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An Easy Guide to Understanding Alternative Energy

Alternative energy embodies usable energy sources that may replace fossil fuels without major, undesirable consequences. Not all alternative energy sources point towards a practical conversion that would sustain the current global population. Nevertheless, controversies continue to rise over the lack of consideration to implement these technologies. Redefining old alternative energy technologies has changed over time because of the many options available promoted by its advocates. A major argument over finding an alternative energy source of equal value to conventional fossil fuels lies over the cause of concern regarding the systemic global warming crisis.

Conventional Fuel Sources

Petroleum or Crude Oil:

Petroleum or crude oil, a naturally forming flammable liquid consisting of hydrocarbons and other organic compounds, often resides under the Earth's surface, usually between geographical rock strata. Petroleum conversion to a natural energy involves stages of oil drilling, refinement, separation, and creation into consumer products, such as gasoline, kerosene, asphalt, and chemical reagents for plastics and pharmaceuticals, which in turn are used the manufacture things like GE Appliance Parts. Economic pundits often regard petroleum as the "mother of all commodities" because of the various materials produced by several industries.


Coal, a fossil fuel used to produce electricity and combustible heat, supplies the world population with roughly 6,747,786,000 short tons as indicated by EIA Statistics in 2006. Coal production is expected to increase by over 48 percent to 9.98 billion short tons by the year 2030. China, the world's largest consumer of coal, produced 2.38 billion short tons in 2006. The United States shortly followed behind while using 90 percent of its coal reserves for electricity generation, which is approximately 14 percent of the global total.

Electrical generation powered by coal uses a process known to pulverize, then use combustible heat in a boiler to convert the water into a steam, which spins turbines and creates electricity. Thermodynamic turbine technology increases the combustion temperature to boost the overall efficiency. A supercritical turbine would run a boiler at extremely high temperatures and efficiencies, which would increase the energy output by over 46 percent.

Nuclear Energy:

Nuclear power uses sustained nuclear fission to generate heat for a variety of purposes. Nuclear-powered plants, ships and submarines use nuclear energy to heat water to produce steam, while containing the nuclear energy in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator until it completely decays naturally. Fusion energy exists, but scientists have not found a way of generating useful energy from controlled experiments. Nuclear energy provides power to roughly 6 percent of the global market with the United States, France and Japan accounting for nearly 50 percent of the total nuclear generated electricity.

Alternative Energy Sources


Wind power consists of a conversion process using wind energy into a usable form energy to make electricity, mechanical power, water pumping and drainage, and sail propellers for ships. In 2010, the worldwide nameplate capacity of wind-powered generators recorded 175 gigawatts. Wind-powered energy production contributes to roughly 2 percent of the global electricity usage and continues to grow at double the rate in the past three years. The national leaders in wind-powered electricity consumption include Denmark at 20 percent, Ireland and Portugal at 14 percent, Spain at 11 percent and Germany at 8 percent as indicated in 2009. 80 countries use wind-power on a commercial basis per a 2009 geographical survey.


Solar energy, light and heat waves radiating from the sun, includes harnessing a range of perpetually evolving technologies. Ancient civilizations have used solar energy, along with wind and wave power, hydroelectricity and biomass to cultivate crops and other developments. Unfortunately, modern-societies have not taken advantage of the readily available renewable energy from the earth, such as the infinite amount of available solar energy. Solar energy has imposed limitations by human ingenuity, however, due to the societal constructs using primarily conventional energy sources. some practical applications for solar energy includes solar architecture, potable water, daylighting, solar hot water, solar cooking, and high temperature industrial heating. Solar panels are often used to harness this renewable energy source.


Hydroelectricity, a reference term to electricity by hydropower, uses the gravitational force of free-falling or flowing water. Hydropower electricity is also one of the most widely used forms of renewable energy worldwide. A hydroelectric vehicle produces no waste, and has a considerable lower output of greenhouse carbon gasses. In 2007, a global consensus revealed that 20 percent of the world's electricity runs on water with about 777 gigawatts at an installed capacity.


Biomass, a renewable energy source using biological matter from living or recently deceased organisms, including wood, waste, hydrogen gasses, and alcohol fluids. Biomass usually has a plant-based composition grown to generate electricity and produce heat. Biomass energy methods consist of incinerating forest composites, such as tree stumps, branches and leaves. Biodegradable waste are often burnt for fuel. Biomass does not include fossil fuels or other organic matter transformed by geological processes. Some industrial plants used in biomass include miscanthus, switchgrass, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane, hemp, and a variety of tree species.

Hydrogen Energy:

Hydrogen uses electrochemical cells or combust in internal engines to power electrical devices. Spacecraft use hydrogen energy for propulsion. Hydrogen energy has the potential for mass production for commercialized and passenger vehicles and airliners. Hydrogen reacts under an open flame with oxygen to form water and heat. It does not produce other wasteful chemical byproducts, except for a minuscule amount of nitrogen oxide, which makes hydrogen energy a relatively safe alternative energy source.

Geothermal Energy:

Geothermal energy, a thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth's layers, determines the temperature of matter. It originates from the planet's original formation from the radioactive decay of minerals, volcanic activity, and solar energy absorbed at the Earth's surface. The geothermal gradient or the difference in temperature between the Earth's core and its surface, continuously conducts thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the Earth's surface.

The Economic and Societal Impact of Alternative Energy:

Alternative energy has a few obstacles to overcome before it becomes mainstream, including an educating how alternative energy sources work to the industries running on conventional fossil fuels, increasing the availability of the components associated with these systems, and decreasing the pay-off time. Presenting the fundamental arguments in a non-biased and educational manner could help being the conversion over to more ecologically sound alternative energy sources if these methods also produce a substantial profit margin.

Appliances & Alternative Energy

As the use of alternative energy becomes more and more mainstream, homeowners can expect to see these more sustainable energy sources applied to their own home appliances. Energy efficient appliances are already here and manufacturers are even revamping things like the kitchen aid parts used in repairs to make repaired appliances work even better. Some manufacturers who are already working on, or have released appliances using renewable energy like solar power are:

It’s clear alternative energies are still a ways out from being implemented across all facets of life, but huge leaps have been made in the past decade. With big brands jumping on board to create products using these new sources, alternative energies may not be here now but they most certainly will be in the future.