Overview of Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources
Alternative energy is a term used to refer to any energy source other than fossil fuels. An ongoing debate exists over what forms of alternative energy are the safest, most cost-efficient, and most practical to replace and/or subsidize fossil fuels. Some activists believe that government agencies and powerful lobbyists are hindering investigation into alternative energy in an effort to support the fossil fuel industry.
As a source of energy, fossil fuels are limited and cause numerous harmful environmental effects. Many modern energy companies are studying and developing alternative fuel sources. In recent years, governments have increased the resources dedicated to the development of alternative energy.
The perception that the demand for fossil fuels dominates some foreign policy decisions has led to political protest movements. Critics of fossil fuels also contend that at current levels, the continued use of fossil fuels may lead to catastrophic environmental repercussions. Opponents of alternative energy exploration argue that oil, coal, and natural gas companies are using whatever energy sources are available and economically practical to meet current demand.
Understanding the Basic Terms and Definitions of Alternative Energy Sources
Biomass Fuel: Biological material, such as wood, wood products (pellets, sawdust) plant and animal waste, which can be burned to create energy.
Fossil Fuels: Combustible materials such as oil, coal, and natural gas that are derived from the remains of formerly living material, such as plants and animals.
Geothermal Energy: Energy generated from the heat produced beneath the earth's mantle; usually in reference to the use of subterranean steam or hot water to drive turbines that produce electricity.
Hydrogen Fuel: Hydrogen gas or the chemical mixture of hydrogen and oxygen used to power engines directly through combustion or via fuel cell batteries.
Hydropower: The use of the kinetic energy in moving water such as rivers or tidal currents to generate electricity.
Nuclear Power: Energy that is harnessed from reactions among radioactive isotopes.
Renewable Energy: Power generated using natural resources, such as wind, solar energy, tides, and geothermal energy that are naturally replenished.
Solar Power: The use of sunlight to generate electricity.