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As the world’s population continues to grow, the demand for renewable sources of energy continues to increase as well. Coal, natural gas and oil have been consumed in great quantities over the past century raising concerns about the future availability of these chief energy sources and the environmental problems associated with their use.
The quest to find sustainable and renewable energy sources has naturally included finding ways to more efficiently use the earth’s natural resources. Although it may be quite some time before fossil fuels are no longer needed, the use of alternative energy sources may result in the reduced consumption of these resources thereby preserving them for future generations.
Alternative energy sources have the potential to provide both environmental and economic benefits. Several alternative sources are being successfully utilized including the sun, wind and heat energy from the ground. Technological advancements are increasing the usability of these clean energy sources.
Solar energy is a desirable source because it is available in great quantities, it’s free, and it is clean and renewable. In fact, scientists estimate the sun’s life span to be several billion years. Unlike light bulbs, the sun is not expected to “blow out” any time soon. However, a number of challenges must be overcome in order to use solar energy efficiently. For instance, the reliability of solar energy is affected by nightfall and cloudy weather making the use of energy storage devices necessary. Sunlight is also widely dispersed and must first be collected and then harnessed in order to produce great amounts of power.
Utilizing wind energy is an ancient idea that is being coupled with modern technology to increase its sustainability and reliability. Windmills have been employed for centuries to produce electricity or pump water, but they generally lack energy storage capabilities. The wind turbines currently being used are designed to transform wind’s kinetic energy into electricity which is then stored in batteries. An energy storage system can provide power when there is little or no wind present. Despite the challenges present that can limit the reliability of wind power, wind energy remains an eco-friendly and renewable energy source.
While some people have looked to the skies for clean energy sources, others have discovered a valuable resource right beneath their feet. Geothermal energy is heat energy found beneath the earth’s surface. Geothermal wells produce steam that is used to operate turbines which in turn power generators. Geothermal heat pump systems extract heat from under the ground which can be used in a variety of ways. For example, geothermal energy is used to heat water for agricultural purposes and to provide heat for residences. Geothermal energy is often used in conjunction with other green sources, such as solar power, to reduce energy costs.
Developing new energy sources while conserving current resources remains a global priority both economically and environmentally. The success of long-term energy resource management requires the efficient use of sustainable and renewable sources of energy.