How Are Alternative Energy Sources Saving the Planet?
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a windmill! Sure, most people don’t think of windmills, solar panels, or hydroelectric plants as superheroes, but in today’s day and age, they should! The news is out, fossil fuels aren’t going to last forever, and the world needs a break from breathing the carbon emissions produced by fossil-fuel-fed industries.
When it comes to switching from coal and oil, there are plenty of new options rising to take on powering the world with greener energy. Keep reading to discover the future of energy and the alternative fuels leading the race.
Sunshine & Solar Power
It takes 365 days for the Earth to rotate around the sun. That’s 365 days of sunshine humans can use to gather energy. Solar power isn’t necessarily new. In 1839, a French inventor named Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect behind solar power. By 1905, Albert Einstein (who needs no introduction) noted the potential of the photoelectric effect for energy.
So, the principles of solar power have been around for more than a century. But the technology hasn’t been widely spread until after 1970 when an oil shortage pointed out the world’s flawed reliance on fossil fuels. Soon after, solar panels graced the White House’s roof, and the world began to accept the use of solar panels as a valid energy source.
Solar panels produce virtually no greenhouse carbon emissions when generating electricity. They are a clean source of electricity that can be applied on smaller scales to a single home or on larger scales like solar panel “farms” of “fields” that can power entire neighborhoods or cities. They work even on cloudy, rainy, or snowy days, but they are most effective with direct sunlight.
Windmills & Wind Energy
Wind energy takes the concept of a fan and reverses it! Instead of using electricity to make a fan turn and produce wind, wind energy uses wind to make a fan (usually a very large windmill) move and generate electricity.
Wind farms and their windmills have grown in popularity and visibility in the United States since 1888 when Charles Brush invented a windmill-electricity system to power his mansion in Ohio. Nowadays, it’s common to see entire fields of giant windmill turbines working to gather electricity. The United States, China, and Germany have the most windmill energy farms, but other countries like Spain and Japan aren’t far behind.
Wind energy is fairly popular because it can be used anywhere the wind blows – even on the ocean! Windmills are frequently installed off-shore to catch the powerful ocean wind currents and harness them for energy.
More Amazing Alternative Energy Options
While solar and wind power are the two most well-known alternative energy heroes, there are plenty of other up-and-coming energy crusaders joining their ranks.
Hydroelectricity works similar to windmill farms, except instead of being turned by the wind, turbines are turned by water to produce electricity. This type of energy is typically collected by hydroelectric dams, which create a drop in elevation for the water to fall from and generate the force to turn the turbines, or pumped storage, which constantly pumps water between reservoirs to generate electricity. The Hoover Dam is one example of a modern hydroelectric production project.
The tides are constantly moving back and forth thanks to the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. This constant motion works as a continual energy source, moving turbines and – yep, just like wind turbines and hydroelectric plants – gathering electricity. Tidal power plants are typically only possible on large bodies of water or oceanside locations.
Tidal power produces zero emissions when gathering electricity. However, it has to be applied properly to prevent any damage to the ecosystem around it.
Nuclear power gets a bad rap after Chernobyl. But, think of nuclear power as an anti-hero that has changed its ways and wants to help save the world.
It’s a zero-emission energy source that has a minuscule footprint compared to wind or solar farms. Additionally, the waste produced by nuclear power is relatively small. The last 60 years of nuclear energy produced by the U.S. could fit inside a single football field, and nuclear waste can be reprocessed and recycled.
As alternative energy continues to be explored, people can expect greener and healthier energy solutions to be around the corner for the world.
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