Building on a clean energy legacy that includes installing the first thermal solar panels on the roof of the White House, former President Jimmy Carter is bringing the renewable energy revolution to his hometown of Plains, Georgia.
The 92-year-old, who served as the 39th president from 1977 to 1981, recently leased 10 acres of farmland outside Plains for the construction of a 1.3-megawatt (MW) solar array. Developed by SolAmerica, the installation is projected to generate over 55 million kilowatt hours of clean energy in Plains — more than half the town’s annual needs.
“Rosalynn and I are very pleased to be part of SolAmerica’s exciting solar project in Plains,” Carter said in a statement. “Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change. I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.”
Every time you breathe, you probably inhale a few trace amounts of methane, one of the most powerful and important gases on the planet.
Methane, at its core, is fairly simple: It’s just one carbon molecule surrounded by four hydrogen molecules. Although it is not one of the primary gases in our atmosphere — those would be nitrogen, oxygen and argon — it’s probably the most plentiful organic compound on the planet. But even though it’s everywhere, you would never know it’s there, as methane is colorless, odorless and tasteless.
Don’t let its invisibility fool you, though. Methane could have major roles — both good and bad — in the future of life on Earth.
A few basics
Methane is a natural substance that can be produced over time through biological routes — that’s what creates natural gas, of which methane is the primary component — through technological processes or other synthetic means. If produced underground, it can last for millennia. Once in the atmosphere, it will break down in anywhere from nine to 15 years as it is exposed to oxygen and water vapor.
But while it’s in the atmosphere, it’s pretty potent stuff. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane is more than 20 times more effective at trapping in heat than carbon dioxide, making it one of the most potent greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. The EPA says methane accounts for 16 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities such as natural gas systems, landfills, coal mining and manure-management systems.
But at the same time, methane — especially as a component of natural gas — is an important fuel source, one that produces fewer greenhouse gases when it is burned than coal or oil.