Most of the world's energy is currently produced by the burning of fossil fuels. The thing about fossil fuels, however, is that they are finite. Eventually, there will be no more left to burn. When these fuels are no more, we will need other types of energy sources in order for society to function. Thankfully, there are several viable alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels. Let's take a look at some of these alternative energy sources.
Solar energy is virtually limitless. It comes from collected sunlight. This sunlight is collected by solar panels and converted into usable electricity. Solar energy is incredibly clean and poses little to no environmental risks. It can also be installed on private homes and used for valuable energy credits. However, there are a few drawbacks to solar energy. First of all, it takes up a lot of space. Although there are some newer designs that allow solar energy to be collected in a much more space-efficient manner, there may not be enough available real estate for a full conversion to solar energy. Another drawback of solar energy is that it cannot be collected at night or during cloudy days.
The kinetic energy of wind can be harnessed and converted into electricity. This energy is typically converted into electricity by windmills. There are several different designs of windmills that are becoming increasingly efficient as time goes on. However, windmills also have many drawbacks. They have been known to disrupt the migratory patterns of birds. Some of these migratory birds have been known to be killed by the blades of windmills. There are also limits to the blade sizes on windmills due to legal and logistical issues involved in transporting them. Smaller blades generally mean that less energy can be collected.
Nuclear energy is generated by chemical reactions involving uranium. The vast majority of nuclear energy is collected through a process known as nuclear fission. Although nuclear energy is highly efficient and renewable, it is extremely controversial due to the fact that many people are afraid of the environmental risks that it may pose. Through normal use, nuclear energy is much safer than energy that is generated through the burning of fossil fuels. However, accidents involving nuclear power plants can be catastrophic.
Hydroelectricity is generated by using the kinetic energy of moving water. Hydroelectric dams are typically set up at waterfalls. They are relatively inexpensive and have far fewer emissions than more conventional forms of electricity production. However, hydroelectricity is not without its drawbacks. Hydroelectric dams can be extremely disruptive to ecosystems. Wildlife can be displaced by changes to the flow of water. Plants and arable land can also be ruined by changes to the water due to hydroelectric dams.
Geothermal energy is essentially heat that has been trapped inside of the Earth. This heat can be released and converted into usable electricity. Geothermal energy is very clean and extremely abundant. Although local pockets of geothermal energy can depleted if they are not properly managed, the global supply of geothermal energy is virtually inexhaustible. However, unlike most other forms of renewable energy, there are more gas emissions to be concerned about when converting geothermal energy into electricity.
It is no secret that the world's supplies of fossil fuels are shrinking at increasingly high rates. However, developments in renewable energy sources are more promising than they have ever been. It is not likely that any one renewable energy source will rise up to replace fossil fuels. Rather, it will be a combination of intelligently applied sources that will allow society to function long after fossil fuels have been depleted.