Why are alternative energy sources, to our current reliance of “fossil fuels”, so important? If we as a society are to solve the problem of putting extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere then we need to find another way to power our cars, heat and produce electricity for our homes and business, and produce much of our food. Our society relies so heavily on the combustion of fossil fuels that there probably isn’t one magic bullet – but a combination of approaches that will need to be employed.
One of the most promising sources of clean energy is solar energy from the sun. Sunlight has been used by humans since ancient times for various uses. Solar power comes in two main categories: active or passive. Passive solar is the directing of solar energy in strategic ways to allow for extra heating or cooling of spaces in the home. Active solar energy uses solar panels which convert the insolation into electricity via the phototelectric effect. The uses for active solar include (but are not limited to): heating of homes or businesses, heating of water, cooking, and can even be used for back-up, as a generator would be used for. Although the initial costs can be expensive, the homeowner can look into “solar panel leasing”, which has grown in popularity in some regions. Another source of energy with potential in some locations of the world is wind power. The conversion of wind energy is accomplished using wind turbines for electricity, windmills for mechanical power, windpumps for pumping water, and one of the more ancient uses, sails for boats. One of the main considerations are obstructions to the wind, so as to not have many power interruptions. Hydropower is yet another source of alternative energy. This water power is due to the force of moving water, which can be used to provide energy for human consumption. In the past (especially before the development of electricity) hydropower was used to power sawmills, cranes, lifts, and various machines and irrigation. Finally, geothermal energy is provided by exploiting the natural warmth of the earth below the surface. If you go far enough underground the temperature averages around 55 F year-round. This can provide electricity that can be utilized to provide power to energy producing grids and to warm residential buildings.