Energy is the fundamental element of life and is considered a universal currency. What are the best ways to produce clean and sustainable energy other than fossil fuels? We have compiled alternative energy sources to help educate people on technologies to help eliminate our dependency on petroleum. This list will cover renewable and exotic energy sources. The mission is to educate people on renewable energy sources to help establish longevity for the human species.
Energy is the fundamental element of life and is considered a universal currency. According to Physics, the laws of thermal dynamics state that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. However, how it is influenced and changes are what powers the world as we know it today. We hope you enjoy this list of alternative energies that can create a much cleaner and more abundant earth. As well as fuel our ability to travel the stars.
Hydroelectric power is one of the oldest renewable energy sources implemented by the human race. The first hydroelectric power plant was built in 1878 in Niagra Falls. It was a project conceived of by a very famous Engineer/Scientist by the name of Nikola Tesla. It quickly became one of the most utilized alternative energy sources in the world generating almost 20% of the worlds electrical needs.
Where there is the kinetic energy of water from high to low, there is the ability to generate alternative energy. So any country that has a river can produce a large amount of renewable energy for there population.
- Run-of-River Hydropower
- Storage Hydropower
- Pumped-storage Hydropower
- Offshore Hydropower
Advantages of Hydroelectric Power Systems
- Day or night, so long as the water is flowing from high elevation to low, you will have a sustainable energy source. This energy source is constantly being restored by rain or snow in the watershed. This makes hydroelectric an incredibly useful renewable energy source.
- Hydroelectric power has zero emissions and no byproducts to create a fantastic alternative energy source.
- Can be scalable to almost any size according to the natural water source it generates its power from.
Disadvantages of Hydroelectric Power Systems
- Large-scale commercial hydroelectric power plants have a high initial cost. Building a hydroelectric power plant or dam around a water source can be very expensive which keeps it out of the public sector.
- Permits and licenses also limit its use in the public sector to be able to implement this technology.
- Daming a river can harm the natural ecosystem for fish and wildlife. Halting the water supply can also reduce the oxygen in the water which can greatly impact the environment quality of the water supply.
- Mechanical parts need to be maintained and inspected to ensure the longevity of the hydroelectric power system.
According to Hydro.org, building a power plant will cost around $1,000-$5,000 per kilowatt. This makes it a lot cheaper than solar or wind. Unfortunately, due to governmental ordinances, environmental protections, and cost of manufacturing, a power plant under 0.1 MegaWatts would cost an average $4,000-$6,000 per kilowatt. It's for this reason hydroelectric power is not very suitable for residential use in the public sector.
Wind power is quickly becoming one of the most used forms of renewable energy coming in second to hydroelectric power according to International Energy Agency (IEA). There are several new styles of wind turbines hitting the market that increase efficiency and environmental safety.
- Horizontal Axis
- Vertical Axis
- Ducted Wind Turbines
Advantages of Wind Turbine Power Systems
- Uses vertical space which is beneficial for minimizing the amount of land needed to install a wind generator system.
- Consistently produces power in cloudy conditions or at night.
- Wind is more efficient than many other alternative energy sources. You can get almost 100% of your renewable energy from the wind speed delivered to the turbine.
Disadvantages of Wind Turbine Power Systems
- Wind turbines can create the most noise pollution out of all the renewable energy sources. This is especially evident when at maximum output at high wind speeds.
- Wind Turbines are dependant on a geographic area that has consistent wind speeds. They can also be greatly affected by sudden changes in wind direction and crosswinds.
- Wind turbines require a lot of maintenance since they have moving parts that can wear down.
- Horizontal axis wind generating systems can negatively impact bird populations by physical harm.
According to Windustry.org, an average wind power generator system will cost you $3,000-$5,000 per kilowatt.
Biomass is probably the most underutilized form of alternative energy in our list. Recent advancements in technology have allowed the production of biofuels from sugars, fats, or naturally occurring processes. The reason for the underutilization of biofuels is unknown. However, there is a large number of people in the public and commercial sectors who use natural biofuels (natural gas) from biodigesters.
Most industrial applications of biomass systems rely on corn or other sugar-based plant matter to create ethanol for biofuel. The other option is biodiesel made from vegetable oils and recycled greases and fats. There is a 3rd alternative energy source derived from biomass that is extremely affordable. It is the use of a biodigester that produces natural gases such as methane, through anaerobic digestion.
- Organic matter
Advantages of Biomass Power Systems
- The ability to transition from fossil fuel to biofuels is a great advantage. Not having to retool the already present fossil fuel infrastructure makes it a very viable option for a renewable energy source.
- The cost of the biomass power system is very low considering all the types of biomass systems that can be designed. The use of an anaerobic biodigester, for example, can be implemented almost anywhere around the world at a very affordable price.
Disadvantages of Biomass Power Systems
- Biomass fuels are not 100% carbon emission free. This means that when the fuel is burned to generate sustainable energy, there is a byproduct of carbon dioxide or monoxide.
- Some biomass disturbs air quality with foul odors and unpleasant smells.
According to Biomass Magazine, the cost of a biomass plant is around $3,500-$4,000 per kilowatt of production.
Though the sun is by far the most energy distributing power plant known to man, harvesting the suns power with alternative energy systems is still very underutilized. Solar panels or Photo Voltaic Cells are still one of the most popular ways to generate power as an alternative energy source for the public sector.
A conservative value to use as a solar panel’s generating capacity is 10 watts/sq. ft. This represents a panel conversion efficiency of about 12%, which is typical. This means that for every kW you generate, you need about 100 sq. ft. of solar panels. If the sun shone 24 hours a day, you could put up 100 sq. ft. of panels and have enough energy to power the average home which uses 1kilowatt per hour on average.
- Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI) ...
- Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-SI) ...
- Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC) ...
- Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell (A-Si) ...
- Biohybrid Solar Cell.
Advantages of Solar Panel Power Systems
- Very low Maintenence due to no moving mechanical parts. All that's required is a thorough glass panel cleaning every month or two.
- Zero Noise compared to other systems. Solar panels are silent during operation and don't disturb the noise quality in a community.
- Long-Term Sustainability is an investment in power utility. Though the cost of solar panels is quite large initially, it pays for itself over time as long as you maintain your solar panels.
Disadvantages of Solar Panel Power Systems
- Solar panels have a dependency on sunlight. While they still operate in low light situations, their power generation is greatly affected.
- Solar panels need to be arranged in a way to best maximize solar energy. This usually involves putting your panels facing a certain direction depending on where you are on the earth.
- Solar panels leave a large carbon footprint in manufacturing and can be expensive to initially install.
According to Solar Power Authority, a solar panel system will cost around $7-$9 per watt produced, this includes installation costs. Many utility companies have incentives and discounts.
Geothermal energy takes advantage of the endless source of heat in the earth's core. This technology has made our top 5 alternative energies list because its projection to be more cost-effective than coal and natural gas. Geothermal energy can also be utilized as a passive heating system for homes. According to Energyhomes.org, installing a geothermal power system for a 2,500 sq. ft. house will cost around $20,000-$25,000
The large-scale sustainable energy system is developing quite rapidly in the world according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. It is an especially effective alternative energy source around volcanic regions and other geothermal hot spots.
(Photo courtesy of www.biodiversity.sg)
- Dry Steam Geothermal Plant
- Flash Steam Geothermal Plant
- Binary Cycle Geothermal Plant
Advantages of Geothermal Power Systems
- Using geothermal power systems as an alternative energy source is in many ways similar to hydroelectric power. It is a reliable and consistent energy source 24/7 365 Days a year.
- Once a geothermal system is installed it has very little maintenance and is extremely efficient.
- There is almost no noise or air pollution using this form of renewable energy.
Disadvantages of Geothermal Power Systems
- Geothermal power systems are very expensive to set up and install.
- A geothermal power plant requires a large lot of land to be installed.
- The geothermal energy system needs to be on a geothermal hot spot.
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a large amount of land is required that limits geothermal as a small-scale power generating source.
Nuclear fission reactors in the form of nuclear power plants have been a modern innovation of power generation. Using radioactive decay to our advantage, fuel rods which are usually uranium-235 or plutonium-239 , have fissile atomic nuclei which split into lighter atomic elements very easily. When they atoms split apart they release fission products such as kinetic energy, gamma radiation, and free neutrons
As the fission reactions occur in the fuel rods, water works to cool the rods as well as generate steam which turns a steam turbine generating electrical energy. This process is being used in 450 Nuclear Power Reactors operating in 31 different countries.
- Light water reactor
- Graphite moderated reactor
- Molten salt reactor (Exotic Energy Thorium Reactor)
Advantages of Nuclear Power Systems
- Very little carbon emissions are generated by nuclear power plants
- Nuclear power has a relatively low operating cost
Disadvantages of Nuclear Power Systems
- Nuclear power is not a renewable energy source
- The process of mining and refining uranium has a large environmental impact
- Radioactive waste disposal is a major problem for environmental safety
- Nuclear power plants have a high cost of setup as well as disposal of radioactive byproducts.
- Nuclear accidents, though rare, have massive negative effects on the environment.
The average nuclear power plant creates 20 metric tons of nuclear fuel per year. With that comes a lot of nuclear waste that needs to be dealt with. According to the World Nuclear Association, the average cost per MWh for a standard nuclear power plant was $36. We are unable to determine if this includes weapons-grade enrichment subsidies to mitigate total cost or not.
Hydrogen is element number one and also happens to be the most abundant element in the universe. This makes hydrogen an excellent candidate for a renewable energy source. Hydrogen creates zero-emissions when burned and a hydrogen fuel cell can generate electrochemical power directly to an electric motor.
Hydrogen fuel is what launches rockets into outer space in the form of liquid hydrogen. Hydrogen does not occur naturally on earth in large quantities and is usually bonded to other atoms. There are a couple of ways you can extract hydrogen electrolysis and steam-methane reforming.
- Electrochemical Cells
- Internal Combustion
Advantages of Hydrogen Power Systems
- Zero carbon emissions make for an extremely clean renewable energy source.
- Hydrogen is an almost inexhaustible resource since water makes up 71% of the earth surface.
Disadvantages of Hydrogen Power Systems
- Hydrogen can be explosive under pressure and creates a hazard for storage.
- It takes a lot of energy to separate hydrogen from other atomic elements.
- Hydrogen Fuel lacks the infrastructure to meet the demand of hydrogen-powered cars.
The power of hydrogen is undeniable as an energy source. However, there are many challenges in both manufacturing and energy cost that have yet to be overcome.
Here are a few more honorable mentions for future technology that adapts some of the alternative energy techniques above into new more innovative designs. These designs both increase efficiency and reduce wasteful byproducts if their promise holds true to the tests of natures design.
Exotic energy sources are potential alternative energies that are in development. They can range from plausible engineering designs according to the current laws of physics to irrational or unconventional means for power generation that are on the fringe of science.
The most notable of the exotic energy sources comes from the zero-point energy. This is the sea of the lowest possible energy state a system can have and relates to many phenomena in quantum physics such as dark matter/energy, exotic matter/energy, black body radiation, supersymmetry, Boise-einstein condensate, superfluidity, black holes, etc.
It can be quite the rabbit hole to go down researching these topics, but we will attempt to keep these technologies simplified to get a general understanding of these exotic alternative energy sources.
Wave and Tidal power systems are probably the least exotic on this list. However, they are still so revolutionary in power generation, we have put them as the first on the list. They make it a very small portion of sustainable energy according to the US Energy Information Administration.
- Axial turbine
- Crossflow turbine
- Flow augmented turbine
- Oscillating device
- Venturi effect turbine
- Tidal kite turbine
Advantages of Tidal Power Systems
- As long as the moon is in the sky influencing the oceans ebb and flow, a tidal power system will generate clean energy.
- A Tidal power system can be installed on any coastline that has strong currents to harvest wave energy.
Disadvantages of Tidal Power Systems
- Tidal power generators tend to need a lot of maintenance.
- Salt water is very corrosive in nature and corrosive resistant materials to produce tidal power generators can be expensive.
- Most tidal power generators cannot withstand stormy weather.
On the Alaskan coastline, a study by the U.S. Department of Energy estimated almost 50 GigaWatts of marine current power could be harvested. Another study by the International Renewable Energy Agency estimated the cost of wave and tidal generators to be 20¢-27¢/kWh.
Often called a Stirling engine, a heat engine operates on cyclic compressions and expansions of a gaseous medium. This medium is usually air but can be replaced with other gases that have a better thermal conductivity to improve their efficiency.
A large-scale low-temperature engine can take passive solar heating arrays or fresnel lenses and focus the suns infrared light to run the thermal engine. Then the engine can do work like pumping water or turning an alternator (electrical generator). Such a low-temperature Stirling engine is in operation at the Tamera Peace Village in Spain.
Advantages of the Stirling Heat Engine
- Can be used with waste heat or can be used as a cooling system.
- Can work with passive heating systems to circulate and pump thermal energy.
Disadvantages of the Stirling Heat Engine
- Mechanical components can wear out and break down over time. Regular maintenance is required to keep the thermal power systems operating.
- Scalable and cost are still very unknown to the mainstream public.
Though the hot air engine was pioneered by Robert Stirling some 200 years ago, very little research on its efficiency for an alternative energy source has been conducted. If you have any more information on practical applications of the Stirling heat engine we would love your feedback in the comment section below.
Thermoelectric generators operate on the principle of the thermoelectric effect (TEG). Sometimes called Seebeck generator or Peltier device, these devices are often used in water coolers, automotive fuel line systems, and space probes. They are usually used in places where the bulkier, but more efficient, Stirling heat engines can't be used.
A thermoelectric generator makes use of a solid state device that converts the potential difference of heat and the lack thereof (Hot and Cold), into electrical energy. It operates by using two dissimilar metals (i.e. Copper and Iron) doped in semi-conductive materials which usually consist of bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3), lead telluride (PbTe), and silicon germanium (SiGe).
- Seebeck generator
Advantages of the Thermoelectric Generator
- Low profile device that can be very lightweight.
- A solid-state device means it has no moving parts which mean maintenance is almost non-existent.
Disadvantages of the Thermoelectric Generator
- It uses rare earth materials which means its cost of production is expensive.
- Very inefficient have a Co-efficient of Power (COP) of 5-8%
With the advancement of nanotechnology, it is possible to see improvements on thermoelectric devices. nanotechnology is still quite expensive still and its the reason this type of alternative energy device has been placed under the exotic section of this article.
One of the most elusive alternative energy sources is Fusion Technology. It's a running joke in the scientific communities to say fusion power systems are always 20 years away.
The concept of Hot fusion power to generate a substantial amount of heat forcing hydrogen atoms together. This is usually done by pumping deuterium gas, a heavier form of hydrogen, into a reactor at high pressure and intense heat. When confined in a magnetic field the atomic nuclei of the hydrogen atoms fuse together releasing neutrons as they form heavier elements of helium.
The hypothesis behind fusion is that we can replicate the sun and star's process of producing energy. However, fusion has a wide variety of theories and many are considered to be fringe sciences in scientific circles. Some of these experiments called "Cold Fusion" are tabletop versions that take considerably less energy to create a fusion reaction, than the larger hot fusion reactor counterparts.
Cold Fusion, which is now more commonly called LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reactions), have quite a lot of empirical data that seems to go overlooked by mainstream sciences peer-review systems and has become marginalized over the years. This is quite a sensitive topic for most experimental scientists and disrupts many theoretical postulates on how the stars operate.
- Magnetic Confinement
- Inertial Confinement
- Electrostatic Confinement
- Hybrid Confinement
- Electrolytic Reactor
- Co-Deposited Electrolytic Reactor
- Hot E-Cat Reactor
- Harmonic Cavity Reactor
Advantages of a Fusion Reactor
- Limitless power from the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen.
- New discoveries of how the universe operates will create more innovation for the human species.
Disadvantages of a Fusion Reactor
- Possible unsustainable reactions and runaway reaction could make it not a likely candidate for an alternative energy source. It also might not work as its still strictly theoretical.
- Disruptive to the power systems in current use around the world creating an abundance of renewable energy. In turn, can create an unforeseeable socio-economic and geopolitical landscape.
Fusion technologies are something that we at SciTech Syndicate have a great deal of interest in. While there is a lot of theoretical debate regarding fusion reactor science. The operation of the universe is best tested by applying science through experimentation and leaving pre-conceived notions out of the equation.
This is probably the last of the reasonably logical exotic energy sources. There is a wide range of devices that have collected energy from unknown cosmic sources. Whether the creator of these devices thought the origin of the energy is from zero point energy or from the cosmos, one thing is for certain. These technologies have invoked the stigmatic buzzword "pseudo-science". As well as creating a divide between many scientists and engineers alike.
We wouldn't be able to mention cosmic energy without bringing up the father of the topic. A man who we mentioned earlier in this article by the name of Nikola Tesla. Before radio frequencies from terrestrial origins where present on the earth, Tesla was conducting experiments at a laboratory in Colorado Springs Colorado. One of these experiments involved the collection of Radiant Energy which he developed a patent.
Another electrical engineering experimentalist was Thomas Henry Moray. In the 1920's he designed radio circuits and supposedly discovered an alternative energy transmission source available everywhere. He created a solid state radiant energy power supply which he named a Harmonic Energy Exchange Device. His invention converted inertial impulses into usable electric currents that originated from Solar and Cosmic sources.
There are many other Alternative Energy Technologies that many consider being Free Energy Devices. Whether this is true or not we will leave up to the reader. A great quote by Robert A. Heinlein states, "Everything is theoretically impossible until it is done." Another famous Astrophysicist has a quote that also is relevant to digesting this data that has been presented to you. "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge." -Carl Sagan
It has been said by many notable scientists, scholars, engineers, theologians, and philosophers that energy is in all things. The ability for humans to utilize many forms of energy has been both a curse and a blessing in many ways. It is energies inherent nature to transform into other types of energy. We feel the greatest transformation will be how humans use their energy.
Money is a representation of human energy and we are no stranger to the monetary system. We ask for your support for our alternative energy research with a purchase from our online store. Rather than creating a crowdsource funding campaign for scientific experiments that may prove to be false, we want to deliver quality content and products in exchange for your money.
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