Target: Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation
Goal: Applaud U.S. science agency for funding research to create biodegradable wind turbines
The National Science Foundation (NSF), a U.S. government agency that encourages scientific research, recently started funding two university research groups to help them create a biodegradable material that can be used to make wind turbines. Although wind energy is rapidly becoming more common in the U.S. and many other countries, and has led to a decrease in carbon emissions, the wind turbines themselves are made from unsustainable materials. The NSF should be commended for funding the research that will allow wind energy to be even more environmentally friendly.
The wind turbines that are currently being used are made from petroleum and carbon-based materials that cannot be recycled. After several years of use, the turbine blades must be replaced. The blades, which can be up to 20 feet long, have to be broken down and then buried in landfills. Although biodegradable plastics are already being used for many other purposes, none of them are sturdy enough to be made into wind turbine blades.
With the help of the NSF, scientists are now working to create a material from vegetable oil and natural fibers that will resemble the durable material that wind turbine manufacturers currently use to make the blades. The biodegradable oils and natural fibers are readily available, sustainable, and cost efficient. In addition to solving the problem of turbine blade disposal, this new material would also be applied for other purposes, and could entirely replace the toxic and wasteful plastics so often used in products.
The U.S. Department of Energy has ambitious goals for the future of wind energy, and is hoping to significantly decrease the country’s reliance on fossil fuels in the coming decades. With so many communities increasing the use of wind energy, tens of thousands of these blades will have to be replaced every year. If the blades continue to be made from nonrenewable sources, this new green industry could end up creating its own environmental problem. Applaud the NSF for recognizing this problem and ensuring that scientists begin developing environmentally friendly wind turbines.
Dear Dr. Suresh,
The NSF recently provided grants to two universities to fund research that will allow scientists to develop a new biodegradable material that will replace the nonrenewable petroleum-based material that is currently used to create wind turbine blades.
While replacing carbon-emitting energy sources with renewable wind energy will continue to positively impact an environment that is in desperate need of help, this increase in wind energy will eventually start negatively impacting the environment if the wind turbines continue to be made out of materials that cannot be recycled.
Thank you for recognizing the impact that this will have on our environment if scientists do not start developing sustainable materials to build new turbine blades. The NSF should be commended for ensuring that wind turbines remain an environmentally friendly energy source.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: vaxomatic via Flickr.