What are alternative energies?

We explain what are called alternative energies and why they are important. Advantages and disadvantages of these clean energies.

  1. What are alternative energies?

It is called alternative energy or, more properly, alternative energy sources , the techniques and procedures for obtaining energy different from the traditional ones, consisting of the burning of fossil fuels ( oil , coal, natural gas, etc.). Usually this term is associated with the search for less polluting energies but of equal performance.

Since the Industrial Revolution of the seventeenth century, the burning of hydrocarbons remains the most used energy source in the world, given its enormous performance when it comes to manufacturing fuels for cars, aircraft or sources of electricity . However, its environmental consequences, coupled with the instability of raw material markets, impose the need for cleaner, safer and cheaper energy . Those, then, are the alternative energies.

This term appeared in the 70s , when the environmental impact of human industry and its alteration of animal ecosystems were already more than evident. There is no definitive criterion as to which forms of obtaining energy are the “alternatives” themselves, since the term is often used to refer to forms of ecological energy or “green energy”.

  1. Examples of alternative energies

In broad strokes the forms of alternative energy would be:

    • Tidal energy . Take advantage of tidal movements and ocean currents.
    • Wind power . Take advantage of the mechanical force of the wind to mobilize generating turbines.
    • Nuclear energy . It obtains energy through controlled atomic reactions that release a lot of heat and allow electricity to be produced.
    • Solar energy . Take advantage of and store the energy from everyday solar radiation.
    • Geothermal energy . Take advantage of the natural heat of the deep layers of the Earth’s subsoil.
    • Hydroelectricity . It generates electricity from the use of thegravitational potential energy of large bodies of water such as waterfalls or rivers.
    • Biofuels . Take advantage of organic waste material to generate alcohols and gasolines of medium performance and lower cost and environmental damage than petroleum products.
  1. Importance of alternative energy

Alternative energies
The high demand for energy makes alternative energies increasingly necessary.

The field of development of alternative energy is vital in the post-industrial world , given that the effects of our industrial activity over almost two centuries are already seen in the environment and generate controversy among scientific communities.

Since our demand for energy only grows and grows, as we use more technology and sophisticated devices, it is urgent to find safer and more reliable forms of energy for the future.

  1. Advantages of alternative energies

The main advantages of alternative energies are:

  • Less environmental impact . Although these are not ecological or green ways of obtaining energy, since a hydroelectric plant has a considerable ecological impact, they are more convenient for the global ecosystem and climate change problems than the burning of hydrocarbons, as they do not generate as many greenhouse gases .
  • Lower cost of raw material . By not depending on the extraction of oil, coal or natural gas, these energies keep their costs stable, in many cases limiting them to the initial installation and subsequent maintenance.
  1. Disadvantages of alternative energy

Despite their advantages, these energies have a weak side:

  • Lower efficiency . They are not usually as powerful as traditional methods are, which requires greater facilities, saving campaigns and an entire energy culture contrary to the waste to which we are accustomed culturally.
  • Greater risks . Although they do not harm the global ecosystem so much, these technologies can cause a lot of damage if something goes wrong: the loss of radioactive material from nuclear power plants, the micro-energy generated by geothermal energy or the fall in wind power generation when the wind decreases or the weather changes , these are issues that must be taken into account.
  1. Types of alternative energies

Alternative energy sources can be classified into two types:

  • Renewable or sustainable energy . Those that use materials or take advantage of inexhaustible resources or that nature constantly replenishes, without risk of depleting them in the immediate future. In some cases they even take advantage of organic waste materials, such as biomass . Some are more or less ecological, but do not usually have a very high yield.
  • Nuclear energy . All forms of nuclear energy, both fission and fusion (not yet developed), that while taking advantage of non-renewable resources (such as uranium for fission; although fission would take advantage of hydrogen, so abundant in the universe that it is virtually eternal ), involves environmental hazards such as the generation of highly toxic radioactive waste.

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