Alternative Energies and their Impact on the Future
Michael J. Jacob
Effective Essay Writing
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 suns 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 used to contain the reaction and the steam created turns a turbine and creates electricity. That electricity is then fed into the power grid by transmission lines. Considering the environment, nuclear power has pluses and minuses; more radioactivity escapes a coal burning power-plant then escapes from a nuclear plant. Another benefit for the environment is less mining of ore because ???a single ton of uranium produces more energy than a million tons of coal??? (Naik, 2008). Nuclear power makes up 16% of the worlds energy (Lamb, 2008). There are many more forms of alternative energy devices that are still being developed, until then we are still dependent on fossil fuels.
The amount of crude oil (decomposed animals and plants, 100s of millions of years old) (Dictionary, 2010) left under the earth is still up for debate. Most geologists agree that the hay-day of crude oil is drawing to a close. ???There is lots of oil out there,??? said Karl Kurz, vice president of marketing and minerals for Anadarko Petroleum.? ???But it??™s a finite resource; we can??™t get around that. Eventually, you??™re going to get to the point where there??™s not any more to find??? (Schoen, 2004). Crude oil is the base of many products people use everyday. Petroleum (gasoline) is one of the products made from crude oil. As crude oil is depleted the price for gasoline will rise and so will the costs of many other products because of higher shipping costs. The burning of crude oil products releases Carbon Dioixide, Carbon Monoxide, Sulphur Dioxide and a few more chemicals, which are helping to destroy the atmosphere.
Coal is another fossil fuel used by people every day, whether they reailize it or not. ???Most coal mined in the United States is burned to make electricity, about one billion tons per year??? (Unknown, Energy Kids, 2009). One quarter of the world??™s coal reserves are found within the United States, supplying more than half the electricity consumed by Americans; it is also used in the making of steel. Coal is formed over millions of years of decomposition and compression of fossilized plant debris. ???Most experts agree that we have at least a couple hundred years worth of coal remaining, perhaps more ???(Anissimov, 2010). With new improvements in filtering most of the chemicals released from burning coal are captured and used for other purposes, this is known as ???clean coal.???
The final common fossil fuel is natural gas. Natural gas is a by-product of both coal mining and oil production. Natural gas (methane) is made when prehistoric animal and plant life decomposes under the ground under high pressure; as these plant and animal remains decompose natural gas is given off. ???The most current estimates put the Natural gas reserves at roughly six thousand trillion cubic feet, which equates to between only 60 and 65 years worth of supply??? (Chapo, 2006) but more deposits are still being found.
New fossil fuel deposits are still be looked for under the Earth with modern sonar imaging technology. But most experts agree that even with new technologies fossil fuels will be exhausted in the next 100 to 200 years. Fossil fuels are not renewable resources; once they are gone they are gone. This is why alternative energies must be utilized to offset the eventual elimination of fossil fuels. Wind and solar power are renewable energies that will someday help to power the world. Hydro and nuclear power, while good sources of energy, have their drawbacks for long-term use. Although fossil fuel supplies seem strong for the foreseeable future, it is important to understand that they are not renewable resources; they will run out one-day.
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