Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Return to Alternative Energy

By Sam Reynolds

You hear more and more about alternative energies these days a lot of people have different ideas about just what it is. I wrote this article to try to clear things up.

One way to approach a definition of alternative energy is to consider what "regular" energy is. Ever since the mid 19th century, fossil fuels such as coal and oil have provided an increasing proportion of our energy needs. Fossil fuels have become the energy standard against which other forms of energy are considered alternative.

However our reliance on fossil fuels is relatively recent. It wasn't that long ago that ships were powered by sales and horses move goods and people on land.

Dutch windmills are an icon of the country. Windows are also closely associated wit old ranches of the American West.

Another example of earlier uses of what we now consider alternative energy is solar hot water heating. Several progressively better and more convenient solar water heating systems were available commercially in the early 1900s. At one point nearly 1/3 of the homes in Florida use solar hot water.

As you consider the above and similar facts I think you can see that the dominance of fossil fuels has been very brief and very recent. As it becomes harder and more expensive to meet our energy needs with fossil fuel, we need to return to other sources.

Having said all that, let me give you my current definition of alternative energy: energy that comes from a source other than fossil fuels

While many people automatically assume that alternative energy sources are renewable, that isn't necessarily so. For example, burning peat for heat is an alternative energy, but it is neither clean nor renewable.

Most sources of alternative energy have less environmental impact and burning fossil fuel. And most are renewable, meaning we don't have to worry about running out of them. These considerations have led to the increased interest in exploring alternative energy today

Although most people think about solar panels and windmills when they think about alternative energy, the field is really much broader than that. it's very exciting to see all the research being done in areas such as biomass, tidal power, geothermal, solar chimneys and so forth.

I think we can safely expect that the use of all forms of alternative energy will increase until they become the new standard.

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