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Alternative Energies and Their Impact on the Future

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Alternative Energies and their Impact on the Future

Michael J. Jacob

Axia College

Effective Essay Writing


Tara Smith

May 12, 2010

Alternative Energies and their Impact on the Future

Alternative energies are sources of power other than what is considered a normal form of energy. Normal forms of energy include oil, coal and natural gas; these are known as fossil fuels. Wind, solar, hydro and nuclear power are forms of alternative energies. In the future other sources of energy must be found because fossil fuels are being depleted at an alarming rate. This essay of potential alternative forms of energy is in no particular order, merely a short list of many types of alternative energies and fossil fuels.

The first form of alternative energy, wind power, or wind generation as it is more commonly known, is a good, clean, safe form of alternative energy. Wind generation works by wind turning the blades of a wind turbine that are connected to an electrical generator that makes electricity. The electricity can then either be stored in batteries for personal consumption or fed into the electrical power grid for a rebate from the electrical company. The electrical power grid is the electricity distributing network that brings power to homes, e.g. power lines. The Devon Association for Renewable Energies, who promotes renewable energy sources, states, "Electricity produced by renewable sources is attracting competitive rates because of the governments Renewable Obligation Certificates that guarantee the price of renewably generated electricity" (DARE, 2009). With the rising of gas and coal prices, wind generation is becoming more economically competitive (Energy, 2005).Wind generation uses no fossil fuels like gasoline so, the price fluctuations in gas prices do not affect wind generation prices (Energy, 2005). The original start-up costs of a wind turbine can be expensive but pay for themselves in as little as six to eight months (in large scale wind farms) (energykids, 2009), depending on the rate of electric generation. In a residential home wind turbines take more than eight years of use to pay themselves off. Another benefit of using wind generation is that, it does not hurt the atmosphere. With no gasoline powered engine in a wind turbine there are no exhaust gases to damage the ozone. Because there are no exhaust gases, farmers can grow agriculture up to and around wind turbines without damaging crops in any way (Biello, 2009).The wind turbine can be recycled after the wind turbines lifespan has been used up, after removing the foundations there is no residual damage to the environment (Biello, 2009). Wind power works best when used in conjunction with solar power. If it is not sunny it is usually windy and vice-versa.

The next type of alternative energy is solar power. When most people think about alternative energy, they think about solar power. Solar power systems once installed are nearly maintenance free. The solar panel itself does not have any moving parts; it is only a collector for the system. Let's first find out how a solar power system works. "The sun's light (and all light) contains energy. Usually, when light hits an object the energy turns into heat, like the warmth you feel while sitting in the sun. But when light hits certain materials like silicon the energy turns into an electrical current instead, which we can then harness for power" (Locke, 2008). The power is run through an inverter that changes the current into AC, Alternating Current, which we use in our homes. That AC power can then be stored into batteries for times when the sun is not shining or sold back to the electric company for money. With generous tax breaks from the government and federal energy credits for installing new solar power systems (Bocchine, 2007), the benefits of this form of alternative energy are growing.

Hydro-power is one of the oldest forms of alternative energy. It is also one of the least discussed forms because hydro-electric plants are expensive to build. Waterwheels and windmills have been used to harness rivers and streams of water power for centuries. Hydro- electric power is a tried and tested form of alternative energy; with the proper water supply; hydro electric plants require vast amounts of water to be reliable and consistent (Perlman, 2010). A hydro-electric plant is a giant undertaking and takes many years of construction to complete and receive power. Hydro-electric power comes from passing water by an enclosed water-wheel that turns an electrical generator. Power from a hydro-electric powerplant, once hooked to the power grid, is instantaneous when the facility is operational (Biello, 2009). There are other forms of hydro-power; one has to do with wave energy. Wave energy has many forms; the frontrunner in wave energy is a device that uses the water pressure in a cylinder to blow forced air past a wind turbine, which is attached to an electric generator.

Another form of hydro-power (water power) is tidal energy." Tidal energy is one of the oldest forms of energy. Tide mills, in use on the Spanish, French and British coasts, date back to 787 A.D" (Davor, 2008). Although there are many types of tidal energy, there are three basic proto-types; the horizontal type, drawing energy from the rise and fall of tidal pools; the horizontal type, drawing energy from the ebb and flow of tidal pools and the oscillating type, which uses a submerged paddle on a fixed axis to catch the movement of incoming and outgoing waves ( EMEC, 2008). "Wave energy technology has great potential but still has to be proven" (EMEC, 2008). Only time will tell which form of alternative energy generator works the best.

Another form of alternative energy is nuclear power. Nuclear power has been a source of alternative energy since, "Nuclear energy was first discovered accidentally by French physicist Henri Becquerel in 1896" (Energy O. , 2008). Nuclear power works this way; Uranium atoms collide with water atoms and a chain reaction occurs. The chain reaction gives off radioactivity; the radioactivity is contained within what is called a reactor. "A reactor is typically a meter-thick concrete and steel structure" (Reactorpower, 2008). Heat is generated from the reaction process, the heat boils water



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