Top 10 Alternative Energy SourcesSuggested by SMS
This list is one that I am very close too. I worked for the Department Of Energy for 10 years. During that time I was very interested in the subject of alternative energy sources and was frequently involved in testing new technologies for conserving the energy we currently use.
While I was with the DOE in the ‘90’s I was probably seen as a bit of a nerd because of my passion for the subject. However with the expense and national exposure of the ongoing Iraq war and a presidential election, the average American is far more educated about the incredible expense both monetary terms and more importantly in the cost of human life that Americans must pay for our energy requirements.
There are plenty of alternatives out there for us. Unfortunately, in most cases the cost of implementing new technology is a hurdle that can be very tough to overcome.
10. Your Body
Our bodies are amazing, efficient machines. There is however several ways to cash in our movements to create clean, green electricity. Several personal power generating devices are currently being researched. A knee brace looking device that cashes in on your natural knee movement that does not inhibit the wearer in any way. A backpack that produces power from the natural bounce you create when you walk, and even clothing that can power your personal electronic devices from any movement you make through a piezoelectric process that current technology has allowed to be shrunk down so small that it can be sewn into fabric.
The currently used version of these high tech human powered generators are special floor panels that convert the energy absorbed by human foot traffic to power parts of the building in which they are installed. There are several such experimental places already being used around the world right now. Just by walking out of a Tokyo subway, you are unknowingly helping to power the information monitors within the train station.
9. Solar Cells
These solar cells have been around for years. For all that time, there have always been two major obstacles that prevent them for being practical for mass use. Inefficiency, and the cost to payback ratio. These old style panels are costly to produce, don’t produce much power to square inch, and are virtually useless in cloudy weather.
Recent advances in this field are overcoming these obstacles. One American company has discovered a way to produce a thin plastic film that works the same as the old style panels for a fraction of the cost. Being more versatile and far less expensive makes them more practical. More exciting is current developments made by New Zealand researchers. They have discovered a new ‘dye’ based system that is so efficient that they can work well even in cloudy conditions. Their production costs are also a fraction of the old style solar voltaic cells.
8. HHO Generators
How would you like to run your gasoline powered car on water? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Well not only is it possible, people have been doing it all over the world for many years. We all know what water is. Two parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen. All you have to do is separate these two atoms from each other and you have two very flammable explosive gasses! Separating atoms sounds difficult, but the process is very simple. Simply add direct current electricity to plain water. Hydrogen is attracted to one side while oxygen is attracted to the other. They both bubble up to the top in their separated gaseous forms into what is known as “Browns gas”. Pipe this explosive gas into the air intake of your car, and you will immediately see an increase in gas mileage.
Just do a search on the internet for ‘HHO Generator’ and you will find many companies selling kits and products for this old technology that you can retrofit to your car next weekend.
7. Wind Power
Converting the energy in wind to electricity is certainly not new. It has been around for years. With the advent of cheaper stronger materials and better electronics plus the ability to plug directly into our current infrastructure makes this one of the most currently viable alternative energy sources out there.
6. Nuclear Fission
Nuclear fission is the process of breaking atoms apart and harnessing the energy to produce electricity. There are these types of nuclear power plants in operation all over the world today so why would I consider this and alternative energy source? The answer is simple. We don’t utilize this power source nearly as much as we should. We are still a nation that burns coal to produce the bulk of its electricity. The problem is that with the threats of the cold war, the horrible images we have seen from Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the tragedies at 3 mile island and Chernobyl have embedded our society with such fear of nuclear energy that nobody is willing to have a nuclear power plant anywhere near them. When you ignore our irrational fears, consider the fuel that goes into these technological wonders. Then consider the waste and pollution in comparison to the energy output, nuclear energy is actually exponentially cleaner and safer than coal.
5. Tidal Energy
Since the tides are more predictable than wind or the clouds that can block the sun, tidal energy generators are gaining wide popularity and are currently in use in a small scale around the world. As technology evolves, so does the viability of wider scale generation of electricity from the tides. Tidal energy harnesses the ‘in and out’ forces of the oceans. The most popular device to harness this natural motion is the turbine. Very similar to wind turbines they convert the flow of water into electricity as the tide moves in and then away.
4. Wave Power
Although they appear similar in concept, wave power is different from tidal energy. In the case of wave power generation, the concept is the up and down motion that a wave exerts on a buoy that converts this oscillating motion into mechanical energy which is then used to power a generator. Tidal energy harnesses the ‘in and out’ forces of the oceans. A wave power farm is currently being constructed off the coast of Oregon.
3. Geothermal Energy
Heat is just one form of energy. We burn fuel to heat our homes. We burn coal to heat water into steam then convert that energy into electricity. If you have heat you have power. Well you are currently standing on one massive ball of heat. You don’t have to dig far into the earth to notice that the temperature starts to rise.
Although fairly rare in the U.S. harnessing geothermal energy is common place in Canada and other countries. In its most basic form, water is pumped down into the earth where it is warmed up then pumped back up and through a heat exchanger that removes the heat energy and uses it to heat homes.
In the more complex version, water is pumped farther down into the crust where it is hot enough to boil the water and the resulting steam is then harnessed to turn generators for electricity. British Columbia and New Zealand have been producing electricity this way for a long time and as technology improves, so does the practicality of geothermal energy in the United States.
2. Hydrogen Fuel Cell
By now you should have heard of this technology. It is in fact not new by any means. It has been in extensive use for years in Canada and many European countries.
In a nutshell, a hydrogen fuel cell works by converting the chemical reaction of joining hydrogen and oxygen atoms together to form water and producing clean quite electricity from it. In many ways, it performs the opposite of an HHO generator mentioned in #8.
There have been two major obstacles to allow this technology widespread use in America. The oil companies that make such massive profits from our use of fossil fuels in our cars, and the current infrastructure in place to deliver gasoline to Americans.
The oil companies do not want this technology anywhere near America. Americans spend almost $1 trillion dollars a year for oil and gasoline.
The ability to fill your car up with hydrogen would require that every gas station become a very different type of entity. The sheer cost of putting enough hydrogen fueling stations around America to make the hydrogen powered car practical is staggering.
When you consider that the only exhaust from a hydrogen fuel cell is clean water vapor, this form of energy can no longer be ignored. Every politician these days are now finding themselves in a position of having to acknowledge our need for something like this to power our vehicles.
1. Nuclear Fusion
Do not confuse this with nuclear fission. While our fission power plants harness the energy created when we split an atom, nuclear fusion harnesses the energy when combine like charged atoms to produce an atom with a heavier nucleus.
There are a couple of obstacles with this form of energy as well. The process of joining atoms although incredibly powerful is also extremely destructive. 80% of the energy released is in the form of radioactive neutrons which of course present a major safety concern. These neutrons also literally shred the reactor in which they are released to pieces from the inside out. In short, the mere process of fusion destroys itself from the inside out.
Till now that is.
It turns out that if we use Helium 3 as the fuel to power this fusion process, the radioactive waste and the destruction that happens to the reactor itself drops exponentially making it a very powerful, sustainable and very clean energy source. You could safely build a helium 3 fusion reactor in the center of a major city with no concerns.
But there is another obstacle that we must overcome. Helium 3 is the rarest substance on earth. In terms of the energy it is capable of producing compared to oil, helium 3 is currently worth about $4 billion a ton. Coal is currently worth about $40 a ton.
The reason helium 3 is so rare is that the our magnetic field and our atmosphere here on earth does such a great job of shielding us from solar winds and radiation found naturally in space. It is the sun and its radiation that produces helium 3.
For an interesting twist, it turns out that moon dust and rocks are far more valuable than the astronauts that brought them back could ever have imagined!
Because of the lack of atmosphere and magnetic field, the moon is literally covered in helium 3 because it has been getting beaten by solar winds and radiation for billions of years. It is estimated that one space shuttle load (25 tons) could power the entire United States for one year, and the estimated 1 million tons of helium 3 on the moon right now could meet the current energy needs of our entire planet for thousands of years.
This wonderful new technology has created a new space race. It is now worth the investment to go to the moon when helium 3 is worth $4billion a ton.
United States, Russia and China all currently have programs in the works to be mining the moon by 2020.
Although this technology is being utilized now more for research than anything else, the cost of the fuel compared to the output of power has made it impractical to use. But once the first few loads of interstellar dump trucks start returning to earth with loads of helium 3, expect to see these power plants popping up everywhere. And don’t be afraid, they really are safe.