The Quest for Alternative Energy Sources


The quest for alternative energy sources started in the 1970’s during the height of the Arab oil crisis in where the whole world was under the control of the oil producing countries. It was clear during that time that the whole world’s industrial and social evolution was dependent on the fuel which was produced and monopolized by OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) that it was inevitable for the United Nations to step in and diffuse the volatile situation that was causing much unrest in the middle east. It was clear that something had to be done in regards to finding new and sustainable resources of energy which will secure our future as a society in which we can continue to develop new means of technology which will not rely on fossil fuels. Besides the rising cost of fuel and it’s unstable market price, it is also a growing global problem which concerns the pollution that fossil fuel creates, leading to the rise of global warming.

Because of our reliance on fossil fuels, we continue to increase the amount of carbon dioxide that is being produced on a daily basis. Carbon dioxide emission is the root cause of the rising temperature which is related to global warming and it is presently beginning to manifest itself in the most threatening way, as proof of the irrational weather disturbances that we are already experiencing. The aim of alternative energy research is to rid our reliance in fossil fuels as not to further add to the worsening global condition that was brought about by the pollution of our environment. Some segment of our society have already proven that alternative energy sources are viable and are applicable as a sustainable means that can benefit the environment and ourselves as well.

It was projected that by the year 2050, a third of the worlds energy will be coming from the sun. Solar energy will be the most used form of alternative energy as the sun is a source of never ending solar power. Besides solar energy, wind, thermal and hydro energy sources will become a major source of sustainability which will cost much more less than producing fossil fuel. It is also said that there is a clear significant sign that the remaining supply of fossil fuels is slowly nearing depletion according to the British Petroleum Company and the Royal Dutch Shell who are among the very first foreign companies that were extracting oil in the middle east. According to British Petroleum, the middle east has an estimated 30 to 40 years remaining before their oil supply comes to complete depletion and after that, it is time to find other sources of energy.


Solar Power:

One of the most viable forms of sustainable energy which is free is solar energy. Solar power is one of the best alternatives to fossil fuels in regards to powering our homes on a domestic level. It has now been put into working practicality on some concept homes that run solely on solar energy, giving it the full functionality as any common home that runs on the electrical power grid. “Green Homes” as environmental advocates fondly call them, are capable of running existing household appliances with the use of electronically controlled inverters that transform the energy stored by PV (photo voltaic cells) panels through the use of specialized lead and lithium ion batteries. These specialized batteries are currently used in numerous electronic gadgets such as cellphones and portable rechargeable vacuum cleaners like the best vacuum for hardwood floors. The improvement in the design of these rechargeable batteries have enabled solar panel engineers to optimize the functionality of photo voltaic cells which are now currently being integrated onto green house designs.

The environmental impact in using a 1.5 kilowatt solar panel can reduce the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere of up to 110,000 pounds in a matter of 25 years. Carbon dioxide is considered as one of the most biggest contributors of greenhouse gases, adding that the use of solar panels will reduce the use of coal by as much as 60,000 pounds in the same time period. It was only just recently that we have focused on research regarding solar energy as it has the potential to change the way we live our lives as we slowly adapt to the changing needs of our environment as well as our dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Solar energy is produced by the rapid movement of the sun’s rays through the photo voltaic panels, as we all know that the sun emits a never ending stream of photons and electrons that is energy in it’s own form.

Solar panels are made to catch those energy that the sun sun emitted and converting it to low voltage electricity. This small amount of electricity is then inverted to a larger voltage, which is then in turn, stored in a battery which is connected to a voltage inverter that transforms the battery voltage into AC voltage which can run your lights and other household appliances.


Wind Energy:

Ever since the dawn of civilization, man has already learned to harness the power of the wind, most particularly with the use of boats that utilize the wind’s force through harnessing it’s energy through the use of a sail. It was evident on how the wind can also be a devastating force, especially during storms, and it was only a matter of time that man has learned to use the energy of the wind to improve the way he lives. Some of the earliest forms of harnessing the power of the wind comes from the use of windmills. In the early days of it’s conception back in 5,000 B.C., windmills were primarily used to pump water into irrigation dikes for agricultural purposes and at the same time, the movement made by the windmill mechanism was also used to grind wheat and barley and all sorts of other grains and cereals used in making flour.

It was only just recently that windmills are being developed to produce electricity that can be used to power small shoreline and inland communities. Wind energy development comes only second after solar energy in regards to it as being as one of the most cleanest forms of sustainable energy sources that we can harness from nature. However, the optimized potential of wind energy can only be made viable in places which are strategically situated in shorelines and plateaus in which hot and cold air meet at regular intervals to produce adequate wind currents. Although being much more maintenance free compared to other forms of alternative energy, it is considered to be one of the most expensive endeavors to undertake prior to completely setting it up, as current technologies regarding wind energy costs much more to produce than conventional ones as it is still currently on it’s infancy stage.

Hydro Electrical and Tidal Energy:

The use of running water in regards to producing energy has been in use since the turn of the century which started in Niagara Falls in upstate New York in America. Although the energy that it produces can be compared to that of a regular coal fired oar gas fired power plant, it does have it’s limitations in regards to the availability of resources needed to run it in order to produce adequate power, namely a watter fall or any body of running water that can be used drive it’s hydraulic turbine. Simply put, a hydro generating power plant is only applicable to those places with an availability of running water. Fortunately, there are now other viable means of utilizing water as a power source which can produce electricity just as well and distribute in inland through Tidal Energy.

Tidal energy works as well as the conventional hydro electric systems which could be found in inland waterfalls and rivers. Tidal energy can be harnessed in two ways, namely through tidal action, in which the rising and lowering of the tides are used to generate electricity and the current that is moving on the bottom of a narrow channel that leads to the ocean. Tidal energy is one source of sustainable energy that is currently being put to use in some parts of the world which showed some promising results as it is solely dependent of the present level of sea current.

Geo Thermal Energy:

Simply put as steam energy, it is one of the most earliest concept of energy that can be derived from heat, even before our discovery of the use of fossil fuels. Thermal energy works on the principle of thermodynamics, which lies on the movement caused by heat and cold, mostly caused by rapid changes in temperatures. One of the earliest form of our successful means of using the power of steam is our efficient use of the steam engine, which signaled the dawn of the industrial revolution. Through the use of steam engines, we successfully changed the course of human history as we started to base our entire technology from thereon. The glorious days of the steam engine was finally laid to rest on the advent of our discovery of the efficiency of fossil fuels. Later on, in the 1970’s during the middle east oil crisis, there was a call to revive the use of steam as an alternative source of energy.

Geo thermal energy was again being given a more serious perspective, even though it was an expansive undertaking that can only be put to practical use in places that were near the vicinity of thermal vents such as volcanoes and hot springs. Thermal energy is harnessed by drilling holes through possible vents that spew thermal water that originate from the Earth’s crust, particularly near volcanically active areas. The heat from this thermal veins are then ported to a steam turbine, which is far more expensive than a conventional gas turbine as it is wholly made from the highest grade of stainless steel that resists corrosion. Heat that is escaping from the Earth’s crust is vented through enormous stainless steel pipes which in turn run the turbines that produces electrical power.

Biomass:

Some of the most current trends in alternative energy research does not lie solely in harnessing the power of what nature can give, but also includes in the research of producing alternative fuel substances such as environmentally friendly Fuels such as organic compounds like Biomass. Biologically manufactures fuel substances can come from a whole variety of plants as the same with our current form of fossil fuels, which also come from biodegraded plant and animal substances that were fermented for millions of years. Biomass requires plant substances such as corn and canola to produce oil which will then be fermented with the addition of a biological catalyst such as bacteria, to accelerate the processes. After a certain period of fermentation, it can now be used to power up a conventional diesel engine. One drawback however is the requirement of planting a lot of biomass crops to successfully meet up with the growing global consumption, which will displace most food production crops that will inadvertently compromise global food supplies.

Hydrogen:

Hydrogen is seen by a lot of people as one of the most promising forms of alternative sources of energy that can be a viable replacement for fossil fuels. In comparison to conventional fossil fuels, hydrogen does not produce smoke or any irritating byproducts except for that of air and water. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to produce hydrogen as you need to separate hydrogen from oxygen and the only way to do that is to subject water into electrolysis. Electrolysis separates hydrogen gas from water molecules which can be stored in a containment unit prior to use. But be aware that hydrogen is a very volatile and highly combustible gas which is tasteless and odorless and mishandling it could result in a catastrophic situation that has claimed the lives of many in the past. Although it has been proven that it can be used to run conventional internal combustion engines that use fossil fuels, it was only a case of integrating it to the present technology used by the auto industry, as hydrogen does not posses any form of top lubricant that can reduce the wear and tare of the engine. It is also noted that hydrogen burns more efficiently than conventional fuels, that it will make the engine run hotter which may cause far more damage than the benefit that it promises. It became apparent that a compromise must be made in regards to re-engineering the engine designs that will be adequate to facilitate the use of hydrogen gas for conventional use on a daily basis, which will mean billions of dollars for the auto industry.

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