One or more of these 5 alternative energy sources may become our main source of electric power in the future…
The use of alternative energy sources outside of fossil fuels has grown in recent years as the cost of new technologies has come down and fossil fuel resources have become more scarce. Fossil fuels have served our energy needs for generations – but they have also led to environmental damage.
Consider the “greenhouse effect.” Trapped gases have led to significant temperature shifts on earth in recent decades. You can’t feel it yourself but you can see the results – changes in weather patterns (including violent and destructive storms) in various places across the globe as well as the increased melting of the polar ice caps. This had led to the recent push to find sustainable forms of renewable energy besides depending on coal, oil and natural gas for our energy needs.
Renewable energy options are much more sustainable as they are based on sources that won’t run out – plus, they are much less detrimental to the planet we live on.
Here are the top 5 alternative energy sources currently being used in the United States:
The first thing you may think of when you hear “hydroelectric power” is a water wheel. It harnesses the force of flowing water to generate energy. A good example of using water for power is the Hoover Dam. Right now water is the most common renewable source we have to use. There are many hydropower plants in the US – mostly on the Colorado River, the Tennessee Valley and in the north-west part of the country. The idea is to use a dam to hold the water which is then used to generate the electricity that is funneled to surrounding areas.
Wind power has been used to generate power for a number of years in several countries – though never before on such a large scale as it is today. Wind farms are cropping up in the US and countries around the world. They use windmills of different sizes to produce electricity without polluting the environment around them. Windmills can be huge and used to power businesses and homes, or very tiny and produce just enough power for small appliances. They are generally quiet and very efficient in areas that get adequate amounts of wind to power them (which is most areas of the U.S.)
This is one of the most talked-about forms of energy that has been in use on a small scale for some time. Now, businesses, schools and other operations are beginning to utilize this renewable source to offset their costs. When the sun shines, its energy can be collected in solar cells and batteries for use when needed. Some companies employ huge solar collecting grids to power large company buildings and complexes. This is a form of energy that is also being looked at as a potential energy source for remote areas in countries where there might not be an established power grid.
This is energy straight from our favorite source – the planet itself! In areas where there are viable geothermal pockets, power plants are being set up to harness the energy of underground hot water for heat and also for generation of electricity. Geothermal can also be a viable method of heating and (especially) cooling for individual residential homes.
Basically, this involves using plant material for energy – for example, using corn as fuel for cars as in ethanol. These plant materials and plant wastes are converted into a usable energy source via various methods. Some innovative companies are even using the methane from animal waste to create energy!
The options for alternative energy are growing all the time. Improved technology and widespread usage will make them even more viable and cost-effective in the years ahead. There may come a time when using fossil fuels to power our homes and cars is obsolete and we look back at it as something our “neanderthal” ancestors did!