In the U.S., fossil fuels produce up to 80% of all energy that we consume. Our current level of dependence on fossil fuels puts us on track for a rapid depletion of these finite materials. Meaning, if we’re not careful, we will run out of our precious, non-renewable resources. That means no more oil, natural gas, and even coal.
Burning fossil fuels in power plants is hard also on the environment. We’re talking about everything from ocean and air pollution to the destruction of entire ecosystems.
The good news is, we’re now able to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas, thanks to the growth of alternative energy sources. This article will discuss what alternative energy is and why it’s so important that we transition from our dependence on fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. We’ll also take a look at the difference between alternative and renewable energy sources, along with what sources of energy we’re using today to meet our energy needs.
Fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) are our most traditional source for power generation. Therefore, the energy that’s produced from any source other than fossil fuels is alternative energy. In other words, alternative energy is any amount of energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources. Generally speaking, using alternative energy has a low environmental impact.
We now know that alternative energy sources are any source we use to supplement or even replace traditional energy sources used for power generation. You could almost say the same thing about renewable energy sources. But there is one subtle difference between the two. All renewable energy sources fall under the category of alternative energy sources, but it doesn’t work the other way around.
That’s because renewable energy sources are derived from naturally replenished sources or processes of Earth, such as the sun, wind, and water. We refer to these resources as renewable or sustainable (as in sustainable energy) since, unlike fossil fuels, this naturally occurring continual renewal makes them inexhaustible. However, it’s possible for there to be alternative energy sources that are exhaustible, and therefore not renewable. That’s the difference. So what alternative energy source is exhaustible? You’ll have to continue reading to find out.
The equipment necessary to harness energy from alternative sources used to be so expensive that it wasn’t practical for consumer use. However, thanks to increased demand, more experienced energy developers, competitive supply chains, improved renewable technologies, and enhanced energy efficiency capabilities, that’s no longer the case.
In fact, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a report back in 2020 showing how renewable power has now become increasingly cheaper than fossil fuels for electricity generation. Let’s look at a few of the best alternative energy sources we use today.
Onshore wind power and solar photovoltaics, respectively, are currently the most affordable options when it comes to energy production. Using these two natural resources over coal could save as much as $23 billion in yearly power system expenses. It could also lower annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1.8 gigatons. Bioenergy, geothermal energy, hydroelectric power, and nuclear energy are also making their way into the financially competitive spotlight, depending significantly on location.
When it comes to energy efficiency, the leader of the renewable energy pack is wind energy. Behind wind comes geothermal energy, hydropower, nuclear energy, and then solar power.
Out of all the known energy sources, nuclear energy has the highest capacity factor by far. Nuclear power plants are able to produce maximum power over 93% of the time on an annual basis. Next in line comes geothermal, followed by natural gas.
Natural gas is considered the cleanest burning and most reliable fossil fuel, but it still isn’t a clean energy resource. However, there is an alternative called renewable natural gas (RNG). RNG also goes by the name of biomethane and is produced from livestock, landfill waste, and other organic materials through anaerobic digestion. While it’s not a fossil fuel, RNG is completely identical to conventional natural gas in chemical make-up, allowing them to use the same distribution system.
As it turns out, wind energy, which uses turbines to harness its power from the wind, is one of the cleanest and most sustainable forms of electricity generation. It’s able to produce energy without generating any pollutants or global warming emissions. Plus, the land and animal impact of wind turbines is minimal.
As alternative energy technologies continue to improve, the cost simultaneously falls. Solar and wind power have unlocked the potential to generate an energy reserve plentiful enough to meet the world’s demand. When you look at how affordable, effective, and economically friendly these powerhouses are, you begin to see how we could displace fossil fuels within the next 30 years.
Most consumers agree that the benefits of using alternative energy sources far outweigh any drawbacks. Not to mention, improved technology is continually emerging to address and eliminate the disadvantages of various renewable resources.
You now understand the importance of making the switch to alternative energy sources and why it’s so vital to a healthy future, but how can you go about making this necessary change? When you’re ready, contact your energy supplier. Let them know that you’d like to choose a new electricity plan or natural gas plan as part of your energy conservation efforts. Inquire about green energy products and plan options to get started on your new sustainable lifestyle.