Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™
Conserving energy is the central theme of the Watt Watchers program, and one of the most tangible ways to save energy is by saving electricity. These activities include projects related to turning off the lights, monitoring computer power, and measuring and auditing consumption.
There's no doubt that oil and gas have had an unmistakable impact on Texas. It is a major industry employing hundreds of thousands of people today, but in the grand scheme of the history of Texas and North America, oil and gas is still an emerging industry.
The lifetime of the East Texas Field stretches across one of the most rapid periods of change known to history. When it was discovered, the Great Depression was just beginning, computers were mechanical, and horses still provided farm labor in many places.
Natural resources are not evenly distributed across the United States or even across the State of Texas. Looking at the horizon you can see if you are near the sea or surrounded by timber, but other resources crucial to our daily lives are less obvious.
Bioenergy is one of the most important forms of renewable energy and has been employed for thousands of years. Cumulatively, bioenergy represents a greater fraction of the U.S. energy mix than any other renewable fuel source. Biomass solids are typically used for heat and power.
Though geothermal resources lie beneath all of the United States, they are less difficult to reach near active faults. The Mountain West, populated with active faults and tectonic activity, has the highest underground temperatures near the surface. Thus, it shows most of the installed capacity for geothermal.
The potential for generating electricity from solar power in the United States far exceeds that of Europe. Deserts are particularly abundant with photons, and flat land lends itself to the physical area required for large-scale solar panel installations. As a result, analysts and producers expect the southwestern United States to continue to be a hotbed of solar activity.
The wind corridor of the United States extends from North Dakota south to Texas, where winds blow reasonably fast, and the land is flat and relatively affordable, a compelling combination for the construction of wind farms. In fact, the U.S. corridor ranks as one of the greatest landed wind resources in the world.
The United States is a large country with many continental resources, and coal is one of those abundant resources. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the United States sits atop the world’s largest-known coal reserves, about 267 billion short tons. In global comparison, the United States holds more coal than Russia, China, Australia, India, and Germany.
Students should identify a single historical or contemporary individual that made a significant contribution to the fields of energy, chemistry, physics, environmental science, or a related field. Students should explain the relationship between that scientist's work and previous and following work in the field. Special note should be made of collaboration, cross-disciplinary work, and the contribution of any women, minorities, or people of color.
The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system always increases as energy is converted. Moving from fuel (high order) to heat or smoke (low order) is a natural process of entropy. Pollution with the highest disorder or highest entropy is the hardest to clean up.
While nuclear materials are part of the earth’s crust and have been for millions of years, the modern history of harnessing nuclear energy for power generation is relatively short. Nuclear fission was first discovered in 1939, and the first controlled nuclear chain reaction took place in Chicago as part of the wartime Manhattan Project in 1942.
The first law of thermodynamics states that energy in a closed system can neither be created nor destroyed but rather goes through a series of conversions from one form to another. The details of several conversions anchor the fundamentals of thinking about energy more concretely as a global industrial sector.
The Sun is the ultimate source of energy for almost all processes on Earth, from weather and climate to fossil fuels to the energy students need to get out of bed or run around the track. This activity relies on deep questions and critical thought to trace the ultimate source of energy on Earth to the sun.
Despite advances, today the global economy consumes most of its energy through only four technologies: the steam turbine, gas turbine, gasoline engine and diesel engine. The most popular conversion device is the steam turbine.
Primary energy sources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, biomass, flowing water, wind, and solar radiation. Those are the fuels that can be mined, reaped, extracted, harvested, or harnessed directly. Secondary energy cannot be harnessed directly from nature; rather, secondary energy is energy that has already been converted.
Solar energy represents a very small fraction of today’s energy mix, but also holds the greatest potential as an energy supply for the future. Used to generate heat and electricity, solar power is inexhaustible, clean, and free.
The word “geothermal” means “heat within the earth” or “the earth’s heat”. Vents of steam exist naturally around the world, where steam seeps or shoots out of the ground. Creative individuals have been harvesting these steam vents for years.
The market adoption of modern forms of bioenergy, including liquid biofuels such as ethanol from energy crops, municipal solid waste, and biogas from decomposing organic matter, are all on the rise. And, just like the other fuels, bioenergy has its own set of advantages and drawbacks.
While nuclear materials have been part of the earth’s crust for millions of years, the modern history of harnessing nuclear energy for power generation is relatively short. Nuclear fission was first discovered in 1939, and the first controlled nuclear chain reaction took place in Chicago in 1942.
Natural gas takes several retail forms, has several end uses, and is the cleanest of the fossil fuels. Natural gas is used for cooking, heating, electricity production, and as a feedstock for different materials such as plastics, fertilizer, and other chemicals.
The engineering design process is an iterative series of steps to ideate, implement, test, and improve ideas and their physical manifestations. Professional engineers follow this process developing projects and products, but the steps are simple enough to be applied across a wide range of concepts and industries, even in high school.
We use energy for everything and could not make it through a single day without it. But we rarely even think about how much we use, what kinds of energy there are, the cost, or the pollution consequences.