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You may have heard about alternative energy on the news and not completely understand what it means. So what is alternative energy? Alternative energy is any form of energy that does not come from fossil fuels. They are considered alternatives because they can be future replacements for the fossil fuels that now meet a considerable portion of our energy needs. Here are some characteristics of alternative energy sources.
First, alternate energy sources are often renewable. Unlike most fossil fuels they are easily available and don’t have a finite supply. The most well known types of such energy are solar power and wind power. The Sun is naturally Earth’s most abundant energy source and will be around for billions of years. This is a resource that essentially human beings won’t be worried about running out of anytime soon. Wind is a constant in Earth’s atmosphere and can also be continually harvested without exhausting the supply.
Another factor is that many alternative energy supplies are “clean.” This means they have few or zero carbon emissions and produce few toxic byproducts. They are considered to be energy sources that won’t pollute the environment as they are being used. This is why nuclear power is not fully accepted as an alternative energy source. The high toxicity of radioactive materials has made it less popular as a viable energy source. However less poisonous types of nuclear power like nuclear fusion are being studied. Hydroelectric power is a clean alternative energy source because water is the only power source.
Right now alternate energy is still in is infancy. In the United States Coal, Natural Gas, and Gasoline comprise the majority of the energy portfolio. However political pressure from citizens as well as world events is forcing nations to start investing more in alternative energy technologies. The state of California for example recently passed legislation that would expand the share of alternative energy the state uses to 20 percent.
Beyond the environmental benefits nations and businesses are starting to see the economic perks that an alternative energy source can provide. As the technologies that use them get cheaper and more efficient they reap savings and also provide the seeds for new industries.
If you’d like more info on Alternative Energy, check out the Alternative Energy Crops in Space. And here’s a link to Alternative Energy Technologies to Control Climate Change.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.