What is alternative energy?
Alternative energy sources include non-conventional energy sources – solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Renewable energy sources do not pollute the environment, help reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, and reduce the effects of climate change. They are practically inexhaustible, while sooner or later fossil fuels will run out.
Renewable sources do not include nuclear energy and natural gas because these resources are limited.
There are different types of energy and ways to extract it. Based on our interpretation, the following types of alternative sources can be distinguished: solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, wave energy, tidal energy, hydrothermal energy, fluid diffusion energy, geothermal energy and biofuels.
The methods for extracting and using energy vary according to the type of alternative sources. What unites them is that today they are all used much less frequently than fossil fuels, but at the same time they have great potential for development.
Pros and cons of alternative energy
At the moment, the production of alternative energy, despite its environmental friendliness and prospects, is limited. The development of technologies based on it has a number of costs that must be calculated.
1. Solar energy
When you install solar panels in your home, you generate your own electricity, become less dependent on the electrical grid, and lower your monthly electricity bill.
Recent studies have shown that the value of the property increases after the installation of solar panels. The solar panels themselves are getting cheaper.
The sun shines everywhere on Earth, which means that solar energy is a good option for every country, although there are differences between regions and the amount of sunlight they receive. In Russia, for example, the brightest cities are Ulan-Ude and Khabarovsk.
Solar panels are not suitable for all types of roofs. Some roofing materials installed in older homes, such as slate or cedar tiles, may not be suitable for installing solar panels.
Solar power does not work at night. Solar-powered homes rely on utility grids to generate electricity at night and in other situations where sunlight is limited.
The initial cost of installing and using solar energy is quite high, because a person has to pay for the entire system – batteries, wires, solar panels, etc.
2. Wind energy
Windmills, which generate large amounts of electricity using wind, are almost as efficient as solar panels. Wind energy is particularly attractive to the residential property market.
Since 1980, their prices have fallen by more than 80%. Due to technological advancement and increased demand, prices are expected to fall in the foreseeable future.
Wind is not the most reliable source of energy, with its low power, turbines typically operate at around 30% of power. In calm weather, you can be without electricity.
Wind energy can only be used in places where the wind speed is high. Since strong winds blow mainly in remote, uninhabited areas, it is necessary to build power lines to provide electricity to residential buildings in the city. This requires additional investment.
Most hydroelectric power plants, which store large amounts of water in reservoirs, almost always have a source from which to draw power. In this sense, hydroelectric power plants are a more reliable and stable source of energy than wind and solar energy.
Hydroelectric storage plants are able to generate electricity on demand, allowing hydroelectric power plants to replace traditional transmission generators such as coal and gas plants.
Cumulative hydropower plants interrupt the natural flow of the river system. This leads to disruption of animal migration routes and water quality problems.
Hydroelectric power stations are large infrastructure projects, including the construction of a dam, reservoir and power turbines, which require significant financial investment.
4. Wave energy
Wave energy is predictable and you can limit the amount of energy that can be generated.
Waves have a higher energy strength than wind energy, for example, and this makes wave energy more efficient.
Once installed, their power plants have low operating costs, which makes investing in them more attractive.
Although this is clean energy, its use poses a threat to marine life, changing the seabed and the habitats of some of its inhabitants.
Wave energy only benefits power stations built in cities near the ocean.
5. Tidal energy
The occurrence of tides is predictable, making it easy to build a system of tidal power plants with the correct dimensions for efficient power generation.
The operational life of tidal power plants is 75-100 years. It is very effective even after many years of use.
Tidal barriers lead to changes in ocean levels in coastal waters. Tidal adjustment also affects the salinity of the water in tidal pools.
Tidal power plants can only be built on sites that meet certain criteria.
Although tides are predictable, power plants can only produce energy for 10 hours a day.
6. Hydrothermal energy
Setting up hydrothermal power plants requires little investment. Operating costs are relatively low as well.
The water temperature is higher than the hot air temperature, which makes hydrothermal energy more efficient.
Only the upper layers of the seas and oceans are heated by the sun, so there are not many places where stations can be built.
Hydrothermal power generation technologies are poorly developed.
7. Liquid diffusion energy
An osmotic power plant, a promising new method of generating electricity, is being installed at the mouth of a river and allows energy to be extracted from the entropy of liquids.
Techniques for generating electricity using liquid diffusion are very weak. In the world, only one power plant was built in Norway.
8. Geothermal energy
Geothermal energy is known to have the least impact on the environment.
Technologies related to geothermal energy production are among the most innovative.
The use of geothermal energy involves high initial costs. For a medium-sized home, installing geothermal heat pumps costs between $10,000 and $20,000.
In some cases, geothermal facilities are located far from human settlements, which requires an extensive network of distribution systems.
One of the main advantages of biofuels is their relatively low cost.
Starting materials for biofuels are not limited. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuel resources are renewable.
Biofuels produce much less energy than, for example, fossil fuels.
Biofuels cannot be called environmentally friendly because they produce carbon dioxide emissions.
Renewable energy in the world
Renewable energy sources are helping to combat climate change, which is becoming more and more destructive. Wind, sun, water and other energy sources will be a good alternative to fossil fuels in the future. The earlier this happens, the better for us and our planet.
The growing sector is creating jobs today, making electricity grids more resilient, expanding access to energy in developing countries and helping lower electricity bills. These factors have contributed to the increasing popularity of renewable energy sources in recent years. The benefits of each type of alternative energy source certainly outweigh the negatives.
Author: Alexander Gadzhiev
Photo: Maria Davydova, pixabay.com
Bee is the only partner of the +1 City project in Chelyabinsk. Project materials can be found at the link.