Alternative Sources of Energy – A Comprehensive Guide

It is no secret that the earth’s resources are not unlimited. By consuming a lot of them in a very short period of time, humans are damaging the environment tremendously. That is how the need for alternative sources of energy came to be. But what exactly is an alternative energy source? Basically, it is energy obtained through processes that do not make use of our earth’s resources, and also don’t cause any type of harm to our environment. If you are wondering how they manage to do both of these things, the answer is mainly through not using any nuclear power or fossil fuels.

 

If you want to learn more about the main types of alternative sources of energy, then you should read on. Because today’s guide is going to look at solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal energy. We will tell you about how they work, how effective they are, and many more captivating pieces of information about out planet’s most common examples of renewable energy.

Comprehensive Guide to the Earth’s Most Important Alternative Sources of Energy

Solar Energy

Solar energy is one of the alternative sources of energy that people use the most. Is solar energy renewable or nonrenewable? The answer is 100% renewable. That is because solar energy works by drawing power from the sun. Since the sun won’t go away any time soon, its energy won’t either.

many solar panels in a field with mountains in background

People harness the power of the sun by using sun panels that you normally see in fields while you’re driving on the freeway. You can also find such panels on buildings in larger cities, or even on houses all around the globe, where people use solar energy for their household activities.

If you are wondering why solar energy is an alternative energy source, it is because it does not pollute the environment one bit. It does not require burning of fossil fuels or release any greenhouse gases either. After you install the solar panels, they will store energy from the sun and use it to create electricity even at night or during cloudy days. Moreover, apart from the initial investment in the installation, the energy is entirely free.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is another one of the world’s alternative sources of energy that is completely renewable as well. That means that the wind will never stop blowing. So as long as we build wind turbines to harness it, we will always be able to make use of wind energy for electricity purposes.

many wind turbines in a field at sunset

Same as solar energy, wind energy does not pollute the environment in any way. Plus, it is also free once we install the wind turbines, and we can use it both on land and at sea. The only disadvantage regarding the use of wind energy would be that there are places where the wind doesn’t blow as strongly. This impedes the installation of wind turbines there.

However, people have come up with another way of harnessing the wind’s strength and turning it into energy. What we’re talking about are offshore wind turbines, or turbines we can find at sea. Why can we consider them a great alternative to land turbines? Well, because at sea, the wind always blows more forcibly. Which means that people can enjoy a lot of energy coming from offshore wind turbines. Moreover, they are not as visible as the land ones, so they don’t interfere with human activities either.

Hydroelectric Energy

Moving water is another source of energy that is considered alternative, for the same reason the other two we have already discussed are: it is a better alternative to burning coal and fossil fuels. Why is it better? Because it creates energy by using water that does not go to waste anyway. It simply goes back to its source.

The way people make use of moving water to create electricity is through building power stations and dams. These power stations have turbines that convert mechanical energy coming from the moving water into electrical energy by using generators.

view of the water dam at itaipu

Even though building and maintaining power stations is rather costly, the energy per se is free. That is because water is free and it can be used continuously. Moreover, like all other alternative sources of energy, this one too doesn’t hurt or pollute the environment.

Biomass Energy

If you thought you can find no possible use for human waste, we are here to tell you it is in fact possible. Actually, this is precisely what biomass energy does. It creates electricity from human and animal waste, as well as from agricultural and industrial one.

wood cuttings to be used for alternative sources of energy

This too is one of the greatest examples of renewable energy, since it accomplishes two things at once. First of all, it helps us get rid of waste that would occupy a lot of space. We can use that space later for other human activities. Second of all, it uses said waste to create energy that does not damage the environment.

By using combustion, people turn waste into energy in an environmental-friendly way. Since there is a lot of energy in waste, burning it releases it in the form of heat. We then use that heat to produce electricity.

Geothermal Energy

Finally, geothermal energy is energy that people collect from the earth. If we think about that for a second, we will realize that geothermal energy is yet another great example of alternative sources of energy. That is because the earth will always produce heat, which means that geothermal energy is renewable. Furthermore, it does not pollute the environment, nor it causes any damage to it whatsoever.

illustration of extracting geothermal energy process

People use what we call geothermal heat pumps to extract steam from the earth’s surface. This steam is what makes turbines turn, which later allows generators to work and create electricity. The great news is that a lot of people on earth can make use of geothermal energy. They can also save money at the same time, since they don’t need any fuel for this type of renewable energy. However, we should keep in mind that geothermal power stations are extremely expensive to install.

Everything Summed up

Seeing how humans have managed to come up with so many alternative sources of energy could make anyone optimistic about our planet’s future. Which would not be out of place, as long as more countries start using them. However, using them is not enough. We also have to come up with new and effective ways of minimizing costs and maximizing their potential. Even though there are plenty of costs associated with alternative sources of energy, there’s no denying that our planet has much more to benefit from them than from traditional energy sources. With the earth’s resources diminishing fast, it makes sense to invest as much as possible in alternative sources of energy.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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