- Renewable Energy - An Overview -
In today's climate of high oil prices, fears of dependence on foreign oil, accusations of price gouging by big energy conglomerates and fears of the safety and waste, not to mention pollution caused by nuclear energy and fossil fuels, renewable energy is becoming a more pressing and clear choice for future consumer and corporate usage. The cost in health and the environment, the depletion of natural resources, not to mention the political costs of both fossil fuel and nuclear energy will soon force the hands of governments across the globe towards renewable sources of energy.
What is renewable energy? Most people know the basics, forms of renewable energy that have been around as long as man has built tools and some more recent forays into alternative energy sources. Water power, wind power, even organic power such as something as simple as a human or an ox pulling a yoke which in turn rotates a millstone for grinding grain are all renewable sources of energy. Some, like the ox, are not practical for modern power sources, though it could be argued that the individual household could employ such methods as alternative, renewable energy sources.
Other older forms of renewable energy are as simple as the burning of wood or other vegetable matter for heat. Depending on the source material, such as hemp or other fast growing crops, this represents a renewable source of energy. Many field crops can be grown for this purpose, or for other purposes and once utilized, the plant waste can be used for combustion. Animal oil, such as whale oil, is arguably a renewable energy source. The problem inherent with this is that the animal would most likely need to be domesticated in order to have a renewable source.
Some of the more practical and more recent advances in renewable energy sources are familiar as well; solar energy for one. With the invention of the photovoltaic cell, the power to harness the energy from the sun has become a viable alternative and a reliable source of renewable energy. The photovoltaic, or solar cell, is a semiconductor device that converts photon, or light rays, into electricity. The limitations to this are of course, that the sun is only available for about 12 of our 24 hour day. The solution to this is to use batteries to store the energy the sun emits during the day for use at night.
There are many other sources of renewable energy. Hydrogen has been viewed as a viable source of energy, but until recently, the energy needed to convert hydrogen into a source of power has been too costly. Just recently, two companies have worked together to create hydrogen using a biodiesel fuel for use in a zero emission fuel cell. Biofuels made from vegetable products like ethanol from corn, sugar beets or cane have long been seen as an alternative to fossil fuels. Biogas sources of fuel such as the methane and other gases produced by landfills or animal waste are renewable energy sources.
Geothermal energy such as the heat generated by volcanic activity or other geothermal sources is another source of renewable energy. The geothermal energy from the core of the Earth is closer to the surface in some places than others and is therefore more practical there. Geothermal heat can be used to heat or cool buildings. A liquid is pumped into the Earth, allowing it to evaporate, and the hot gases are then used to power turbines. Ocean thermal energy conversion is a way to generate electricity using the temperature difference of seawater at different depths.
Some of the older sources of energy have been reworked for modern usage needs. The power of water has been transformed from the simple wheel turned by a stream to massive hydroelectric turbines in dams or falls. The power of the ocean, called wave energy, and its incessant tidal flow has been explored as a possible source of renewable energy as well. The power of ocean waves can be used as an energy source. Waves can be used to raise and lower devices like pontoons, using the kinetic energy created as a power source.
Wind power has gone from the small windmill to vast fields of giant windmills generating energy enough to power cities. The burning of organic material such as wood has also been revamped through technology. Under high pressure and high temperature, wood can be transformed into a gas, often much more efficient than simply burning it. This gas can be used to generate heat which in turn could be used to generate electricity.
There are many small scale sources of renewable energy as well. Piezoelectric crystals generate a small voltage whenever they are deformed. Kinetic energy, such as the motion of someone swinging their arm when they walk, has been used to power watches. Electrokinetics generate electricity from the kinetic energy in when it is pumped through channels.
As you delve further into this content driven website, you'll find additional information which explains the variety of renewable and green energy sources, and how you can play a roll in making this planet greener!
Renewable Energy Articles
- 10 things that create greenhouse gases
- Flying and its effects
- How bad is coal?
- Teaching my children about green energy
- Cities and pollution
- What can I do to help?
- Going green in the workplace
- Governments not doing enough
- Packaging - Is it really necessary?
- Can we really be self sufficient?
- Is my car really necessary
- Recycling and Separating
- Water wastage in the home
- 10 things we can do to help
- Be more Eco friendly
- Going green at home
- Greenhouse gases - the dangers
- How green is my home
- Large food chains - Are they responsible?
- Pros & Cons of Nuclear Power
- Public transport really does help
- Should schools take more responsibility?
- The dangers for our children
- Teaching my children