With the growing cost of traditional sources of energy, the need to look at alternative energy sources is becoming more imperative. While solar energy is gaining wide popularity around the world, few people are aware that there are also several other ways to produce energy using naturally available resources, but because of the way they are harnessed, only a few of them are economically viable. Therefore, whatever the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy may be, it is still the king of alternative sources of energy for home use. However, some alternatives to solar power worth mentioning are wind power, geothermal power and tidal energy.
Wind power has been used for centuries to run wind mills for irrigation, and for over a hundred years to produce electricity. Until the invention of steam engine, wind power was the only way to sail large ships in the world’s oceans. Wind power is environment-friendly, and once installed requires very little extra cost. But its biggest drawback is that it is not as universally available as sun power. Wind turbines are bulky and expensive, and require wind speeds of at least 33 km/hr. These factors limit the viability of wind energy for most home use.
Geothermal energy is the thermal energy generated by the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates. It has been used as a source of heat since ancient times, but more recently, with the advancement in technology, it has been used to generate electricity. Wikipedia states that about 10,715 MW of electricity is generated currently from geothermal power worldwide. In addition to that, 29 GW of direct heat is obtained from ground source heat pumps for heating purposes from this source. Although geothermal power is reliable, sustainable, and environment-friendly, it is not yet viable for home use as an electricity source, as it is not universally present and can only be harnessed in the areas where the earth’s tectonic plates collide.
Another important source of alternative energy is tidal power. This is a kind of hydropower that can be used to convert the awesome power of the ocean’s tides to generate electricity. Not many people know it, but tidal power has been used to run mills in Western nations since as early as the 7th century AD. Tidal power can be harnessed to produce vast amount of energy, but there are still problems that limit its viability – namely, availability of places with sufficiently high tidal velocities, and the high cost of installation.
For anyone wishing to know more about alternative energy sources, David Findley’s book ‘Solar Power for Your Home‘ is a highly recommended read. The book gives an in-depth knowledge of solar power and dwells at length on the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, and also covers wind, geothermal and tidal power. You can also read more about using solar and other alternative energies at SustainableSuburbia.net.