ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES
Whether we as human beings realize it or not, our earths supply of energy sources that are currently being used to power our homes, cars, and most industry are sources that can eventually be depleted. There is a fixed amount of coal, oil and natural gas within our earth. On the other hand, alternative energy sources, such as the sun and wind are here to stay! Now how much of our non-renewable energy sources are left? Who knows!.. and I don’t think this is the real issue right now. The pressing issue these days is the by products of using these sources (i.e. pollution, greenhouse gases.)
WHERE ARE WE TODAY?
Researching and implementing ways to lessen this pollution has been on the minds of people since right around the 50’s, but these days, complete replacement of the current methods used for energy production are what drives scientists, researchers, and everyday people who want to take part in the “green revolution”. Alternative energy sources are a deep, relatively un-tapped area of science that holds keys to an overall healthier earth and it’s people.
Back in 2005, 9% of all electricity produced in the world was from alternative, or for the purposes of this article, renewable energy sources. There are several alternative energy sources that can effectively be used for energy production; namely electricity. Each kilowatt of electricity that can be produced by renewable sources vs non-renewable is a small amount of savings in energy sources such as fossil fuels. Below we will explore the major ones out there: Solar power, wind power, and hydroelectric.
Solar power is by far the most well-known of alternative energy sources. When most people think of solar energy it’s usually along the lines of electrical energy being produced by solar panels. Solar power can also be in reference to heating a home (home solar power), heating water in a pool, or actual steam production by heating water through the use of parabolic mirrors. Solar power does not release pollutants into the air and there are no by products. As long as the sun shines there will be an unlimited opportunity to harness this energy and produce electricity.
Just like solar power, wind power is intermittent. No wind….no energy production. Besides that, wind energy systems (fancy name for windmills!) are a popular method of electricity production. Whether on farms, off shore wind farms, or at your own home (homemade wind turbines), wind power energy systems are a fantastic investment. On a side note, a home wind turbine is a great back up system that can work hand in hand with a home solar power system and produce energy at night or when it’s cloudy. Besides electricity, the mechanical energy that a wind turbine generates can be converted and used to pump water or power machinery. Currently, the entire capacity of all the wind energy systems worldwide produces less than 1% of the world’s consumption. As with solar power, wind power systems release no pollution. Outside of affecting the scenery of a mountainside, which only becomes an issue with large wind farms, wind power is a powerhouse in the alternative energy source market.
When you combine water, a dam and gravity together, this is a recipe for hydroelectric power. Here’s a basic look into this process: A dam is built to hold back a source of water, usually on a mountainside or at a higher elevation. When the dam releases this water, it flows downward and is directed into a water wheel or turbine which drives an electrical generator. In some cases these same generators can be used as motors to re-pump the water back to its source behind the dam to be used again. One advantage hydroelectric power has over solar and wind energy systems is that the flow of water can be controlled to coincide with peak energy needs and varied throughout a day, week, or month for a more stable power source. Again, hydroelectric power doesn’t pollute. The water can be reused, which makes it almost a self-contained system. Really the only drawback to this system is that is that dam can very expensive to build and there needs to be a sufficient and powerful enough supply of water for consistent energy production.
These 3 systems are infants in the world of alternative energy sources that are being used worldwide. Home solar power and homemade wind turbine systems are quickly becoming a popular investment to cut long term utility expenses. The idea of being “grid free” is no longer a pipe dream or something only be done if you live out in the boonies! Overall, the worldwide adoption of renewable energy sources is what is going to make the biggest difference to the earth itself.