For about two hundred years, the United States has obtained most of its power from fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil. While these allowed us to build the world’s largest economy, they now have numerous, serious drawbacks. As non-renewable energy sources, they cannot be replenished. They are increasingly more difficult and damaging to our environment to retrieve, and their use pollutes the air and generates the greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. Fortunately, there are alternatives to fossil fuels that are being used more and more and will be able to provide the clean, renewable energy we need for the future. Here is a look at the most promising.
Solar energy can be used directly for heating and light and with photovoltaic technology can be converted to electricity. With more sunlight hitting earth in a single day than can be used in a full year, solar is an inexhaustible source of energy that creates no pollution and has virtually no downside. Advances in photovoltaic technology are making solar panels increasingly economical and efficient. They can be connected to the electric grid or to batteries to store energy or share it between interconnected homes or businesses.
Windmills have long been used to pump water and grind grain on thousands of American farms. Windmills have evolved into modern wind turbines to turn wind energy into electricity. Turbines can be used by themselves to generate electricity for a home or farm, or, like solar, they can be connected to a power grid or battery system to store or share power. Wind farms, where a large number of wind turbines are built close together, are also becoming more popular.
The heat from the earth is a powerful source of energy and can be drawn from hot water or steam reserves, from geothermal reservoirs, or from shallow ground near the earth’s surface. The geothermal energy derived from these sources can be used to produce electricity and drive generators and can also be harnessed to produce heat directly from the ground. The most popular and widely known form of geothermal energy is heat pumps used for both heating and cooling.
Water, or hydropower, is easy and inexpensive to obtain and all but two states in the US use it for electricity. In fact, almost 75 percent of Washington State’s power comes from water. By using a dam or diversion structure to alter the natural flow of water in a river or other moving water source and send it through a turbine, hydropower is used to produce electricity. It is a pollution-free source of energy, but the damming of rivers has significant environmental effects both up- and downstream.
Renewable energy sources are vital to the survival of our planet. While no source of power is perfect, the four mentioned above are excellent alternatives to our quickly depleting fossil fuels. If you have questions about renewable energy and how to use it in your home or business in Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey or Delaware, please visit our website.