The best alternative energy sources all stem from renewable natural reserves. There is an infinite supply of resources like sunlight and wind on our planet that can power all our needs. But is this applicable to our respective locations and energy requirements?
The six best alternative energy sources are hydropower, wind energy, biomass, solar energy, tidal energy, nuclear power and geothermal energy. Derived from the environment, the power they create restores itself to the biosphere.
Recent events keep showing us there’s a looming energy crisis. We have to face certain facts about rising fuel prices due to climate change and political affairs. Our current behavior will leave little to no resources to future generations. (source)
Governments, scientists, and many organizations are trying to pinpoint the best alternative energy source. In 2020, the US generated 92.94 quadrillion British thermal units. 12% (11.59 quadrillion Btu) came from renewable energy sources, primarily wind and hydroelectric. (source)
Even though renewable power has a more practical approach than fossil fuels, there are differences between each type. To determine which alternative energy sources provide optimum supply and efficiency, let’s revisit what encompasses alternative energy.
Alternative Energy Defined
Alternative energy – like any other kind of energy, comes down to the potential of a medium to carry out a task. It comes in various forms and can never disappear – only transform into something else. (source)
Our entire society is beyond dependent on energy. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to survive. In the past, our ancestors used natural elements that they then converted into the power they required to live. For example, they used wood for building fires which heated their homes and enabled them to cook. (source)
Over the years, we have started to exploit the Earth’s assets. We found out there’s natural gas and oil buried deep within its core, and we extracted it. It’s still happening, but the consequences are more understandable to us than ever before.
Without fossil fuels, our civilization might not have thrived as it did. Our homes, jobs, and lives would look very different if it weren’t for this discovery. However, we are now aware that we cannot go on like this.
Here’s where alternative energy sources come into play. We have the chance to go back to our roots and use the elemental resources our planet is abundant. Most alternative energy sources are renewable, meaning we will never run out of them.
Technology development has allowed us to harvest the power created by biomass, the waves, and the Sun. It’s not brand-new, but it is something we are working towards as a collective, trying to make a positive shift.
Considering everything, it’s no wonder the current narrative is advocating the utilization of alternative energy. Yet before we start implementing it in every area of our lives, we have to realize its pros and cons.
Top 3 Advantages of Renewable Energy
- Abundant reserves – although there’s a finite source of all kinds of energy, renewable included, it’s enough to cover the needs of humanity. Solar energy seems to be the most prominent one, as we can make the most use of it with our current tools. It is also a viable option for generations to come, unlike non-renewable energy choices. (source)
- Sustainable, clean energy – the best alternative energy sources have one main thing: the energetic output is sustainable. The usage of renewable energy produces a lower carbon footprint, and gas emission is also lower. There is no damage to the environment, and the entire ecosystem functions intuitively. (source)
- low-to-no cost – the initial setup of an alternative energy source, such as solar panels, can be expensive. It is especially true if you’re doing this on your own, to power your own home or office. But after this part of the process has been completed, no more monthly installments arrive at your doorstep. If all policymakers had this approach, power would become more than affordable. (source)
Top 3 Disadvantages of Renewable Energy
- Location-dependent – systems have to be in place in areas that guarantee the best coverage to make the most out of renewable energy. Otherwise, there’s a risk of unfulfilled power demands for many people. It doesn’t make sense to have a wind turbine in an area that doesn’t generate enough wind to power the local surroundings. In some places, the wind is too strong for collection and can cause real damage to turbines. (source)
- Reliant on weather changes – because of extreme weather changes (some due to climate change), it’s hard to rely solely on alternative energy sources. Tidal and hydro energy doesn’t come in identical amounts each day. It can be tough to predict which power levels they would be producing, as they can’t follow a strict timeline. (source)
- Low conversion efficiency – photovoltaic technology behind solar cells is well-known for how it converts the Sun’s energy into electricity. This percentage is not that high – only with recent developments have scientists been able to get to about 34%. (source)
Keeping these advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy in mind, let’s explore the best alternative energy sources.
What Are The Six Best Alternative Energy Sources?
There are plenty of options we can choose from for energy. Yet not all work with the same equipment and distribution systems. That’s why we created a list of the top six alternative energy sources:
Solar energy is a viable power source for almost all parts of the world. The Sun could provide us with all the energy we need, and some extra, because of its strength and infiniteness. In reality, it’s not that easy to count on it in terms of distribution and range. It’s a great choice as an additional energy provider, but it shouldn’t be the only one. (source)
Hydropower is an alternative energy source that humankind has been using for centuries. Waterfalls create powerful kinetic energy that’s simple to harvest. Mills were the prime sources of power for many villages, while today, it’s all about power plants.
Hydropower plants differ based on their location; we distinguish between oceanic, river, and storage power plants. The efficiency of hydropower is over 90%; it helps preserve the environment, but it’s limited to only a handful of locations in a given state. (source)
Geothermal energy is among the best alternative energy sources because of its diversity. It’s perfect for heating and cooling systems in buildings and creating electricity. Geothermal energy’s biggest downside is that it’s not available in all corners of the Earth, and it is non-renewable. (source)
Wind energy is the most prominent renewable source of energy in recent times. It has developed a lot since the start of windmills; wind farms are turning up across the US. Besides providing us with plenty of power, wind energy is creating jobs all over the country. Next to solar, this is the one renewable energy model where investments keep pouring in. (source)
Developing countries used tidal power due to low starting investments. Nowadays, marine wind turbines are a regular sight in North-West Europe. It is because of the efficiency of many tiny devices set to gather energy from the waves.
Tidal energy comes from wind energy, so it’s adequate for countries out on the ocean. Sea pollution and climate change have an unfortunate effect on its usage, so a more widespread application cannot develop quicker. (source)
Biomass can come from any living organism derived from plants. Most often, it’s wood or organic waste, but algae seem to be a promising new solution, too. Because they’re photosynthetic, they’re great at lowering rates of carbon dioxide.
Biomass is not hard to grow on a large scale, so they have the potential to be the next best alternative energy source for the planet. (source)
Nuclear power is also an alternative energy source, yet it doesn’t have a good reputation due to misunderstandings about radiation. Many also equate nuclear power with nuclear weapons, which are not the same thing at all. I currently live 12 miles from a nuclear power plant in the U.S.
Having it as a regular power source in everyday life would include a lot of additional technological investments. (source) However, public perception and government regulations have started tilting towards a softer stance on nuclear power.
Despite the highly publicized Three Mile Island event, to date no one has died from working in or living near a nuclear power plant in the U.S. Compare that to current coal, oil and natural gas production, where lives have been lost from many types of accidents. And exposure related diseases are a risk, as well.
Fukushima has shown the ignorance of building where earthquakes and tsunamis are common, and Chernobyl taught the world many lessons about reactor design, management and emergency responses. But those are the only 3 events in the history of nuclear power.
No alternative energy source is risk-free. Accidents, exposure hazards, ecological effects exist for all energy sources, even the best future alternatives. The best you can do is to minimize the risks.
Which Alternative Energy Is The Best?
To understand which alternative energy source is the best, we must consider several things. Researchers are still gathering data on renewable energy, though they agree on some prerequisites.
Factors In Choosing The Best Alternative Energy Sources:
- Government rules and regulations
- Climate change influence
- Tools and technology
- Ease of application
The most critical factor in deciding where to set up an alternative energy system is an optimum location. Ensuring a low chance of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change follows suit. It both influences the available technology used for distributing energy. (source)
The support from local policymakers is another essential aspect. Without it, the alternative energy source won’t be able to power the users long-term. Unless installing a couple of solar panels for your personal use, you might need an expert or two to assist with the implementation. (source)
After this action has finished, we can start looking into the future of the best alternative energy sources.
Which Is The Most Promising Type Of Renewable Energy?
It’s safe to say there’s a growing need for renewable energy, considering the world’s geopolitical situation at the moment. Hopefully, wars fought over oil will soon become a thing of the past.
Greenhouse emissions and other consequences of climate change are slowing down the demand for renewable energy sources. By 2050, the total energy input will be around 1000 EJ. Alternative energy can’t reach this figure on its own. (source)
Predictions for the future include lowering the power output of our households, institutions, and manufacturers. It is the only way we can get to preserving the environment and enabling a sustainable way of life. (source)
Best Future Alternative Energy Sources, Ranked
- Solar energy
- Wind energy
- Tidal energy
- Nuclear power
- Biomass energy
- Geothermal energy
Solar energy is still at the forefront of the best alternative energy sources for the future. It scored highest in an experiment out of all alternative power sources, and its application is universal. (source)
Following solar is biomass, which moves from its previous organic-only status thanks to newfound discoveries. Tidal and wind energy are sought-after already, and their future developments look promising. (source)
There are geographic limitations to geothermal energy. It isn’t found everywhere. The same goes for hydropower. We now know much more about the negative ecological impacts of building dams compared to decades ago. But there are many dams already in existence that could safely accomodate a power generation station without further altering the surrounding ecosystems.
Both of these alternative energy sources rely too much on their placements. Unfortunately, climate change hits these two power domains harder than the rest, making it tricky to predict what’s to come. (source)
Why Do We Need Alternative Sources Of Energy?
There are many reasons why we’re looking to find the best alternative energy sources. The crucial one is our effect on the ecosystem, as fossil fuels will run out. It might not happen overnight, but scientists assure us a crisis is inevitable.
The systems we live in provide us with enough power to compensate for all our needs. It isn’t simple to dismiss non-renewable power outputs, as they make up more than half of our energy production. Yet it is possible to make changes to entire systems to reflect our interconnectedness with the planet. (source)
Using renewable energy sources doesn’t cost much after the initial investment. The power harnessed from these sources is clean and can go into storage for later use.
To sum up, we require alternative energy because of:
- High prices of traditional types of energy
- Sustainable development
- Clean energy
Fossil Fuels vs. Alternative Energy Sources
Upon hearing the words fossil fuels, something inside of us shifts. We want them to go away and get replaced with something better which doesn’t cause us distress. It occurs because of our thoughts on wars over gas and oil, spillages, and other linked disasters.
There’s an abundance of alternative energy sources we can use instead to counter this. But are they the only solution there is? First, let’s look at non-renewable sources to compare them to renewable ones.
List of Non-Renewable Energy Sources
- Oil sands, heavy oil
- Nuclear fission
- Gas hydrates
- Geothermal energy
- Shale oil
As we can see, not all non-renewable energy sources are fossil fuels. But they do fall into that category; once they get extracted from the Earth, there’s no putting them back in.
If we want to look at the comparison between alternative energy sources and fossil fuels, we have to treat them differently. A single energy unit created by fossil fuel isn’t the same as an alternative source unit. The latter comprises about a quarter of a single fossil fuel unit. (source)
This realization would mean we need more than an advancement in technology to replace fossil fuels. At first, it won’t even be possible to switch to renewable energy on its own. It would never compensate for all the production of coal or natural gas. (source)
Another reason fossil fuels are still an option to power the world is conversion efficiency. Renewable energy scores pretty low here, meaning it cannot fulfill the end user’s considerable demands. It creates less cost-effectiveness as well. (source)
There’s so much to examine before deciding on the best alternative energy source. It’s more demanding for the collective – we have more autonomy when it comes to our own homes.
Best Alternative Energy Sources For Your Home
- Solar power
- Wind turbine
Setting up a solar panel system is popular among campers, hikers, and homeowners alike. Solar panels are an excellent addition to an existing power structure or being on their own. There are portable options or fixed ones that go on top of a roof.
Micro-wind turbines work great, too, as they contribute to reducing the carbon footprint and saving money. Any additional source of energy that provides independence from conventional energy suppliers is a step in the right direction. (source)
Using biomass as a power source is ideal when there’s a lot of organic waste in the household. Farms can benefit from implementing a system using biomass and see energy reductions in no time. (source)
Other alternative energy sources are possible too, yet not always plausible. Depending on the amount of expertise, time, and resources on our hands, we can contribute to producing clean energy wherever we are.
We need a lot of energy each day to live our lives to the best of our abilities. We use the resources available to us to do so, and most of them come from the Earth. The way we have been using fossil fuels is coming to an end, sooner rather than later.
- Solar energy
- Tidal power
- Geothermal energy
- Wind energy
Renewable power sources listed above can help minimize current environmental problems and reduce risks of future catastrophe while still providing enough energy to keep up with worldwide growing demand.