Alternative Energy Sources
Energy is essential to manufacturing of goods, provision of services, transportation, heating and lighting homes; and a lot more functions that are virtually endless. All of these activities would not occur if there was no energy. There are various sources of energy currently being harnessed within the United States of America (U.S.A). These sources can largely be categorized into two groups: renewable energy sources and non-renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources can be replenished naturally and they can never get exhausted. These include geothermal power, hydro-electric power, wind power, solar energy and biomass power. On the other hand, the non-renewable sources include nuclear energy and fossil fuels-these forms that cannot be regenerated at a rate that can meet their usage rate (Morgan, 2009).
Most renewable sources are safe because they present less threat to the environment, our health, security and economy. On the other hand, non-renewable sources pose a lot of problems to our nations. Over dependence on fossil fuel for example may cause threats to our security and economy. A large amount of our fossil fuel consumption is imported and a lack of this supply due international conflict may affect our nation-wide security as well as the security of the economy. Additionally, these sources lead to global warming, pollution and they may also cause health problems such as cancer due to radiation from nuclear energy (Morgan, 2009).
As a result, there is a need for adoption and use of the renewable energy sources within our reach so as to avoid the threats posed by non-renewable energy sources. The best propositions of three alternative sources of renewable energy include solar energy, hydro-electric energy and wind energy. Currently solar energy provides about 1% of the energy requirements of the country through provision of heating and electricity. The country however, has a greater potential of generating energy whose limits cannot yet be determined in high solar radiation regions such as Arizona. The potential limit may not be clear because the U.S has different radiation regimes based on altitude and weather. The second source-hydro-electricity-generates a total of 7% energy to the national power supply (National Atlas.gov, 2011). Like solar energy, wind energy also generates an estimated 2% of the U.S power mainly in the Appalachian Mountains and Alaska where strong winds are prevalent.
Texas State is the highest producer currently with about 9410 Mega watts U.S Department of Energy, 2008). This implies that much of the energy consumed in the (U.S is from non-renewable sources and it is about 85% by capacity of the total national consumption. However, these sources also come with their own challenges. Wind energy requires large spaces for implementation at a viable scale and thus may not be applicable to people in urban areas, but it could be set up elsewhere and the power transmitted to another place. The lack of strong wind in some places may also be a hindrance towards its implementation. Hydro-electricity requires a lot of investment which may be actually out of the scope of most individuals, as such it requires large government initiatives that could take up billions of dollars to establish.
On the other hand, solar energy is within easy reach of most Americans through solar water heating and photovoltaic cells. For example a hot water system powered by solar roughly costs US $ 2000 to US $ 4000 and a photovoltaic cell system may take up to US $ 8000 to US $ 10000 for a system that can generate 1 kilowatt (Anonymous, 2011). Thus, a comparison of the three sources portrays that solar energy may be within easy reach for most people in the U.S. and especially; those in zones with higher radiation.
On the transport sector there are various sources of alternative energy including alcohol based fuels such as ethanol and methanol as well as butanol, which can easily be transported by the pipeline used for petroleum products. These sources can be generated from crops such as wheat, sugarcane and even corn. Ethanol has been known as a potential internal combustion engine and all that the country is doing is to initiate the production of vehicles with internal combustion engines that can use ethanol. The U.S produces approximately 26 billion liter per annum and this can be used in generating a lot of energy for the transport industry. The production of alcohol based fuels may pose a challenge to food security because the agricultural industry may concentrate on producing fuel rather than food and thus lead to shortages of food (Morgan, 2009).
The use of electricity as an alternative transport fuel is already in use for rail transport, however; this has not picked on the vehicle industry despite the success of a few solar powered vehicles that are already in existence. This source is more applicable in the railway transport at the moment, but could easily be transferred to the auto-industry with the right policies in place. However, this may come up with new costs of setting up power centers to replenish the vehicles as well as make affordable large scale production of electric powered cars (Morgan, 2009).
Solar energy is also a potential source for transport. However, the challenges associated with this is source include the fact that not all zones or states of the U.S receive enough radiation to power such a form of transport, and even where the radiation is sufficient it may not be consistent all year round (Morgan, 2009).
Anonymous (2011),. How much does solar energy cost? Retrieved on 19thhttp://www.facts-about-solar-energy.com/solar-energy-cost.html February 2011 from,
Morgan, S. (2009), Alternative Energy Sources, Heinemann Library
U.S Department of Energy (2008), Annual Report on U.S wind power Installation, cost and performance trends: 2007.
National Atlas.gov (2011), Renewable energy sources in the United States, retrieved n 19th February 2011 from, http://www.nationalatlas.gov/articles/people/a_energy.html#three
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