Types of Alternative Energy
The Different Types of Alternative Energy Sources
Alternative Energy is defined primarily as a renewable and sustainable source of energy. But there are many different types of alternative energy sources available from solar, to wind, to hydro, so lets first start by stating exactly what “can not” be defined as a type of alternative energy.
Nuclear power is NOT a type of alternative energy – While it is true that nuclear energy is a cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels and that nuclear power plants do not pollute the air with poisonous carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide or nitrogen oxide emissions as do fossil fuels, nuclear power still falls into the fossil fuel category just like coal so cannot be classed as a type of alternative energy. Uranium supplies are a natural resource of the earth, and are being depleted just like coal every day, making them more expensive to extract and process as time goes by.
Nuclear processing and nuclear power plants produce radioactive waste which can give rise to environmental disasters. Also, nuclear is not a viable solution for transportation or can used domestically. So while nuclear energy represents a shift away from burning conventional fossil fuels it is more a traditional form of energy, not an alternative form.
Increasing fossil fuel efficiency is NOT a type of alternative energy – It is a reality that fossil fuels will continue to be an important energy resource for decades to come. Reducing the amount of greenhouse gases dumped into our atmosphere by burning fossil fuels more cleanly, developing clean coal technologies or by improving the way we use and burn fossil fuels making them a more efficient source of power generating little or no carbon dioxide gas, for example storing toxic emissions underground, may be an improvement on the current situation but it is not an alternative to the different types of alternative energy available.
Burning wood instead of coal is NOT a type of alternative energy – While it is true that wood is a non-fossil and renewable (trees grow) combustion fuel, burning wood creates smoke, ash, soot and more mess than other types of combustible fuels put together. Burning wood in open fires is inefficient and very smoky, releasing large amounts of particulates into the atmosphere as the type of wood being burnt is usually of poor quality, freshly cut, damp or is scrap wood due to the fact that the higher quality virgin woods and lumber are used in building construction or for making furniture.
The burning of wood for energy results in large scale deforestation, degradation of the land and even illegal logging as vast areas of trees are cut down. Also, the cutting down of trees for firewood disturbs the natural ecosystem and habitats of the animals which themselves may become endangered or extinct before we know it. Then while burning wood may be a sustainable source, it is not an alternative to the different types of alternative energy sources available.
On the positive side, sustainable forest management ensures adequate supplies of fuel wood as new trees are planted once the old ones are cut down. Wood pellets and wood briquettes are dry, compressed Biomass fuels made from waste sawdust, shavings, wood chips, and other woodland waste formed from the residues and by-products of the mechanical wood processing industry.
When used as a heating fuel, these processed woody materials produce more energy than conventional fuel wood. Also improvements in combustion furnaces and wood burning stoves reduce expenditure on fuel wood usage as well as processing loose wood, chippings, sawdust and other forms of woody materials into smaller compacted wood pellets.
Now that hopefully we have a better understanding of what are not alternative energies, let’s look at what are the different types of alternative energy sources.
Types of Alternative Energy and Definitions
Well basically alternative energy sources are types of energy fuels that can be used instead of burning fossil fuels with the most common forms of Alternative Energy Sources being:-
- Solar Energy – Solar energy is the main type of alternative energy sources. It is the radiant electromagnetic energy derived from sunlight and as such is the earth’s most abundant and freely available renewable energy resource. The solar energy from the sun can be converted into electrical energy by using solar photovoltaic cells. The suns energy can be used to produce an alternative source of energy sometimes known as Solar Power… Learn More >>
- Solar Hot Water – Solar heating is another type of alternative energy source that uses the heat from the sun to heat water flowing through a set of pipes enclosed within a panel, commonly called a “Solar Thermal Collector”. This solar collector is often sited on a roof which in turn converts the heat from the sun into hot water or is used to help heat a room or space. Unfortunately the demands of the average solar heating system are at their highest when the sun is at its weakest, during the night…. Learn More >>
- Wind Energy – Wind energy is power or energy derived from the movement of the wind. Wind energy is captured by windmills, sails, and more commonly wind turbines. Wind turbines harness the power of the wind by converting its kinetic energy into rotational mechanical energy which is then used to drive an electrical generator. The electrical generator in turn converts this mechanical energy into electricity. Excess electricity can be stored in batteries and used when there is no wind…. Learn More >>
- Hydro Energy – Hydro energy is the most commercially available type of alternative energy resource that uses the energy or power produced by moving water. The most common form of hydro energy or hydro power uses dams or barriers to form large reservoirs of water which can then be used to rotate electrical turbine generators producing electricity. Small scale hydro systems uses the rotational movement of water wheels to drive small DC generators…. Learn More >>
- Tidal Energy – Tidal energy is another form of hydro power that uses the kinetic energy of the oceans in the form of the tide, to move a huge amount of water twice each day as the tide goes in and out. These tidal currents are used by tidal turbine generators to generate electricity in much the same way as wind turbines use the wind. Tidal energy turbines operate just below the seas surface or are fixed to the sea bed. Another type of tidal system uses tidal barrages to generate electricity…. Learn More >>
- Geothermal Energy – Geothermal is a types of alternative energy source that uses the natural heat from the Earth’s core to generate electricity or to heat buildings. A good example of geothermal heat is in the form of hot springs or geysers that eject heated water or steam. Geothermal energy comes from the hot areas under the surface of the Earth crust that remain at a relatively constant temperature. This buried heat is extracted using a series of…. Learn More >>
- Biomass Energy – Biomass refers to the solid fuel made from plant materials such as wood, peat, straw and crops grown specifically to be burnt as fuels used to generate heat and power. Bioenergy is the energy derived from the Biomass (organic matter) which is sustainable as new crops and trees are grown to replace those that have been harvested. Generally biomass is carbon neutral because the carbon released in the burning process is offset by the carbon taken out of the atmosphere…. Learn More >>
With over 80% of the worlds energy supply coming from fossil fuels because they are convenient and relatively cheap to produce and transport, different types of alternative energy sources are now being used. But burning fossil fuels in the form of coal and petrol releases harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere resulting in Global Warming and the Green House Effect due to atmospheric pollution.
Depleting fossil fuel resources and increasing environmental pollution has led to the research of Alternative Energy Sources with the basic concept of alternative energy being sustainability, renewability and a reduction in the amount of global pollution produced.
But some of these types of alternative energy sources are not new. For centuries people have harnessed the power of running water in rivers and streams for a variety of needs, particularly for farming and transport. Water wheels and windmills have been used for thousands of years to grind corn or flour to make bread and a variety of different foods. Even passive solar energy to warm homes and dry clothes. While some forms of these types of alternative energy sources are really improvements of long-existing technologies, others are genuinely new, such as bioenergy and solar panels.