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Powering the Future: Alternative Energy Sources pros and cons

Alternative Energy Sources – Introduction

The world is rapidly changing, and the environment needs to change with it. Alternative energy sources are the key to a sustainable future for our planet. This blog post will discuss alternative energy sources that exist today and how they can help power your home, business, or vehicle.

solar power Alternative Energy Sources

First, let’s start with the most traditional alternative energy source:

Solar Power

Solar panels use light to create electricity, and they are an excellent choice for anyone who wants a long-term investment in their home or business. They can provide you with decades of clean power and have no moving parts, making them highly durable. This also means that there is very little maintenance required on your part so this type of alternative energy is one of the easiest ones to install yourself if you choose to do it yourself!

Pros

  • Solar power is a sustainable form of clean energy;
  • Solar power does not produce any air pollution;
  • Solar power creates less carbon dioxide emissions when compared to coal plants;

Cons

  • Solar power is expensive to install;
  • Only available during the daytime.
  • There is a need for batteries and other storage methods to store solar energy for use at night.

Although solar power can be expensive, it is also a sustainable alternative energy source. Solar panels are also environmentally friendly because they do not create air pollution.

It is difficult for solar panels to store energy at night, so people usually rely on electricity from the grid. However, solar panels have been improved, meaning that they can now store more energy and provide light for more extended periods of time when there is no sun.

The price of solar power is decreasing, and soon it will be cheaper than regular electricity prices.

Wind Power

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a more useful form. A turbine functions by capturing the wind in its blades, spinning it around a rotor, and transmitting power to a generator whose rotating coils create an electric current in response to the changing magnetic field produced by a moving wire (field coil). Wind turbines are used to generate electricity from the kinetic energy of that air moving winds.

The winding generates output voltages, which are then changed (rectified) into direct current to feed the grid.

The modern wind turbines date back to the 1960-70s when governments started connecting grids and linking remote rural areas to the primary power grid. The increased standard of living in rural communities required a wired power connection and further increased the demand for wind power. The turbines used in those days are not much different from the ones used today, aside from design modifications to maximize efficiency.

Pros

  • Wind power can be a low-cost, pollution-free form of energy.
  • This form of energy is environmentally friendly and renewable.

Cons

  • It does not have as much potential as some other forms of alternative energy.
  • Wind power is not as widely available in some areas of the world.
  • The wind may be unreliable for many consumers.

Types of Wind Turbines

There are two major types of turbines: horizontal-axis and vertical-axis turbines. Horizontal-axis turbines are by far the most common type. However, all vertical turbine designs have been growing lately due to their quietness and relatively good generating capacity, particularly at low speeds.

Horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT) wind generators produce electrical power using a rotor mounted on a mast atop a tower, connected through a gearbox or speed increaser inside the nacelle to a ground-level generator. These wind generators are used extensively to produce power for homes, telecommunications dishes, water pumps, and numerous other uses.

Geothermal

Geothermal energy is the internal heat of the earth. The word geothermal comes from two Greek words Geo, meaning earth, and thermos, meaning heat. So for an extended period in history, people believed that the ground was hot due to internal fire inside the planet’s core. But now we know that it is much more complicated than that – while there are small pockets that produce natural flames, they are not nearly enough to cause any dangerous effect on our planet or its inhabitants.

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Experts estimate that those tiny pockets make up only 1% of the total energy capacity available per year, with most other geothermal energy coming from magma deep below ground.

The earth’s magma exists in the interior and is a mixture of molten rock, dissolved gases, and solids that have been heated to temperatures over 1,300 °C (2,370 °F) under tremendous pressure. Various types of geothermal plants use hot water or steam from beneath the earth’s surface for different purposes, such as generating electricity.

But they all enable us to harness some energy that comes from the hot rocks deep down below our feet. Some even tap into the natural power of volcanoes like an infinitely powerful force bringing us closer to completely renewing our planet without polluting it with greenhouse gases.

How Does Geothermal Energy Work?

Geothermal energy production divides heat into two areas: direct use and electricity production. Immediate use of geothermal resources includes heating homes and buildings, spas, and hot springs. In these cases, the source water is not super-heated or super-pressurized to create energy; it’s only slightly warmer than groundwater. Other uses include drying crops such as greenhouses in winter and agriculture irrigation.

The second way to use this heat would be to produce electricity from turbines connected to geothermal wells that carry high-temperature liquid (usually water). The steam created by boiling water with underground heat turns a turbine blade. It spins an electric generator – producing power just like a coal plant does without carbon dioxide emissions.

Pros

– Reduces greenhouse gas emissions because they emit no carbon dioxide or other gases that contribute to climate change

– Geothermal power does not produce any pollutants

– Geothermal power is a clean energy source that produces very little noise when it is being made. Unlike most other methods of energy production, geothermal power plants can be built in densely populated urban areas. This is because the plant releases steam and hot water deep underground, and the only noise it produces is from geothermal fluid flowing through manufactured tunnels above ground before it enters the plant.

Cons:

– Geothermal can’t generate electricity without help from dry cooler systems, which have been known to fail, according to a study done by Stanford University

– Geothermal plants are expensive to build and maintain because the water has to be pumped hot under high pressure into a turbine which is used to generate electricity

According to recent studies by Brigham Young University, the areas where geothermal plants are built must be “geologically stable,.” There was one case in Hawaii where this failed, resulting in significant damage.

Tidal and Wave power

The waves are used to produce electricity through a process called wave power. Wave power refers to renewable electric energy production by placing devices on the ocean surface that captures the energy from passing waves and converts it into electricity for use in commercial or residential areas.

  • The technology has often been dismissed because of various drawbacks and environmental impacts.
  • The main drawback is that wave power can only harness less than one percent of total kinetic energy present in the waves (about 1/3 as much as wind turbines).
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Tides are another form of renewable, sustainable, and reliable alternative energy source, which can be exploited with tidal stream generators.

There were many attempts made to harness the energy of waves. Among them, a new wave power system has been developed by General Electric Company. This technology is called Integrated System for Ocean Wave and Tidal Energy (ISOWTTE). A tidal current generator can be installed on any shoreline with strong tidal currents to produce electricity.

  • The ISOWTTE is formed with two turbines placed opposite each other on either side of an underwater surface that faces incoming water from the tide surging up into it.
  • These turbines can capture tidal stream energy equivalent to 50 kW per turbine every hour, sufficient for about 800 homes. But this may not allow you to use electricity at peak time as a consistent supply has required more generators than what was proposed to be used.

Another experimental tidal power system was developed by UK-based Marine Current Turbines (MCT) in 2008, which uses a submerged floating structure with long tubes attached to the surface. These tubes’ length is sufficient to create an oscillating water column when sea levels vary during high and low tides.

  • These generators placed in the sea can produce up to 1 megawatt of electricity directly linked into the National Grid.
  • The only drawback again, like ISOWTTE, is the need for strong currents and being expensive due to high maintenance costs.

Wave Dragon’s wave power project was launched in 2007 by Aquamarine Power Ltd., headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland, and financed by the Scottish government. This technology is installed on the sea bed over the waves that push air bubbles through a pipeline to drive an electricity-generating turbine at the surface. The design of this power plant has been patented. But as it is placed underwater, it would be challenging to monitor and maintain them when needed; hence its cost efficiency will be reduced in the long run.

Currently, wave energy is being used in various parts of the world but with different designs and results.

According to the European Commission press release in 2011, they are planning to develop further marine renewable energy systems like Wave Dragon turbines and ISOWTTE devices, which have great potential for large-scale production of sustainable clean energy from the ocean – particularly where they are strong tidal currents or high waves.

European Commission had proposed a plan to invest €130 billion into renewable energy. They deemed it a critical technology that will combat global warming and reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Pros

  • Tidal energy is renewable and emission-free
  • The UK has a lot of tidal waters to explore for potential
  • It doesn’t affect marine life around the site like other types of dams do

Cons

  • Energy production through tides can be unpredictable and slow due to the irregularity in major tidal flows.
  • Tidal barrages can damage tidal ecosystems and often affect all other lifeforms in the water.
  • As of 2017, this technology is still costly, which means most projects are government-funded

Conclusion

There are many different alternative energy sources to choose from, and they all have their pros and cons. Some may be more cost-effective than others or produce a more considerable power for the same price but differently. It’s important to know what your budget looks like, as well as how much you can afford to spend on installation costs, before deciding which type would work best in your home or workplace.

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