5 Most Important Alternative Energy Sources

Posted on : 05-01-2014 | By : Max | In : Alternative Energy

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Fossil fuels are currently the biggest non-renewable energy source. Alternative sources of energy are those produced without the use of fossil fuels. Often, alternative renewable energy sources have a replenishing supply that could be interpreted as infinite. Energy from the sun, or solar energy, is a very good example of an alternative and future energy source. These are not yet developed well enough to be commercially viable in many cases, but these future energy sources are our best bet at sustainably preserving our environment. Among numerous alternate sources of energy there are a few common options.

Solar Energy
Solar Energy

It is common knowledge that without the sun mankind would not exist. The sun has been used for a myriad of purposes since time immemorial. The light and heat of the sun are used for heating, desalination of seawater, cooking and also producing electricity. Solar power from the sun is used to convert water into steam that is fed into a generator to produce electricity; this is a passive type of solar technology.

Other methods includes converting light by means of a solar cell into electricity using the photoelectric effect, it is called an active type. The energy from the sun is obviously not available in the night-time; hence the energy from sun must be stored efficiently. Solar energy can be used for heating water and also cooking.

Wind Energy
Wind Energy

Man has been harnessing the power of the wind since the 1st century AD when a Greek engineer Heron by name invented the wind wheel. Those early wind mills were used for physical labour like pumping water and grinding seeds. Now the wind turbines are rotated with the wind which causes the electrical generator to produce electricity.

Numerous windmills with rotating turbines are placed strategically to catch the wind, they are called wind farms. In 2010 total power produced by the wind achieved 2.5% of the total worldwide electricity usage, but the amount is increasing every year.

Although the numerous turning turbines will produce a lot of noise, they must not in any way contaminate the environment. Generating energy by means of wind does not have a limit, but it must be available consistently for the turbines to rotate, so the location of these turbines are very important. Along with solar energy, wind energy is called intermittent energy sources, meaning the expected output must be got when they are available and it must be stored for future use or must be ready for transport. These Turbines have also been constructed in the middle of a large water body to generate electricity, they are called offshore wind farm. The London array in the United Kingdom is largest offshore wind farm in the world.

Geothermal Energy
Geothermal Energy

In the depths of the earth a lot of heat is produced from radioactive decay and heat loss due to formation of the earth, the temperature in the outer core of the earth can rise up to 4400° C to 6100° C near the inner core. The heat from the earth’s core produces hot water and steam that finds its way out to surface of the earth as hot water springs. These have been prevalent since Paleolithic times, hot water from these springs has been used for bathing and heating. Presently, the steams from these hot water springs are cleansed and are passed through turbines to produce electricity. Finding them is difficult, also the drilling process must be done with immense care or numerous harmful products are released at drilling. Geothermal energy when generated, sustains itself, does not affect the environment and produces electricity consistently.

Hydroelectric Energy
Hydroelectric Energy

Water that passes through a dam is used to propel water turbines of an electric generator that produces electricity. Generally the gravitational force of falling water is used to generate electricity is called Hydroelectricity. It is a popular method all over the world, around 150 countries employ hydroelectricity, the largest hydroelectric plant is the three Gorges Dams in the People’s Republic of China.

The cost of installing hydroelectric plant is cheap; hence it is a good alternative renewable energy source. Once the plant is functional it does not produce any pollutant or contaminants, also it is a very flexible source of energy, according to energy requirements water can be allowed to pass through the dam to produce electricity. But building the dams can cause major changes in the surrounding Eco systems. This displaces a lot of wildlife and in many cases humans.

Nuclear Energy
Nuclear Energy

Nuclear fission, meaning when the nucleus of a particle splits into smaller particles, produces a large amount of useful energy and is a non-renewable energy source. There are two types of nuclear reactors. The first one is called the water moderated, where the heat generated is used to boil water which turns turbines to produce electricity. The other type called a fast breeder has liquid sodium instead of water, this helps to produce more energy and work at a much higher temperature. The cost of setting up the whole plant along with the uranium which is rare is high. But a lot of electricity is produced at a much faster rate, a lot faster than most of the other alternative sources of energy discussed here.

Nuclear power plants have a risk of accidents and these accidents have proven to be harmful to whole cities. Mostly the uranium used in the nuclear plants is different from the material used in the atom bombs, also numerous safety procedures are implemented to prevent any form of leakage. The main problem that goes with nuclear energy is the recovery of the wastes produced, these nuclear wastes cannot in any way be stored safely.

It was suggested that the wastes be buried deep underground, but that does not guarantee that the wastes will not spill out and find itself mixed with the water. The equipment that is used in the system also needs to be changed and maintained regularly, as even if one of the parts malfunctions the effects would be disastrous. People working inside the plant are in danger of radioactive poisoning, which causes cancer. Building these nuclear plants require a lot of money, skill and patience. Moreover, emphasis must be laid on safety. But once built, they produce immense amount of energy.

It is crucial for us to find a balance between renewable and non-renewable energy sources so that we do not compromise on output and move towards a cleaner future energy sourced world.

Now let’s watch the video showing the most prominent alternative energy sources.

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