Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) are our most traditional source for power generation. Therefore, the energy that’s produced from any source other than fossil fuels is alternative energy. In other words, alternative energy is any amount of energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources. Generally speaking, using alternative energy has a low environmental impact.
Burning fossil fuels in power plants is hard also on the environment. We’re talking about everything from the ocean and air pollution to the destruction of entire ecosystems.
The good news is, that we’re now able to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas, thanks to the growth of alternative energy sources.
In this blog, Pritish Kumar, discuss the alternative source of energy such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc.
What Are the Most Commonly Used Alternative Energy Sources?
Here’s a quick-reference list of some of the most common sustainable energy resources that we use today.
1. Wind Energy
Over the past 10 years in the United States wind power has tripled , making wind energy the number one largest renewable energy source in the nation. Wind power is one of the alternative energy sources that serves both individuals and entire communities. It’s versatile, and can be produced from small-scale windmills or wind turbines on residential properties to large-scale offshore wind farms in the ocean.
2. Solar Energy
Solar power most commonly refers to the use of photovoltaic cells (or solar cells) to create energy. On a small scale, you may see a few solar panels on a house roof used to produce energy for just that one home. On a larger scale, you may see a solar farm used as a power plant to produce electricity for their consumers.
3. Hydroelectric Energy
Generated from the energy of moving water, hydroelectricity (also known as hydropower) is produced when water behind a dam causes turbine blades to move as it flows through an intake. The turbine blades then rotate a generator to produce electricity that is sent to power homes and businesses.
We generate geothermal power by tapping into underground reservoirs of hot water and steam. Geothermal electricity can directly heat and cool buildings.
We generate bioenergy from organic materials known as biomass or biofuels. Some examples would be recently living animal or plant byproducts and wood. For example, methane can be captured from landfills to produce bioenergy, which we then used to produce electricity and heat. Ethanol is one example of a biofuel that many people are familiar with.
Nuclear energy is created in the form of heat through the fission process of atoms. The initial fission process creates energy and triggers a chain reaction that repeats the process and generates more energy. In nuclear power plants, the heat that fission produces creates steam. The steam then rotates a turbine, which leads to the production of electricity.
7. Hydrogen Energy
Hydrogen is used as a clean-burning fuel, leading to fewer pollutants and a cleaner environment. We also use it for fuel cells. These are similar to batteries and are used to supply power to electric motors.
8. Tidal Energy
With the movement of the tides, we get tidal energy when the kinetic energy of the water movement converts into electrical energy. Of course, this is one of the location-specific sources of energy, but it’s very effective. Tidal energy is renewable and produces large amounts of energy even with low-speed tides.
9. Wave Energy
Wave energy is an alternative energy source derived from waves as they move across the water. This energy uses electricity generators placed on the ocean’s surface. Wave height, wavelength, wave speed, and water density determine the energy output. This energy is environmentally friendly, renewable, and harmless to the atmosphere.
What Are the Benefits of Using Alternative Energy Sources?
Other names for renewable energy that you may hear are clean energy or green energy. When we use renewable resources to produce energy, it’s much gentler on the environment than burning fossil fuels.
Let’s take a look at the environmental benefits of clean energy, along with the economic benefits it can offer:
Conserve fossil fuels: We generate renewable energy by tapping into virtually inexhaustible resources. When we use these natural resources, we’re allowed to conserve and extend our time with non-renewable fossil fuels, which are dangerously close to depletion.
Slow and reverse climate change: The top cause contributing to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States is electricity generation from fossil fuel power plants. Carbon dioxide and additional greenhouse gas emissions are leading contributors to climate change and global warming. Alternative energy sources have a much lower carbon footprint than natural gas, coal, and other fossil fuels. Switching to renewable energy sources to produce electricity will help the planet by slowing and reversing climate change.
Save lives: Making the switch to just hydropower, wind energy, and solar energy can potentially save up to 7 million lives each year by reducing air pollutants.
Reduce severe weather: By slowing the effects of climate change and eventually reversing them, we can expect to see a reduction in extreme weather like droughts, floods, and storms caused by global warming.
Minimize fuel dependency: We can diversify our energy supply by implementing the widespread use of large-scale renewable energy technologies and minimizing our imported fuel dependency.
Economic and job development: Producing even more utility-scale energy systems can create economic growth as well as jobs in the installation and manufacturing industries, not to mention the sustainable energy industry.
What’s the Difference Between Renewable and Alternative Energy Sources?
We now know that alternative energy sources are any source we use to supplement or even replace traditional energy sources used for power generation. You could almost say the same thing about renewable energy sources. But there is one subtle difference between the two. All renewable energy sources fall under the category of alternative energy sources, but it doesn’t work the other way around.
That’s because renewable energy sources are derived from naturally replenished sources or processes of Earth, such as the sun, wind, and water. We refer to these resources as renewable or sustainable (as in sustainable energy) since, unlike fossil fuels, this naturally occurring continual renewal makes them inexhaustible. However, it’s possible for there to be alternative energy sources that are exhaustible, and therefore not renewable.