What is Alternative Energy?

by Donna Miller

There are many possible energy sources which are as yet underexploited. With more effort put into research and development, these sources could help us to break free of our dependence on fossil fuels and have clean, abundant energy.

One alternative is wind power. While wind power is hardly a novel idea, it is only recently that the development of wind turbines has reached the stage where they are a truly cost effective and efficient way to produce energy. May nations are building “wind farms” as a part of their energy strategy. Best of all, these are now being sited in areas where they do not pose a hazard to bird populations as has been the case in the past.

One of the better known alternative energy sources is solar energy. Solar energy involves using solar cells which can store the energy received from the sun and transform this into electricity (or sometimes, the heat is used to heat water for homes). Solar energy, like wind power, creates no pollution.

Many governments and private investors are looking too ocean waves as being a potentially great source of energy. There is one generator which has been in use in France for sometime now with great success. In Ireland and the U.K., there are experimental generators in use as well.

Hydroelectric power has been around for some time. This is a clean and efficient way to generate electricity; bu8t does have the limitation that not every place has a large dam for the purpose of hydroelectric power generation. Small regional hydroelectric stations have been built – and you can expect this alternative energy source to be part of the overall energy production strategy for the foreseeable future.

Geothermal energy promises to be a nearly limitless source of energy, once the technology to efficiently use it is developed enough. The heat of the Earth’s core turns water to steam, which in turn can drive turbines to generate electricity. With more research, this could become an important alternative source of energy.

Waste gas energy, mostly from methane is unique in that it turns what is normally seen as a waste product into energy. Methane can be used in fuel cells and even in gasoline powered generators to produce energy.

Ethanol, a substitute for gasoline, is produced from plant matter. While corn-based ethanol is what generally comes to mind, Ethanol can be made from almost any vegetable matter. While some doubt that it can be efficiently produced to become a replacement for gasoline on a large scale, the extraction technologies are constantly becoming more efficient and sophisticated.

Biodiesel is a much cleaner burning alternative to petroleum based fuels and is created from plant oils such as rapeseed, soybean and sunflower oils. This is not yet produced on a large scale, but some corporations with the facilities to do so are taking notice of this relatively new technology.

Atomic energy is generated through nuclear fission. It is a very cost effective means of generating electric power, but there are concerns over the radioactive waste which is it s byproduct, since it takes centuries for this material to become harmless.

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