Sustainable Energy Sources – How They Stack Up
Have you ever wondered how different forms of sustainable energy sources compare to each other? There are many fossil fuel alternatives available today, with many more being developed for the future. But, are they reliable enough to withstand and sustain us as much as the widely used energy sources we rely on today? Here are a few of the main forms of sustainable energy, in addition to the advantages of using each one.
Solar power is generated by photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. These panels convert sunlight into usable direct current electricity and are currently installed in over 100 countries. However, our current PV panels do not convert energy efficiently enough to be considered a feasible energy alternative. Why? Roughly 16 percent of sunlight that hits the panels is being converted into usable energy. With more efficient models already in production, solar power may become the world’s primary energy source in the future.
As of the end of 2014, the United States wind power capacity was at 65,879 megawatts. In 2013, the 168 million megawatts of energy that wind turbines produced resulted in the elimination of 95.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Wind energy is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the entire world and it’s not hard to see why. Wind energy projects do not pollute or contaminate the surrounding area on which they are built. Not only that, a single turbine produces enough energy to power 500 households.
Hydropower is water power that is generated by the movement of water, whether it is falling or flowing down a river. Flowing water was used in ancient water mills to power various machines, from saws to cranes and lifts.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the term hydropower usually refers to generating electricity using water. Hydropower is an efficient and renewable source of power. However, the building of a dam and reservoir can result in a negative effect on the environment. Careful consideration is often given to this information before a reservoir system is actually built.
Biofuel is made from biomass, which is biological material from living or once living organisms. This includes traditional “fossil fuels” such as gasoline. However, more readily available biological materials can be used to generate power.
The largest source of biomass energy is wood. Other options include corn, hemp and a wide variety of different species of trees. These sources can be grown and then harvested, making them a sustainable source of fuel. But, burning biomass for energy does have setbacks. Some biomass sources have the capacity to release toxic fumes when burned, contributing to air pollution in the environment.
Geothermal energy is generated by tapping into the thermal energy or heat at the Earth’s core. This energy is harvested by drilling deep into the ground, then pumping in a heat transfer fluid such as water or steam.
The energy that is transferred up to the surface is converted into usable power. Water-based systems are the most effective, but also have the potential to cause contamination in the nearby water table. This means that great care must be taken to not damage the local water supply.
The continuous growth in sustainable energy technology has made energy source alternatives increasingly viable options. With such positive results and far less impact on the environment, sustainable energy sources are our best energy option when it comes to a long-term energy supply.