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Alternative or Renewable Energy

Updated on February 1, 2014

Energy Sources

Fossil Fuels

With the rising energy demands, fossil fuels (our primary energy supply) are quickly getting depleted. Fossil fuels are non-renewable sources of energy that include: coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels formed hundreds of millions of years ago from the plants and animals of that era.

Fuel for our cars,trucks, SUVs, and mass transportation comes from fossil fuel sources, as does electricity and energy for heating our homes.

Alternative or Renewable Energy

Alternative energy, also called renewable energy, is defined as: energy derived from sources that do not use up natural resources or harm the environment. Alternative energy sources continuously renew themselves and come from the sun, wind, water, geothermal sources, and biomass sources such as energy crops.

Renewable sources of energy vary in their availability and cost efficiency across the United States. Although water and wind are free, harnessing the energy is not. Using dams with electric generators and transmission lines is the only way to utilize the powerful energy from water. Hoover Dam is a great example of harnessing water's power.

"No single solution can meet our society's future energy needs. The solution instead will come from a family of diverse energy technologies that share a common thread -- they do not deplete our natural resources or destroy our environment."..........The Union of Concerned Scientists

National Geographic: Alternative Energy Video


Hydropower is the use of water to generate electricity, and is the most common renewable source of energy in the United States.

Hydroelectric power plants build a dam on a river for water storage, a diversion hydropower plant is limited on water supplies which limits the amount of electricity they can generate. Electricity generated this way is known as hydroelectricity accounts for approximately 7% of the electricity used by Americans.

Hydropower is one of the cheapest sources of electricity, and areas with resources for hydropower tend to attract industries with large electrical needs. The major hydroelectric dams in the United States can be found in the Tennessee Valley, the Northwest, and along the Colorado River.

Wind Power

Wind energy power of the wind propels the blades of wind turbines, this rotation is converted into electrical current by using an electrical generator. The use of wind power has many advantages including: pollution free, endless supply of energy source, wind farms can be built off-shore, and occupied land can still be used for farming and grazing.

The downside to wind power is that in order to generate power, you have to have a consistent wind source. If wind speeds decrease, so does the amount of electrical power produced. Wind farms, especially large ones, don't make for the most beautiful scenery.

DIY Solar Panels

Solar Power

Solar energy gets its power source from the sun. Opening the blinds or curtains to allow sunlight into a room also provides extra heat in that room as well. Solar power works by trapping the rays from the sun in the solar cells found in solar thermal panels.

The converted sulight is commonly used to heat water or air. Many homes use solar panels to heat a room in the home, such as a sunroom. Solar energy is used in many homes for practical uses such as heating and lighting, or for heating the water in a pool, jacuzzi, or the home's water tanks. Alternative energy sources also used include geothermal sources, and biomass sources such as energy crops.


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