It is no secret that we are running out of fossil fuels, which is why it is crucial to replace this form of energy with cleaner, alternative power sources. There are many sources of clean energy that are renewable and considered to be sustainable that can replace fossil fuels. The future of power lies with alternative power sources that harness natural processes without harming the environment or depleting environmental resources to create energy. Renewable energy involves natural phenomena such as wind, water, sunlight and geothermal heat. Since they are derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly, alternative energy resources are suited to replace fossil fuels while reducing global warming effects.
Here is a list of the top 5 alternative power sources today:
- Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity. Solar powered electrical generation relies on photovoltaics and heat engines. It’s one of the fastest growing energy sources, as solar cells are becoming more efficient, transportable and even flexible, allowing for easy installation. In 2011, the International Energy Agency said, “The development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global.” Solar Energy is one of the most rising sustainable resources that can help solve worldwide energy insecurity. However, solar power plants can only generate power when it is sunny, and no power can be created at night or when it is cloudy. As a result, energy storage is critical, however most modern energy systems assume continuous availability of energy. In spite of new technologies, energy storage remains the main obstacle for the wide-scale development of solar energy.
- Wind Energy: Wind power is the harnessing of wind through turbines to create electricity. America currently is the leader in wind power. Globally, the long-term technical potential of wind energy is believed to be able to supply alone the current global energy demand. Wind power, as an alternative to fossil fuels, is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation and uses little land compared to solar power plants. The overall cost per unit of energy produced is similar to the cost for new coal and natural gas installations. Wind power is a popular form of energy generation, however, the construction of wind farms is not globally welcomed. The problem with this type of power is that turbines destroy natural scenic views and generate noise pollution.
- Hydroelectricity is power derived from the energy of failing water which can be harnessed and used. Since water is about 800 times denser than air, even a slow flowing stream of water, can yield considerable amounts of energy. Once a hydro power plant is constructed, the project produces no direct waste. However, the number of water sources limits the development of hydroelectric power stations, which is why underwater tide turbines within the oceans may be another great alternative power source to harness power from the natural flow of water.
- Geothermal Energy is a very powerful and efficient way to extract renewable heat from the Earth to create electricity. Earth’s geothermal energy originates from the formation of the planet (20%) and from radioactive decay of minerals (80%). Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, but for now, it can only be used in areas where there is tectonic activity. Unfortunately, drilling is involved with geothermal extraction, which releases greenhouse gases trapped deep within the Earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help reduce global warming if widely deployed in place of fossil fuels.
- Biomass Energy is extracted from biomass, which is biological material from living, or recently living, organisms. Plant matter such as dead trees and branches, yard clippings and wood chips can be used to generate electricity. The production of biomass is a growing industry as interest in sustainable fuel sources is also growing. The existing commercial biomass power generating industry in the United States produces about 0.5 percent of the U.S. electricity supply. Currently, the New Hope Power Partnership is the largest biomass power plant in North America. The facility reduces dependence on oil by more than one million barrels per year, and by recycling sugar cane and wood waste, preserves landfill space in urban communities in Florida.
These alternative power sources may not be ready for wide-scale adoption today, however, they are on their way, and continue to replace fossil fuels at growing rates.