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What is Alternative Energy?

Alternative energy is a term used for an energy source that is an alternative to using fossil fuels. It indicates energies that are non-traditional and have a low environmental impact. The alternative energy term refers to that energy that does not increase humanity's carbon trace and doesn't harm the environment.

The term alternative is used to contrast with fossil fuels according to some sources. It includes things like nuclear facilities, hydroelectric power, natural gas and clean coal. It is also used to refer to what are currently considered to be non-traditional methods of energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and other recent additions.

Another factor is that alternative energy sources are considered clean, which means they don't produce harmful pollutants. This can refer to carbon dioxide and other emissions like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, etc. Within these parameters, nuclear energy is not considered an alternative energy source because it produces radioactive waste that is highly toxic and must be stored.

In all cases, the term refers to that energy, which will replace fossil fuels and coal as the predominant form of energy production in the coming decades.

Renewable energy sources are also the same as alternative energy sources. Renewable energy is an energy that is generated from natural processes that are continuously replenished. It includes sunlight, geothermal heat, wind, tides, water, and various forms of biomass. This energy cannot be exhausted and is constantly renewed.

Types of Alternative Energy

There are many types of alternative energy. The term was used in the past to refer to any method that was considered non-mainstream at the time. But applying the term broadly to mean alternatives to coal and fossil fuels, it can include all of the following, such as:

1. Hydroelectricity

It refers to hydroelectric dams' energy, where falling water, such as rivers or canals, are channeled through an apparatus to spin turbines and generate electricity.

2. Solar Power

Solar power energy harnessed directly from the Sun, where photovoltaic cells convert the Sun's rays directly into electrical energy. In some cases, the heat produced by sunshine is harnessed to produce electricity, known as solar-thermal power.

3. Nuclear Power

Nuclear power energy is produced through slow-fission reactions. Rods of uranium or other radioactive elements heat water to generate steam, spinning turbines to generate electricity.

4. Wind Power

Wind power energy is generated by airflow, where large wind-turbines are spun by the wind to generate electricity.

5. Tidal Power

Tidal power energy is generated by tidal harnesses located around shorelines. Here, the daily changes in tides cause water to flow back and forth through turbines, generating electricity that is then transferred to power stations along the shore.

6. Geothermal Power

Geothermal power energy is generated by heat and steam produced by geological activity in the Earth's crust. In most cases, this consists of pipes being placed in the ground above geologically active zones to channel steam through turbines, thus generating electricity.

7. Biomass

Biomass refers to fuels derived from plants and biological sources, such as ethanol, glucose, algae, fungi, and bacteria that could replace gasoline as a fuel source.

8. Hydrogen

Hydrogen energy is derived from processes involving hydrogen gas. This can include catalytic converters, where water molecules are broken apart and reunited by electrolysis hydrogen fuel cells.

The gas is used to power internal combustion engines or heated and used to spin turbines or nuclear fusion, atoms of hydrogen fuse under controlled conditions to release incredible amounts of energy.

9. Wood Fuel

Wood has been used as a source of energy, mainly as heat, since prehistory, but fossil fuels largely replaced wood fuel after the mid-20th century. Wood burning stoves are becoming increasingly sought because wood fuel is both a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of energy for heating.

Although wood-burning emits carbon dioxide, it is considered carbon-neutral because it has absorbed the carbon dioxide released while it was growing.

10. Biomethane

It is a green alternative to natural gas and is chemically identical to the latter. The main difference between natural gas and biomethane is that the latter is produced from organic waste.

As far as the application is concerned, biomethane can be used for the same purposes as natural gas, including heating, electricity generation, and fuel vehicles.

Alternative and Renewable Energy

In many cases, alternative sources of energy are also renewable. But, the terms are not entirely interchangeable due to this fact that many forms of alternative energy rely on a finite resource. For example, nuclear power relies on uranium or other heavy elements that must be mined.

Meanwhile, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and hydroelectric power all rely on entirely renewable sources. The Sun's rays are the richest energy source, while limited by weather and diurnal patterns.

Advantages of Alternative Energy

The conventional sources of energy, especially coal and oil, are causing permanent damage to the environment and getting very expensive. Alternative energy offers a solution for the rising demand for energy, such as:

  • Increased energy security: Fossil fuels are unequally distributed and make the global economy dependent on a few exporting countries.
    Thus, alternative energy utilization significantly reduces dependence on global energy supplies, which increases energy security by providing a stable and cost-effective energy supply.
  • Environmental benefits: Low or zero carbon emission is, without a doubt, the main advantage of alternative energy over fossil fuels.
    Solar and wind power virtually produce zero carbon emissions. At the same time, wood provides sustainable, environmentally friendly and inexpensive energy for heating. Of course, under condition, the firewood is sourced in sustainably managed forests and burned inefficient wood-burning stoves.
  • Sustainability: Unlike the traditional types of energy, which are non-renewable, alternative forms of energy are renewable, which means that they offer sustainable and stable energy supply in the long term.

Disadvantages of Alternative Energy

Alternative energy is also having some disadvantages and challenges, such as:

  • Low efficiency: Alternative energy technologies are relatively new in offices and are not particularly efficient. This poses a problem with feasibility because the investment may not return, even in the long term.
    As a result, private investors' interest in green technologies remains relatively low, while the Government can finance only a certain amount of investments at a time.
  • High cost: Unfortunately, the technologies that utilize alternative sources of energy remain relatively expensive. This has a major influence on the prices of energy, which causes concerns about adverse economic effects.
    A large segment of the industry depends heavily on cheap energy to keep up with fierce global competition.
  • Issues with the system's stability: The energy sector seeks alternative solutions to lower carbon dioxide emissions and meet the rising demand for energy.
    For the energy supply system to remain stable, the supply must meet the demand. And with current technologies available, alternative energy types, such as solar energy, cannot produce enough energy to meet the demand.

Alternative Energy Future Scope

Wider adopting alternative energy sources depends on even more efficient renewable technologies and the electric utility industry restructuring.

With renewable energy, generating clean energy is possible on a domestic level, with technology such as solar panels, heat pumps, and biomass boilers to utilize energy mostly whether or time-dependent to its full potential.

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