Energy is not running out, nor will it ever run out. The problem is not that fewer energy resources are available, but that the political and environmental consequences of the current energy consumption, well, stink. Hence, the drive for alternatives. The following article introduces the alternatives to fossil fuels.
Alternatives to Fossil Fuels
The alternatives to fossil fuels are:
1. Solar power
Solar power uses sunshine to create both heat and electricity, as well as passive heating and cooling effects in buildings. Although there are other ways to take advantage of solar power the main focus is the direct conversion of radiation. This includes photovoltaic panels and solar liquid heating schemes. Large-scale solar farms can provide entire communities with enough electrical and heating power to make the communities self-sufficient.
2. Nuclear power
Nuclear power harnesses the tremendous energies from both the splitting and fusing of atoms. Many people think that nuclear is not an alternative energy source.
3. Wind power
Wind turbines harness the power of the wind to generate electricity. Wind power is a renewable and clean energy source that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Wind turbines are typically located in windy areas such as coastlines or mountain passes and can be either onshore or offshore. Wind energy is dependent on weather conditions but with advances in technology, wind turbines are becoming more efficient and cost-effective.
Hydropower comes from dams which provide high-pressure water flows that spin turbines, thereby creating electricity. It can be exploited on both a macro level (huge dams can be built to create statewide electrical power on the biggest rivers) and on the micro level (people can put hydropower generators in backyard rivers and streams).
Geothermal power takes heat from the earth and redistributes it into a building or uses the heat to generate electrical power. It’s available in tremendous quantities, but it’s difficult to extract and takes a lot of capital equipment. On a more general level, heat pumps (the kind in many homes) are a source of geothermal energy, so geothermal energy can be practical and effective on a micro level.
6. Biomass and wood
Biomass is sawgrass, mulch, corn and so on. These materials are either burned in their raw form or processed into liquid fuels or solid fuels. Wood, the most common biomass, is used to heat homes throughout the country.
7. Hydrogen fuel cells
Hydrogen fuel cells produce electrical power from nothing more than hydrogen, which is completely free of carbon. The exhaust is water. Hydrogen fuel cells combine oxygen and hydrogen to produce water and electrical energy. There’s an amazing potential to solve a lot of the world’s environmental problems, should fuel cells pan out like some people think they will. The technologies are years off, however. And some major difficulties may never be overcome. But the promise remains bright and a lot of development money is now being invested in fuel cells.
8. Electric vehicles
Electric vehicles use only electricity to power the drive train. The electricity comes from heavy batteries, but battery technologies are getting better and all-electric vehicles are now becoming economically competitive with conventional, internal-combustion vehicles. It should be mentioned that electric vehicles need to get their electrical power from somewhere and that “somewhere” is likely the power grid, which itself consumes a lot of coal and emits a lot of pollution.
9. Hybrid vehicles
Hybrid vehicles are a combination of electric and internal-combustion powertrains. When power requirements are low, the vehicle operates in electrical mode. When more power is needed or when the electric batteries are near depletion, an internal-combustion engine provides power.
Biofuels are made of biomass products such as corn. Corn ethanol is now being added to most gasoline supplies in the United States. Despite the high energy consumption in the refining process, biofuels allow the U.S. to import less foreign oil and so the political effects are desirable. Biofuels may either be used in their pure form or mixed with fossil fuels.
In conclusion, the world is facing a critical need for alternative energy sources to address the negative consequences of current energy consumption. The alternatives to fossil fuels range from solar power, nuclear power, wind power, hydropower, geothermal, biomass and wood, hydrogen fuel cells, electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and biofuels. Each alternative has its own strengths and weaknesses and all of them offer a glimpse of hope for a more sustainable and cleaner energy future. With continued investment and innovation, it is possible to transition towards a world powered by clean energy and mitigate the negative impacts of energy consumption.