Alternative Energy Sources in Residential Areas: A Game Changer

In today’s world, there are still alternative energy sources available that keep surfacing. (Image:  pixhere /  CC0 1.0)
In today’s world, there are still alternative energy sources available that keep surfacing. (Image: pixhere / CC0 1.0)

Many people believe that alternative energy sources weren’t around until fairly recently. However, when you take a look at history, you can find evidence of how the development of these sources was already paving the way thousands of years ago.

For example, in the years 2000-1499 B.C., according to the reports of a missionary who was in China, coal was already being used for 4,000 years prior to that date as an energy source for heating and cooking. However, in the Medieval era, coal was largely ignored and left aside for wood because the latter didn’t generate as much soot and smoke as the former.

In today’s world, there are still alternative energy sources available that keep surfacing. This is due to the technological advances that allow us to obtain energy or fuel from different sources. Here are some of the most relevant alternative sources that can become a game changer when it comes to residential properties. Some of these sources are already used in many homes across the globe and have proven to be beneficial for both the residences and the planet at large.

Solar energy

Though being initially expensive, solar power is one of the three most popular alternative energy sources, and there is a great reason why this is.

Scientific research has confirmed that only 1 hour of capturing solar energy is enough to provide the global population with 1 year of power. That in terms of money can lead you to save thousands of dollars in utility bills.

As a consequence, there have been many projects that aim to increase the number of buildings and communities that draw most of their power from the Sun. Like New Jersey — NJ, for example, is part of a Renewable Portfolio Standard that demands 22.5 percent of their electricity must come from alternative sources by 2021. As a result, they offer a lot of incentives, as well as solar programs, that have both families and companies benefiting when installing solar panels.

However, Germany is the leading country in solar energy, as it has the highest installed capacity of solar photovoltaic power, even though it is not necessarily a very sunny country.

Like their grounded cousins, floating solar panels receive their energy from the sun and are cost-efficient. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Scientific research has confirmed that only 1 hour of capturing solar energy is enough to provide the global population with 1 year of power. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Wind energy

Wind power is the second technology with the most installed capacity after solar energy. Wind is a byproduct of solar energy that is generated by the irregular heating of the atmosphere.

Speaking about efficiency, the wind power drawn from small-sized wind turbines has the capacity to generate enough energy to feed all-electric residences, whereas the largest ones can provide enough electricity for up to 1,400 houses.

On the same token, wind energy is the cleanest and most eco-friendly energy source available to date, as it comes totally free from pollutants or toxic gases that can bring about health problems. However, the initial cost is still way too high in comparison with fossil fuels or natural gas.

Also, technology has yet to figure out a way to break free from the intermittent and unpredictable nature of this source. Wind does not always blow with the same force at the same time. It is practically impossible for wind to be stored in order to have an emergency supply.

(Image credit: Pxhere, under CC0 1.0>

Wind power is the second technology with the most installed capacity after solar energy. (Image: pixhere / CC0 1.0)

Hydropower

The relationship between water and energy is way more embedded in our power plants than we can actually see. Not only do many industries use water as an electricity supply, but it is also used in the extraction and refinement of other fuels such as gas, coal, oil, and uranium.

At the same time, hydropower serves as a way to control pollutants as well as toxic gas emissions. However, not all water is qualified to be used in the process of these power plants.

Unfortunately, this has led to the drying or contamination of rivers and lakes, as well as some principal aquifers, which has led to the search for new hydropower technologies that are far more efficient and less aggressive with the environment, as some of them use flowing water from the sea in order to draw energy.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is, simply put, the heat that gets stored inside the Earth’s guts. This means the combination of fluids and rocks that are located beyond the Earth’s crust. The heat is extracted from the steam and hot water in order to generate electricity, as well as creating a direct heating/cooling system for buildings.

Although China, New Zealand, and Sweden are strong contenders for geothermal energy, the United States is the most powerful generator of geothermal energy. However, even though this source is free from toxic emissions, geothermal technology is little known outside the big factories and industries. This has made it quite an unmarketable energy option when it comes to having it implemented at residences, until very recently.

This year, the U.S. Congress has evened up the terrain for geothermal energy. By putting it in the same category as wind and solar power, a considerable increase in the demand for this system is expected over the next few years.

Climate Change

Geothermal energy is, simply put, the heat that gets stored inside the Earth’s guts. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

Biofuel energy

This energy technology uses plants as the core base for producing heat, electricity, as well as car fuel, and it has been around for longer than you can imagine. The origins of biofuel date back to the invention of cars in the early 20th century, as Ford’s famous Model T was planned to run on diesel and ethanol engines using peanut oil. However, the discovery of huge petroleum deposits made fossil fuel production way cheaper than expected, leading this technology to go undetected and forgotten for decades.

Today, the future possibility of biofuel being a main source of energy remains uncertain. Though actual gasoline contains a small amount of ethanol that comes from biofuel sources to absorb carbon emissions, many debates and controversies are still unresolved.

Many people think of whether a balance can be reached between the exploitation of the crops and how much energy those crops can actually deliver, so the cost of production does not surpass the energy that is generated. The only current alternative is to develop efficient technologies that enable us to produce biofuels using only cellulose. Grass and saplings would only be used then, creating a biofuel that is way more efficient and less destructive than ethanol.

About the author: Jabir Mohamed is an outreach manager for NJ Solar Power and an advocate for alternative energy.

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