Alternative Energy Sources
What are alternative energy sources?
“Alternative energy” refers to energy from natural and renewable sources, such as solar or wind. It is presented as an alternative to conventional energy sources, which involve burning non-renewable fossil fuels like oil or coal. Alternative energies are emerging and implemented in response to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
What are the differences between conventional energy and alternative energy?
Alternative energy sources arise to counteract the effect of the polluting gases that result from fossil combustion of traditional or non-renewable energies, which are limited or finite in nature. Alternative energies also take natural resources that are usually inexhaustible or at least rapidly regenerate, reducing pollution’s impact on the environment.
- Conventional energies depend on external supplies, which means they depend on the place where the energy resource or source exists; alternative energies are more local in character, favoring energy autonomy.
- Conventional energies generate waste in the fossil fuel combustion process. Alternative energies, on the other hand, do not produce greenhouse gases since they’re from natural sources and are practically inexhaustible, and their impact is minor and reversible.
What types of alternative energy are there?
Starting from the premise that multiple inexhaustible sources of energy can be found in nature, there are two categories of types of alternative energies: non-polluting (or “clean”) and polluting. Even though the latter may come from nature, they can still be polluting.
- Non-polluting or clean:
- Wind energy: comes from the force of the wind; through mills or wind turbines, it is converted into energy.
- Solar energy: obtained from the sun; transformed into electricity with solar panels.
- Hydraulic energy: comes from the power of water; energy is usually generated in reservoirs.
- Geothermal energy: comes from the high temperatures of Earth itself to generate energy through heat.
- Tidal energy: transforms the force of the seas and oceans into electrical energy.
These are polluting because, despite being organic waste, they involve burning to generate energy. Such is the case of biomass that includes bark, branches, sawdust, or any other biodegradable product; and biogas, which involves anaerobic (oxygen-free) decomposition of biomass.
What advantages do alternative energy sources offer?
- Their origin is from natural sources, and when starting the energy generation process, their pollution impact is low – almost non-existent. They are undoubtedly the cleanest alternative so far.
- Since they come from biosources (like water, the Earth, or the Sun), alternative energies are, for the most part, inexhaustible.
- They create new jobs not only because of the increase in the drive to implement alternative energies but also due to the various types of employment (manufacturing, engineering, installation, etc.).
- They promote territories’ energy autonomy and independence since those areas would not depend on supply from countries with more conventional energy sources. As renewable energy sources, they are available practically everywhere on Earth’s surface.
- They encourage technological development for implementing solid production infrastructure and energy supply.