7 Different Alternative Sources of Energy
Alternative sources of energy are all the rage these days. As people are becoming more aware of the impact that their lives and habits have on the planet, there is more interest in utilizing energy sources that reduce the strain on the environment.
There are several types of alternative energies available today, giving people and policymakers more options to choose from.
Different geographical locations and environments are suited to produce various kinds of energy. Only some places have geothermal reserves, while it is more common to see solar energy being produced throughout the world.
Alternative Sources of Energy
There are several types of alternative energy. Notable progress is being made, but there is still a lot of work to be done to improve existing technology to produce better results.
Here are seven of the best alternative energy sources:
Solar energy is perhaps the most widely known type of alternate energy. When people think of renewable energy, solar is probably the first thing that comes to mind.
Solar energy is generated by utilizing the rays emitted by the sun. Nuclear fission (hydrogen atoms violently colliding to form helium) causes the production of energy, heat, and light that radiates from the sun.
Solar energy is renewable, meaning that it can be utilized again and again without fear of depletion. The sun will be up and continue to send out heat and light for five billion years from now.
The thing about solar energy is that it’s a constant source of energy. However, with current technology, we are not able to utilize it to the maximum. In fact, the planet gets enough energy from the sun to power the needs of every person on the earth for an entire year.
The significant benefits of using solar energy include that it does not require any fuel to work, and it doesn’t produce any toxic materials that can adversely affect the environment.
The major shortcoming that solar energy has right now is that it is still relatively expensive. The installation cost is high, and maintenance is an issue. Another disadvantage is that there are only certain areas that can be used to generate solar energy. Suitable regions need to get a fair amount of sunlight throughout the year and have low cloud cover.
Fortunately, solar technology is improving and, as a result, is becoming cheaper. Many countries offer tax incentives and other benefits to people using solar.
Wind energy is one of the most famous types of alternative energies today. It is produced by placing wind turbines on elevated positions like mountains or hills or in places where there is significant airflow.
On a global scale, people have a very favorable opinion of wind energy. There are only minor reservations that a small group of people might have against the use of wind energy in certain places.
One significant advantage that wind energy has to offer is that it does not require any fuel to be produced. Once you have set up a wind turbine or farm in the right kind of condition, all that’s left to do is to maintain it periodically.
Attaching batteries to a wind turbine allows you to store the energy and use it later when needed. Another advantage is that wind energy can be produced unlike solar energy as long as there is enough wind to spin the turbines.
A major con of using wind energy is that it has high installation costs. While countries with better economic outlook can freely opt to pursue wind energy to fulfill all or most of their needs, smaller countries with struggling economies might prefer to stick to other sources of energy.
Hydroelectric energy is produced by water that is in motion. In the majority of cases, water is already stored in a reservoir, dam, or is at a natural elevation like a waterfall. The water then moves down from its elevated position and helps drive the turbine placed at the bottom.
Earlier versions of hydropower usage can be attributed to gristmills, mills that used water flow to rotate a grain grinding wheel.
Hydroelectric solutions help produce cheap electricity. This is something that a lot of developing countries can benefit from.
The major disadvantage of using hydroelectric solutions is that it is expensive to set up. The second difficulty is that larger solutions can severely impact natural habitats. It can also affect residents that tend to fall into the new water path, causing them to be displaced from their homes.
China is currently the biggest producer of hydroelectricity. Coincidentally, the largest dam in the world is also located in the Yangtze River, called the Three Gorges Dam. It has the capacity to produce 22,500 megawatts of power, making it something to marvel at.
Hydrogen gas has grown in popularity in the world of alternative energy sources. It has a lot of potential for future use as it produces no emissions while being burned.
The energy produced from hydrogen gas is growing in popularity thanks to it being a clean-burning fuel. The nonexistent environmental impact of hydrogen gas makes it a popular choice to reduce carbon emissions worldwide.
However, a lot of work still remains to be done in terms of producing hydrogen, as most of the hydrogen is produced by burning fossil fuels, which puts a strain on the environment. Other methods like electrolysis exist to produced hydrogen, but more research is still in progress.
A promising solution is the production and usage of biohydrogen, hydrogen produced from organic materials, as well as natural waste materials.
The usage of hydrogen in hydrogen cells helps reduce emissions in cars and other carbon-emitting devices and machines.
To put things simply, biomass energy is produced by burning organic material that is living or used to be alive.
Biomass energy has been used since the early days of human history. Our ancestors used to benefit from burning organic material to keep themselves warm and cook food. Using biomass is still familiar to this day as it is accessible and cost effective in most cases.
Using biomass energy has its own advantages, as well as disadvantages.
The advantage is that biomass is a renewable and clean energy source. Biomass is available throughout the world in the form of trees, plants, algae, etc. When the biomass is sourced correctly, meaning that the substances are extracted and utilized in a way that doesn’t burden the environment, then the energy produced from it is highly beneficial.
The disadvantage with biomass is that burning and processing it produces carbon dioxide and other harmful gases. Another disadvantage is that producing biomass takes up land, which could be used for other purposes.
This problem can be overcome easily by using something like algae, which grows in the sea. However, extracting and using algae to create biomass energy is an expensive process at the moment.
Geothermal energy is the energy generated by the natural heat that comes from inside the earth. The radioactive decay of substances present and the earth’s core are the reason behind the generation of heat and thermal energy.
Geothermal energy has been around for a while. People since ancient times have been using geothermal energy to warm their baths and cook food. In recent years, geothermal energy is being used to produce electricity, albeit in limited quantities and in specific geographical regions.
The core advantage of using geothermal energy is that it is a cost-effective substitute for fossil fuels. The only limitation is that it is limited to the areas that are naturally blessed with these natural resources.
Currently, the US is producing the most electricity through geothermal, although Indonesia is making a lot of progress in this area, given that it has the largest geothermal reserves in the world.
There are some valid concerns when it comes to geothermal energy. The main problem is the potential environmental impact. While geothermal energy produces far less than conventional fossil fuels, the main concern is the production and disposal of toxic materials produced to generate geothermal energy.
Tidal energy, as the name suggests, is the energy that is generated from oceanic tides. Turbines and barrages are placed in areas where there is a strong potential for waves to be produced naturally. These waves and the rise and fall of the ocean help create tidal energy.
Tidal energy is a less popular alternative energy source because of two main reasons.
The first reason that a lot of investors stay away from tidal energy is that the amount of energy produced by current tidal energy solutions is relatively low.
Investors always prefer to invest in technology and projects that have the potential for success. With tidal energy, that still remains to be seen. With current technology, it does not make sense for organizations to really get behind tidal energy and wholeheartedly support it.
The second reason is that the environmental impact that tidal energy has can significantly change underwater habitat and, in turn, affect the sea life that resides there.
The first tidal energy plant at Rance River, France, has also changed the underwater environment. The native aquatic wildlife, including flora and a particular kind of flatfish called plaice, suffered greatly. Plaice is now extinct in that area because of increased silt levels. However, cuttlefishes are now flourishing in the silt habitat.
Using alternative energy sources is growing in popularity not only on a personal level but also on a global scale. As the way things stand, the environmental changes that will occur due to global warming will put an extraordinary number of people at risk.
The Paris Climate Agreement and other incremental steps will help to reduce emissions gradually, but until emissions are halted globally, and new energy sources are adopted, things will still be a little too close to comfort.
With different types of alternative energies available, incremental usage is becoming a far easier goal than previously thought. Better policies and a more collective decision globally to reduce emissions will be vital to making the world a better place.