**I would like to thank Alex Hsain,undergraduate researcher in energy harvesting systems at NC State University, for her collaboration in this post.
At the recent 2016 Appalachian Energy Summit, I attended Alex Hsain’s “Energy Scavenging: Small Steps, Big Impacts” presentation about how she was harvesting ambient energy for portable electronic devices and it caused an epiphany, or sudden insight for me. Harvesting energy or energy scavenging is the process by which energy is obtained from the surrounding environment in order to power small wireless devices. My question, why is this not what we always do? Let me explain my thoughts.
Harvesting is a process of gathering, collecting or obtaining a resource for future use. Isn’t that what we do when we gather, collect, and obtain energy from the sun or wind to use to power our needs? According to multiple sources, the sun delivers more than enough harvestable energy every day to meet any possible needs. If we also collect wind energy, and energy that can be harvested from ocean currents, we will greatly exceed our energy needs with clean sources.
Instead of harvesting what is delivered to us daily, free of charge, we have embarked on an adventure to dig up hidden energy delivered millions of years ago that we have to burn it to use. Knowing that conserving energy is an evolutionary trait innate to humans, does this make sense? We are seeking the most indirect form of energy by using ancient fossil fuels instead of looking right in our backyard. The motion of our footsteps, the heat our body produces, the acoustics of our voice – all have the possibility to make us more energy independent.
Why are we doing this? An analogy would be to be given food to eat, like picking an apple from a tree, but instead of using that food we choose to find an animal gut, cook and eat. Beyond the data that documents whole food plant based eating provides more personal and planetary health benefits for humans than animal sources, why take the extra effort?
I understand there are taste issues with food, but why are we not only expending more effort than necessary to meet our energy needs, we also are giving energy companies the power to control our lives. Of course the even more important, often ignored issue is that the extra effort we must expend to get to the ancient energy or for that matter animal based foods, causes more damage than benefits received. I support energy independence that comes from utilizing a network of key technologies, working in parallel.
Lets all become independent energy generates or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. often discusses. Hear Kennedy’s presentation here from the 2015 Appalachian Energy Summit.