A Look at Some Common Alternative Energies

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a row of wind turbines spinning over the water
wind turbines

As we start to run out of non renewable resources and are faced with pollution problems we must look into new energy source like wind power, solar power, geothermal, nuclear, and hydro.There is no clear cut solution or best solution to this problem, but one thing for sure is we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels for our power because they simply are non renewable and they cause too much pollution.

a dam generating hydro electricity

To start the search for a alternative we can look to one of the older forms of generating electricity; hydro electricity. This is generated by water being held up in a dam and being released through one point in the dam that uses the gushing water to spin turbines and generate electricity. Hydro power is a feasible alternative energy due to it high energy output, little pollution and little maintenance required. Despite this it is not perfect because dams flood surrounding land and often cause changes in the environment and creating dams have an expensive start up cost.

Nuclear energy on the other hand, produces more energy then any of the other energy forms. All sources say something different but in the end the energy production is large. One gram of uranium produces the energy equal to approximately 100 football field of wind turbine farms and 1 kg of uranium produces about the equivalent of 14 000 kg of coal. This is because the uranium 238 atom undergoes nuclear fission (splitting the atom), yielding uranium 235. This process is also extremely clean and produces very little air pollution. The only problem with this is that the waste uranium 235 is extremely radioactive and must be stored in man made underground dump sites. Overtime the concrete walls may develop cracks and holes, or earthquakes may disturb it ; causing radioactive uranium to leak out into the environment.
nuclear bomb explosionThere have also been a few nuclear reactor meltdowns in the past which have also scared many people away from nuclear power and also the nuclear bomb makes most feel uneasy when they hear about nuclear power plants. Fortunately  a meltdown is nothing like a nuclear explosion because weapons grade uranium is 30x ore concentrated then uranium for power, but despite meltdowns still release large amounts of radiation and nuclear fallout.

windmills Next is another controversial method of generating electricity and that is by wind. Energy generated by wind is renewable and safe for the most part. The energy is generated by wind turbines which use the wind to turn large blades that capture the wind, which in turn spin a generator to create electricity. On the pro side, they are very safe and don’t require too much upkeep, they are not too expensive or complex either and do not produce any pollution except to create them. The only problem with wind turbines is that many people claim the quiet and low wushing sound annoys their ears and causes insomnia and also irritates their ears. This apparently only happens to people with sensitive ears, and according to studies, about 25% of people have this problem. On the other hand, only people who live near the wind turbines will notice, and if wind turbines are isolated then it will not affect people. To solve this problem wind turbines are often put out on bodies of water, fields of crops. But the problem with these solutions is that if it is near shore on water, people will complain about the turbines being an eye sore and reducing the value of their property. And on farmers fields, it still may disturb the farmers with the sound polution. Despite these small set backs, wind power in my opinion is the most viable solution.

solar panels on house roofIn contrast, solar power does not have many cons. Solar power generation works by capturing the sun’s rays  with solar panels and turning them into electricity. the good thing about solar power is that they do not pollute and can go practically anywhere. Now even though they can go anywhere, that doesn’t mean they will work to the best of their abilities in any place. Solar panels work best when they are facing the sun and they also work better if the sun is more intense, which occurs in summer or closer to the equator. That being said, they are not a great solution in many countries that don’t meet those conditions. They also do not catch many of the sun’s rays. The sun emits many rays like infra red, light, many forms radiation, x rays and more. The average solar panel absorbs around 80% of the energy of one of these type of waves but cannot absorb any of the other rays. currently there are some solar panels that absorb mist of the different types of waves, but they cost in the millions and are used on things such as the mars rovers. Even modern solar panels cost a lot in comparison with wind turbines. A household 500 watt wind turbine from eBay costs around $250 whereas a 500 watt solar panel from eBay or 5, 100 watt solar panels cost around $750. That being said one major disadvantage of solar panels is their price, costing 3x the price of a wind turbine for the same energy output
geothermal
Geothermal energy is another renewable energy that works by harnessing the heat of the earth to in term heat a building or create power. It is relatively clean and it is also safe but it is not very widely used. This is because it can only be implemented in the rare places where the crust of the earth is thin, like Iceland. It is a good alternative energy and should be used when possible but unfortunately that option is not available to many places.

As you can see, not one alternative energy is better then the other and none are perfect. It all comes down to the area that they are being implemented and the conditions around it that will decide which form of energy production is best for that place. Either way, there are many clean energies out there and it is time we change from fossil fuels into the cleaner energies.

If you liked this consider also checking out history of engines

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