The ability to flick a switch and receive electric light, or to turn a tap and get potable water are everyday processes that many of us take for granted. However, advancements which allow us to live more comfortably can sometimes prove to be double-edged swords as they can bring both positive and negative effects.
Our increasing demand for modern-day amenities is putting tremendous stress on the environment. We rely on non-renewable fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas to produce more energy; these sources have been tied to air pollution and global warming. While water is largely a renewable resource, activities such as deforestation and ground water contamination affect its suitability for human consumption.
As scientists and environmentalists struggle to find ways to protect the earth’s natural resources, we must remember that every problem contains the seeds for potential profit. Here in Jamaica, the government has devised a National Energy Policy that aims to diversify our country’s energy base by“exploring indigenous sources of energy and clean technology.” The policy also promises to “inject life into research institutions and generate new, ‘green’ jobs.”
This national energy thrust brings good tidings for potential earnings and savings for the country. For the discerning entrepreneur, the energy and environmental crises can also present various business opportunities. Let’s look at some of the renewable resource areas that can be targeted for money-making ideas:
Solar power, obtained from sunlight, is a perpetual source of energy which is not depleted by human use of it. We can harness light from the sun by utilising solar panels and photovoltaic cells to convert this free resource into electrical energy.
I remember the first time I saw a solar-powered device about 15 years ago. An elderly family friend had fashioned a solar cooker that took several hours to fully cook a large pot of rice and peas. Although it was a less costly way to prepare a meal, it seemed impractical for my faster pace of life.
Today, solar devices are fast becoming a viable alternative for many householders. Technological improvements and the demand for cleaner energy have helped to make solar energy more affordable for everyday use. Water heaters, refrigerators, fans, calculators and mobile phone chargers are some of the products that can be powered by the sun’s energy.
Just like the energy produced from the sun, wind can supply a perpetual and clean source of power. Wind has been used for thousands of years to create energy in limited applications; but over the past 30 years, wind-operated systems have become more visible.
In order to harness the wind’s energy for our use, a fan-like device called a turbine is utilised. When the wind turns the turbine, it creates mechanical energy that can be converted to electricity with the use of generators. From a single turbine which lights up a small home, to large wind farms supplying electricity to entire communities, wind energy is becoming more widespread as it can significantly reduce the cost of power.
Biomass is the biological material present in plant or animal life. We can harvest biomass in trees, food crops or animal waste to make energy. This process can be as basic as burning wood to create heat. Scientists have created more sophisticated methods to release the potential energy in biomass.
When a biomass energy system produces energy used to heat, cool or provide electricity, we call it bio-energy; when it creates liquids for mainly transportation purposes we use the term bio-fuel. One example is the use of bagasse, which is the fibre left over from crushed sugar cane. The bagasse can be burnt to supply heat which can then power an electric generator. Another case is used cooking oil, which can be turned into bio-diesel to run motor vehicles.
Because biomass energy can utilise waste material to create energy, it is an attractive alternative. The Jamaican government has drafted a National Energy-from-Waste Policy to pursue sustainable strategies in creating energy from solid waste in landfills, and various forms of biomass.
Human life cannot exist without water. Around the world, access to potable water is becoming more challenging due to the pollution of water sources and the effects of deforestation on the climate. Although the Earth is not short of water, only a small percentage can be consumed in its current form.
In a few years, water may become the ‘new oil’ because of its scarcity and expense. Some of the strategies to combat this include water sourcing through wells, rain water harvesting, waste water conversion and water collection technology.
The demand for alternative energy and new water sources will continue to dominate the local and global marketplace. Enterprising business persons should get familiar with emerging products and technologies that can alleviate some of the problems outlined above. Search online for more details about Jamaica’s National Energy Policy.
Opportunities will abound in the energy field with energy auditing; designing, manufacturing and retailing energy-efficient products; and servicing energy equipment. With water, look for options in bottling water, sourcing water for household and agricultural use, making rain-harvesting equipment, developing methods to clean used water, and retailing water collection devices.
About the Author
Cherryl Hanson Simpson is a financial consultant and coach, and the founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services, Jamaica’s number one source for practical, down-to-earth and independent answers for all questions relating to personal finance. Cherryl is currently writing her first book, The 3 Ms of Money. Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services is Jamaica’s number one source for practical, down-to-earth and independent answers for all questions relating to personal finance. Get more smart money advice at www.financiallysmartonline.com and and www.financiallysmartadvice.com .
Copyright © 2010 Cherryl Hanson Simpson. No reproduction without written consent.