~~ Renewable & Alternative Energy Sources ~~
The Only Way Forward?
Alternative energy sources, renewable energy, sustainable energy - why should we care?
It is no secret that the world today is hurtling towards an energy crisis. The fossil fuels we depend on (oil, coal) are limited in supply and will run out, sooner or later.
Even as our dependence and consumption of these fuels increases every day, the supplies continue to dwindle or are hampered by extraction and distribution difficulties. This has led to an increasing demand for energy from renewable sources. But what is renewable energy? How is it better than oil or coal? What counts as "renewable"? What are alternative energy sources?
Here at Discover Renewables as well as looking at the big picture with information on all types of renewable energy and strategies, there's practical information on how we can all save money on home energy bills, heating, lighting, transport. We'll be exploring home solar power, DIY home solar kits, small wind turbines, alternative fuel vehicles - in fact almost anything related to alternative, renewable and sustainable energy.
If in the process we help make the world a cleaner healthier place for future generations, all the better. The best way we can this is to be informed, know what alternative energy sources are available and how we can use them to our best advantage.
What is Renewable Energy?
Energy sources can be broadly divided into two categories: renewable and non-renewable. Non-renewable energy sources should be quite familiar as these include fossil fuels like coal or oil. These sources are limited in supply and take millions of years to form. Oil, for instance, is formed when plants and other matter containing carbon is buried deep beneath the earth's surface. Over millions of years, pressure changes these fossilized remains into oil.
Renewable resources, or alternative energy sources, on the other hand, are virtually unlimited in supply. These can be replaced by natural processes over a short period of time. Some sources of renewable energy include geothermal energy, wind, water, solar radiation, tidal, hydro, etc. Unlike fossil fuels the earth has a virtually bottomless reservoir of renewable resources. For example, we receive a tremendous amount of solar energy in the form of heat and light from the sun every day. This makes solar energy a renewable resource as it is replaced and renewed on a daily basis.
What Counts as "Renewable"?
Essentially, any resource that can be easily replaced by naturally occurring phenomenon can be classified as a renewable resource. Wind, solar, water, etc. are different energy sources that are found in abundance on the earth and are replaced and renewed every day. The sun will continue to give out solar radiation in the form of heat and light for billions of years. Wind is a naturally occurring phenomenon that will continue to occur, and barring a cataclysmic disaster, the earth will continue to replenish its water resources for hundreds of millions of years into the future. These resources can be classified as "renewable" or "alternative energy sources".
Fossil fuels like oil or coal, however, take millions of years to form. If we run out of these resources, it will take another hundred million years or so for their supply to be replenished. Consequently, fossil fuels are classified as "non-renewable" resources.
Why Is Renewable Energy Important?
The world's supply of non-renewable resources is dwindling at an alarming rate. The increasing demand and shrinking supply has already pushed the price of oil to all time highs. In the coming years as consumption increases, oil will become prohibitively expensive and beyond the reach of the average consumer.
Further, the burning of fossil fuels is linked with global warming and pollution. The carbon dioxide released when oil, natural gas or coal are burnt has been identified as a major cause of the 'greenhouse effect' which is partly responsible for the gradual increase in global temperatures we hear about on a daily basis. This has been linked to drastic changes in climate, destruction of entire ecosystems, extinction of species, and can very well threaten the survival of the human race.
Renewable energy, on the other hand, is abundantly available, is 'clean' and environment friendly. Harvesting solar energy, for instance, does not release any harmful gases that are associated with global warming. Plus, unlike oil or coal, which are distributed unevenly throughout the world, every country has abundant supply of various renewable resources. The use of renewable resources can decrease our dependence on imports of oil, coal or natural gas. In other words, renewable energy is sustainable, not only for our economy, but also for the environment. It is vital that we continue to develop and make use of alternative energy sources rather than a dependence on fossil fuels.
Of course, the uptake of renewable energy on a wide scale has many challenges.
The cost of harvesting renewable energy sources is quite prohibitive. The distribution is not even. A state like Texas receives a huge amount of solar energy, while Scotland, where I live does not have have an over abundance of sunshine, but does have more than its fair share of wind and rain so is ideally suited to take advantage of wind, tidal and hydro options. Further, public perception of renewable energy is not completely positive as many still doubt global warming or the perils of over reliance on oil or coal. Education and persuasion is the key.
In recent years, however, as resarch and development of alternative energy sources gathers pace, the cost of has come down drastically due to technological improvements. Wind and solar energy are becoming more and more commonplace. It is estimated that by the end of the next decade or so, energy from solar or wind sources will be as affordable as oil or coal.
Oil will undoubtedly become an even more prized commodity as supplies run out and demand increases. This may lead to unrest and even cause wars. Without being too polictical you have to wonder if the west would be so keen to "help" countires without oil reserves? Our reliance on fossil fuels has also affected the environment a great deal. For the sake of our planet, economy and global peace, we have to focus our attention on renewable resources, alternative energy sources and thoroughly understand and utilize renewable energy.
What's here on Discover Renewables?
What is Solar energy? Can it reduce your energy bills? Solar energy is basically all the heat and light that the
earth receives from the sun. It is by far the most abundant form of energy on this earth and can meet all our
energy needs if harvested correctly. In this section, we look at everything about solar energy, including its
various applications, DIY solar power, and more.
Biomass is essentially any fuel derived from living or recently living organisms. Wood, waste, food, animal and
plant remains - these all come under this category. Because it is renewable and relatively clean, biomass power
has become more and more popular of late. Read more about biomass energy, its various benefits and it's suitability for both domestic and industrial uses.
Wind Power ~~
The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind . . . all very well but can it be utilized to provide cheap, clean energy? Wind power options range from small domestic applications to enormous industrial scale wind farms. Wind is all around us. It is a fundamental force on the planet. Wind is caused by the movement of air from high pressure to low pressure areas. In this section we have a look at everything you need to know about wind energy, all the factors that play a role in its creation and how we can harness it.
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National park is an example of geothermal energy. What is it? Geothermal energy is basically energy stored inside the surface of the earth. It is a vast reservoir of power
that is all around us, right below our feet. Learn more about geothermal energy and its various uses in domestic and large scale applications along with impediments to its wide scale adoption.
Hydro Power ~~
Hydro power is any energy released by harnessing the force produced by the movement of water. With a history stretching back to ancient Chinese and Roman civilisations right up to modern day hydro turbines, massive dams, small scale generators on naturally fast flowing rivers, wave and tidal arrays, man has been harnessing the this force of nature to his advantage for as long as recorded history, perhaps even longer.
Nuclear Energy ~~
Nuclear energy, in the simplest of terms, is the energy released when matter breaks down into smaller particles. It is a powerful, abundant source of energy, one that has the potential to replace coal and oil as our primary power source. But is it safe? What about pollution? Find out more about nuclear energy, along with its developmental history, advantages and disadvantages.