What are Some Alternative Sources of Energy?

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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2017
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Alternative sources of energy are derived from sources that do not use up natural resources and do not harm the environment. They are alternatives to fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and large-scale hydroelectric power, which all are exhaustible energy sources that have varying degrees of harmful effects on the environment. Still, there are no alternative energy sources that are as commercially viable as oil, which along with coal are the main types of fossil fuels.

When considering alternatives to fossil fuels, most people think of solar energy, which is any of several different procedures used to harness energy that comes from the sun. The primary method used to convert sunlight into electricity is through the use of photovoltaic cells, which are arranged on solar panels in such a way that a maximum amount of sunlight is absorbed and turned into electricity. Currently, the biggest issue with solar power is the cost, since the solar cells and panels can be very expensive.

Another alternative energy source is wind energy, which uses large turbines to transform wind into electricity. Many of these turbines can be placed where wind is abundant, and wind farms can be connected to a power grid to which they contribute electricity. A windmill can also be used to harness wind energy, but rather than turning the wind into electricity, it converts the wind directly into mechanical motion to do work.

Some alternative sources of energy receive power from earthly sources, as in geothermal power, tidal power, and biomass. Geothermal power is derived from heat sources within the earth, such as natural geysers, and converts this heat into electricity. The harnessing of power from waves in the ocean and other bodies of water on the planet is known as tidal power. Biomass energy is obtained from organic material that comes from plants and animals, and it is known more commonly as a renewable energy source since it creates a waste by-product. All of these alternative energy sources must be researched heavily if any of them are ever going to replace fossil fuels as primary power sources throughout the world.


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Post 6

@ GenevaMech- You make a valid point about Hydroelectric power generation, and I would like to make a point about geothermal power generation. Besides small scale geothermal energy, i.e. geothermal heating and cooling, utility scale geothermal energy has reached current institutional capacity. All the shallow well geothermal sites have been developed. Most new utility scale geothermal development relies on resources that are much deeper underground. Tapping these geothermal resources is dangerous and can cause more problems than its worth. There is a risk of major earthquakes that can cost lives and cause millions in damage.

Drilling at a deep geothermal well site in Basel Switzerland has already caused an earthquake and, if I am not mistaken, has shut down development

of the site. We do not have the regulatory framework, the research, or the technology to safely drill these sites and deal with a large-scale disaster. This puts utility scale geothermal energy development low on the scale of alternate sources of energy that could have a significant impact as a solution to the global energy crisis.
Post 5

@ Anon33683- You are absolutely right. I would also like to point out the fact that hydroelectric energy is renewable, modern techniques are less damaging to the environment, and it would be considered alternative power. Hydroelectric energy includes tidal energy as well as traditional hydroelectric energy. Large-scale hydroelectric simply does not come into consideration because most large rivers across the globe are already dammed up. There are very few new sources of river based hydroelectric energy because it has reached capacity. For this reason, large scale hydroelectric, except for tidal based energy, is not considered as a viable alternative to reducing oil consumption or increasing energy security.

I would also like to add that hydroelectric power generation in itself does

not use up water resources. Water consumers both down river and up river are responsible for depleted water resources. The Hoover Dam is not preventing the Colorado from reaching the Gulf of California. Consumers in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico are responsible for depletion of the Colorado River Water Table.
Post 2

Alternative sources of energy *do use* natural resources, but they are renewable.

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