Alternative energy sources aren’t just in the realm of those who live off-grid — alternative energy sources now make up a large percentage of the national power grid’s energy, and it’s available to all of us.
What are alternative energy sources?
Alternative energy refers to energy sources other than fossil fuels (such as coal, petroleum, and diesel) and includes all renewable and nuclear energy sources.
Although nuclear energy is not as bad for the environment as fossil fuels, it still isn’t classified as a renewable energy source because nuclear material cannot be replenished within a human’s lifetime. Nuclear energy is produced by using elements like uranium and thorium, which cannot be replenished and have a finite amount in existence.
What is an advantage to alternative energy technology?
The major advantage of alternative energy technology is that it won’t run out. Our days using fossil fuels are numbered, and so any and all alternative energy sources are beneficial over traditional sources. Another huge advantage is that many of them do not require the same damaging and expensive extraction techniques, as much of it is available to us here on the surface.
If you have been thinking of lowering your reliance on fossil fuels, and are wondering how to get started, you can look into how to choose clean energy with our handy guide.
What are the different types of alternative energy?
There is a surprising number of forms of alternative energy, some well known, while others are relatively unheard of. They are:
- Wind energy: This is one of the cleanest and most accessible sources of energy. Wind power is sustainable and does not release carbon emissions as a by-product. It’s also entirely renewable, as there will always be wind. Energy sources such as fossil fuels often fluctuate in price. A typical wind farm repays its carbon footprint in around six months or even less , which provides decades of zero-emission energy that displaces fossil fuel energy.
- Solar energy: This is probably the most commonly known source of alternative energy, and for good reason. Solar energy is completely renewable, and the costs expended on installation can be made back through energy bill savings. The only potential setback of solar panels is that they are prone to deterioration over time and aren’t completely weather-safe in countries with erratic weather conditions.
- Nuclear energy: This is taken from the core of an atom, which must be split to gain its energy, a process called fission. This is harnessed in a power plant, where rods of nuclear material adjust how much electricity is produced. The more rods that are present during the chain reaction, the slower and more controlled the reaction will be. Removing the rods will allow a stronger chain reaction and create more electricity . Whether or not nuclear energy should be considered renewable is a constant debate.
- Hydrogen gas: This is an important energy carrier and a potential alternative clean energy fuel with a notable stake in the global fuel market. However, today, hydrogen gas is largely produced from fossil fuels, which pose a threat to the environment. A more sustainable version of this energy source has been described as biohydrogen, and there are hopes it will be derived from organic, biodegradable waste in the future.
- Tidal energy: This method of energy production is still fairly new and has only produced a small amount of energy so far, so it will be a long time before we see real results from tidal energy.
- Biomass energy: This type of energy can come in several forms. Biomass energy can include anything from burning wood to burning waste, as many countries do now. With biomass in the form of burning wood, the heat generated is often equivalent to that of a central heating system, and the costs involved tend to be lower than a household or building that uses fossil fuels. It’s not, however, a green energy source, even if it is technically renewable.
- Biofuels: Biofuels are somewhat similar to biomass, but biofuels use biological matter (animal and plant) to create energy. Biofuel is renewable when plants are used because, of course, plants can always be grown. However, they do require dedicated machinery for extraction, which can indirectly contribute to increased emissions even if biofuels themselves don’t. Biofuels are increasingly being adopted, particularly in the US. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, biofuels accounted for about 7.1 percent  of total transport fuel consumption, or 13.8 billion gallons in 2012, which was the same statistic as the previous year.
What are examples of alternative energy?
Besides the 7 energy sources listed above, other alternative energy sources include geothermal power, wave energy, hydroelectric energy, solar thermal energy and even space solar energy.
Geothermal energy is that generated in the earth and harnessed, while wave and hydroelectric energy harness the power of water. Of course, solar thermal energy and space solar energy are other ways of harnessing solar energy.
Are there any companies that use renewable energy sources to provide electricity to homes?
Yes! Inspire is a clean energy company that provides clean and sustainable energy options like wind power to homes across the US. Launched in 2014, we’ve been providing our customers with simple and clean energy ever since.
We are dedicated to creating a transformative smart energy experience that’s best for our customers, our partners, our team, and of course, our planet! We’ll help you save the planet and make it as easy as possible for you – what could be better?
Why are alternative fuels called green energy?
Alternative fuels are often described as “green” or renewable energy, but this isn’t always the case. Alternative energy is a broader category that encompasses all non-fossil-fuel-based energy sources and processes, of which renewable energies are only a part.
What are the pros and cons of alternative energy?
This can depend on the specific source of energy, of which there are many, for example:
- Biomass comes from the burning of organic matter, which is an efficient use of waste. However, this process requires large landfill spaces and may result in pollution due to the burning of this matter.
- The pros of wind energy are that it is sustainable, wind turbines are relatively harmless to surrounding wildlife and are inexpensive to build and maintain.
- Solar power has similar pros and cons to wind energy: the sun will always shine just in varying amounts on each day. The pros of solar power are that there’s an unlimited supply of sunlight. However, it relies entirely on sunlight, so panels only produce energy when the sun is shining. This renders solar panels fairly useless on overcast days, during the night, or if a building has a west-facing roof.
Each individual source of energy has its own set of pros and cons, as well as variables that should be taken into account, such as location, climate, financial benefits and, most importantly, the overall reduction of damage done to the environment.
Is alternative energy cost-effective?
Because the phrase “alternative energy” is a blanket term that takes into account more than 10 different sources, this is dependent on the specific energy source.
Wind is one example of a cost-effective alternative source of energy. Because wind turbines are relatively cheap to build and require little maintenance, energy suppliers can offer lower prices as their outgoings are less.
Besides wind farms, at the top cheapest alternative energy sources is solar. As mentioned before, the sun will always shine. Of course, some days will have longer periods of sun, and some countries will have this more often.
So, how can you get these benefits? That’s what we do – we help people sign up for clean energy. When you sign up, we’ll purchase Renewable Energy Certificates on your behalf and let your energy provider know you’ve made the switch.
Why should we switch to alternative energy sources?
Our reliance on fossil fuels has been the main cause of damage to the environment so far, and ongoing damage from this use can be brought to a halt if we switch to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower.
Simply put, if we take advantage of the fact that there will always be sun, water and wind. If we harness their power for our electricity, we can decrease the planet’s pollution levels year-on-year. So, while the term “alternative energy sources” technically includes some sources that aren’t green, switching to more sustainable sources of energy will seriously help improve the environment.
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Not sure if renewable energy is right for you? Read the latest Inspire Energy reviews to see how we've helped customers make the switch.