Alternative energy sources have become one of the most discussed topics across the globe and particularly in the United States over the past decade. As the demand for oil related products has increased and domestic production and exploration has decreased; prices have soared. This has hit Americans hard in the wallet. With an economic recession, and soaring prices for gasoline and electricity, many consumers are looking for ways to reduce the cost of living. Our purpose here is not to debate the effects of carbon emissions or the realities of global warming; but, to offer some facts about things you can do to reduce the amount you spend each month on home energy. So let’s leave the scientific debate to the scientists, activists, and politicians and concentrate on taking care of our own little part of the world. The term “alternative energy sources” involves two different types of energy: renewable and nonrenewable.
Renewable-Here, we’re talking about energy that is not produced by the burning or other use of finite resources, such as oil, coal, or natural gas. The following are the most common sources of renewable energy.
- Solar-Most of you already know that solar energy is produced from the heat of the sun, making it an unlimited source. Historically the cost of harnessing solar power has been too high to justify it’s use as an alternative to traditional energy sources. However, new technologies in recent years, along with government grants and tax credits, have made it more practical. Some cost effective uses of solar energy include: water heating, swimming pool equipment, and exterior lighting.
- Wind-Wind has been used as a source of energy for centuries; most commonly, as a means of pumping water for crops. In recent years wind has come to be viewed as viable replacement to oil and gas in the production of electricity. Many large wind farms are currently powering large numbers of communities throughout the world.
- Hydro-Hydro electricity is power that is generated by the force of water. This concept of using water to generate energy has been used for centuries and power from man made waterfalls and dams is one of the largest alternative energy sources in the world.
Nonrenewable-Energy that is generated through the burning of finite resources, such as oil, natural gas, or coal are nonrenewable. Alternative energy, generally, means an alternative to oil. While the United States uses far more oil than is produced domestically; we possess far greater supplies of other nonrenewable energy sources.
- Natural Gas-Natural gas currently produces a large percentage of the nations electricity and is the most common source of power for heating homes. In recent years there’s has been a big push in some sectors to natural with wind and solar for home energy, then use natural gas as an alternative to gasoline and diesel in automobiles, thereby reducing our dependency on oil. The upside of natural gas is the abundant supply in the United States.
- Coal-Coal has long been one of the world’s most significant sources of energy and is still widely used. However, due to the high levels of carbon emissions, there has been a big push by environmentalists to eliminate the use of coal burning power plants. There has been a lot of talk about clean coal technologies, which involve the cleaning and removal of the impurities in coal that produce carbon emissions, then using it to produce a form of natural gas. I would expect the research to continue in light of the huge amounts of coal we possess.
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