is a significant but expected measured with the positive impacts of geothermal energy. The risks to water involve toxins that also are so low that the positive impacts outweigh the dangers, especially when compared to other energy sources (Berrizbeitia, 2014).

With geothermal energy, wildlife is for the most part safe because this type of energy is environmentally friendly, however; during construction, although the impacts are low, vegetation, aquatic life, endangered species lives and their surroundings can be disturbed (TEEIC, n.d.). Most disruption can be caused by high pitched noises. Construction can cause a likely risk to the breeding, hunting, and migration by some animals as well as cause a potential threat to surrounding waters by introduced toxins that surrounding animals depend on. Animals that depend on the foraging of grass and vegetation are at risk as well. Still, not enough threat to excuse the thought of safe and reliable energy that is in a sense the safest renewable energy source on earth, for both the environment and all that inhabit it.

Everything considered, it would be advisable to seek prospects in Idaho to look for good places to produce and serve geothermal energy. The beautiful and preserved areas of Idaho land and wildlife depend on good foliage, air, water and soil for healthy survival. Idaho natives, present residents and future also depend on Idaho to be healthy for future generations. Idaho has biome diversities throughout that’s survival depend to the outcomes of global warming. Each biome is at risk of destruction as temperatures rise with emissions excreting from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This also includes nuclear waste. Air pollution can make humans and animals sick. Air is essential for the survival of life. Like air, water is just as important. It may be best that power plants are not standing sites near water due to the risk of contamination. Unfortunately, places like dams and hot springs are ideal areas for sources of energy. Fish live in water and animals and humans eat fish. Fish also eat other fish. Their environments and their food are in the same environments and it is imperative that it is a safe one, not only for aquatic life but for the organisms that thrive off the waters and surrounding soils. Speaking on soils, rich soils are needed for the healthy growth of plants and trees that supply shelter and nutrients and food associated with the organisms in the area. There are endangered species in this world that have likely been added to the list due to harmful emissions from energy resources. So far there may not be ways to keep organisms, soil, and water safe during construction but the very most practical and reliable sources should be used to produce enough energy to keep the world moving while disturbing as little of the environment as possible.


References

Berrizbeitia, L. D. (2014). ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF GEOTHERMAL ENERGY GENERATION AND UTILIZATION. Retrieved from http://geothermalcommunities.eu/assets/elearning/8.21.Berrizbeitia.pdf

Buckendorf, M. K., Bauer, B. B., Jacox, E., & The Arrowrock Group, Inc. (2003). (E.4-11) Non-Native Exploration, Settlement, and Land Use of the Greater Hells Canyon Area, 1800s to 1950s. Retrieved 2003

Comfort Pro, Inc. (2016). Geothermal Energy Pros and Cons | Comfort Pro Heating & Air Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.comfort-pro.com/2015/06/geothermal-energy-pros-and-cons/

CostHelper, Inc. (2016). How Much Does a Geothermal Heat Pump Cost? - CostHelper.com. Retrieved from http://home.costhelper.com/geothermal-heat-pump.html

EIA. (2015). Profile Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.cfm?sid=ID

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Idaho Public Television. (2016). Geothermal Power. Retrieved from http://idahoptv.org/outdoors/shows/poweredbynature/geothermal.cfm

Idaho.gov. (2016). Governor's Office ofEnergy Resources. Retrieved from https://energy.idaho.gov/renewableenergy/history.htm

INSTITUTE for ENERGY RESEARCH. (2010). Idaho Energy Facts. Retrieved from http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/media/state-regs/pdf/Idaho.pdf

Ramseth, L. (2015-2016). What Climate Change Will Mean for Idaho's Energy Supply. Retrieved from http://magicvalley.com/news/local/what-climate-change-will-mean-for-idaho-s-energy-supply/article_6811d04a-7b00-5f56-8e80-f1fae66fb598.html

Ryan, V. (2005-2009). What is Geothermal Energy ? Retrieved from http://www.technologystudent.com/energy1/geo1.html

Snake River Alliance. (2012). WHAT HAPPENED TO IDAHO’S GEOTHERMAL?-KEN MILLER. Retrieved from http://snakeriveralliance.org/what-happened-to-idahos-geothermal-ken-miller/

SourceWatch. (2015). Environmental impacts of coal. Retrieved from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Environmental_impacts_of_coal

State of Idaho. (2016). Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved from https://www.deq.idaho.gov/air-quality/air-pollutants/greenhouse-gases/

TEEIC. (n.d.). Geothermal Energy: Construction Impacts. Retrieved from http://teeic.indianaffairs.gov/er/geothermal/impact/construct/http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/environmental-impacts-of-natural-gas.html#.WA677PkrI2x

Union of Concerned Scientists. (n.d.). Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas. Retrieved from http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/environmental-impacts-of-natural-gas.html#.WAcALOArLb0

Whitehouse.gov, (n.d.). A CLEANER, MORE EFFICIENT POWER SECTOR IN IDAHO. A CLEANER, MORE EFFICIENT POWER SECTOR IN IDAHO. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/climate/Idaho_Factsheet.pdf

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