In today’s global economy, the need to ship goods and transport people around the globe is unprecedented. The global communication networks, digital connections, and demand for energy is at an all time high and growing daily. The world’s energy demand is increasing exponentially, and as a result, the energy sources of the past are proving to be dirty, unsustainable, and costly. Albeit, the newer types of alternative energy technologies are expensive on the front end, they come at a much lower long term cost. The combustion engine has reached near peak efficiency, and the burning of natural gas, coal, and oil is proven to be wasteful and harmful. The antiquated energy sources that sparked the industrial revolution and built the world of today are unsustainable. They are environmentally destructive, difficult to extract, and diminish quality of life.
It is time that the world moved to cleaner, more viable energy solutions. This is not the first time in history that people have moved to alternative energy sources. In the not-so-distant past people turned from whale oil to petroleum and from wood to coal. As technology progresses and advances so will the source of the worlds energy. Currently, the most viable and promising types of alternative energy are: solar power, wind power, geothermal power, hydrogen, nuclear binding energy, and biofuel.
Solar power is the production of energy from the light and heat of the sun. The sun is an almost limitless and clean energy source capable of powering the entire planet. Major advancements in solar technology have been made, but not to the extent that it can replace fossil fuels. Solar power is categorized as passive and active. Passive solar is the use of special building material to maximize heating and lighting from the sun. Active solar involves the use of solar panels to create useable energy from the sun.
Wind power is the production of useable energy from the wind. Out of all the types of alternative energy, wind power is one of the oldest. It is an ancient technology given rebirth. People have been using windmills for millennia to power large stone presses and grinders. Wind power is far more sustainable than fossil fuels, but it does present with some negative aspects. Wind generators require large turbines that pollute the skyline and horizon, aesthetically at least, and have been known to kill large numbers of migrating birds.
Geothermal power is another example of an ancient energy source given new birth. Since the paleolithic times people have been using geothermallywarmed hot springs for heating and bathing. Technological advancement allows for the production of useable energy from steam and heat rising from the earth’s core.
Hydrogen is an excellent source of energy and it is the most abundant element in the known universe. The major problem with hydrogen is that it is limited on earth. Hydrogen forms covalent bonds almost immediately on the planet with most non-metallic elements and therefore, requires energy to separate it before it is useful.
Nuclear power is a controversial topic that has supporters and dissenters on either side. Some say it is the future of energy, while others say it is too unstable and produces highly destructive waste products. A more recent advancement among the varying types of alternative energy is biofuel. Biofuel is produced from biomass, or plants. The most well known biofuel is probably ethanol, but it is not the most promising. Currently researchers are working on producing biofuel and energy from algae and bacteria. In their current states, these new biofuels cost more energy than they produce but the potential is beyond any of the known types of alternative energy, except the sun.