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10 Energy Resources That Could Eventually Replace Fossil Fuels

by Adrian Sharp
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Since the 1800s, fossil fuels have powered our homes, schools, workplaces, government buildings, jails, and manufacturing enterprises. Fossil fuels provide a dependable and cost-effective way to power our world, but they also emit harmful emissions into the atmosphere. We hope that renewable energy will one day completely replace fossil fuels, allowing us to slow and even reverse the planet’s devastation.

The cost of renewable energy is falling, and we may phase fossil fuels out of energy generation entirely over the next decade or two. Yes, it’s an optimistic estimation, but it aligns with the interests of most people, which is to have a reliable and affordable energy source while simultaneously conserving our environment.

Here are 10 energy resources that could eventually replace fossil fuels in the not-too-distant future.

Related: 10 ‘Green’ Products That Are Bad For The Environment

10 Solar Energy

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the most environmentally friendly and prolific renewable energy source today, and the United States possesses some of the world’s most abundant solar resources. We can use solar technology to provide light, warm indoors, and heat water for household, commercial, or industrial purposes.

Today, a wide range of devices convert sunshine into useable energy. Passive solar design for space heating and cooling, solar photovoltaics for electricity, and solar water heating are among the most widely utilized solar technologies for homes and businesses. Solar solutions help businesses and industries diversify their energy sources, increase efficiency, and save money.

Solar energy has numerous advantages over fossil fuels, including significantly lower carbon emissions and long-term sustainability. It does, however, have flaws. For one, it’s impossible to collect solar energy at night. In areas or countries with minimal sunlight, solar panels will hardly have an effect. Also, a solar power system’s initial installation is rather expensive. The space constraint is also a concern; the more solar panels you require, the more space you’ll need.

9 Wind Energy

Energy 101: Wind Energy

Wind energy, also known as wind power, is created using a wind turbine, a device that harnesses the wind’s energy to generate electricity. Kinetic energy exists in every moving object, and scientists and engineers harness the wind to generate clean electricity.

The potential of wind turbines isn’t to be trifled with. Small wind turbines can generate 100 kilowatts of electricity to run a house. Wind turbines with rotor blades that extend 40 meters (130 feet) in length may generate 1.8 megawatts of electricity. The power generated by giant turbines can range from 4.8 to 9.5 megawatts.

According to carbontracker.org, the potential of wind energy, together with solar energy, is significantly greater than that of fossil fuels, and combined, they can more than meet world energy demand. Currently, we can capture at least 6,700 petawatt-hours from sun and wind with existing technology across the world, which is more than 100 times the world’s energy consumption.


8 Geothermal Energy

Energy 101: Geothermal Energy

Geothermal power, also known as geothermal energy, is a self-contained and reliable power generation system that utilizes the thermal energy contained in the earth’s magma. Geothermal energy is harvested via steam from reservoirs beneath the earth’s surface. The steam turns a turbine, which turns a generator, which generates energy.

Geothermal power plants come in three forms: dry steam, binary cycle, and flash steam. Hydrothermal fluids, primarily steam, are used in dry steam plants. They were the first geothermal power plants to be constructed. However, flash steam plants are the most frequent type of geothermal power plant in use today. These plants use vaporized water of more than 182°C (360°F). Finally, binary cycle power plants run on water at temperatures between 107° and 182°C (225°–360°F).

The United States continues to create the world’s most geothermal electricity, with over 3.5 gigawatts generated primarily in the western part of the country. This amount is enough to power around 3.5 million homes.

7 Hydropower

Hydropower is a form of energy generated by the flow of water. The practice of taking advantage of water dates back over 2,000 years when the ancient Greeks employed water to drive grain grinding machines.

We typically utilize a dam or diversion construction to change the flow of a body of water to collect hydropower or hydroelectric electricity. The dam system uses turbines and generators to convert kinetic energy into electricity, subsequently distributed to properties throughout the electrical grid.

Hydropower was one of the earliest resources used to generate electricity, and it accounted for the majority of total annual renewable electricity generation in the United States until 2019. Hydropower now accounts for 37% of total renewable electricity generation in the United States and 7% of total electricity output in the United States.


6 Biomass

How Biomass works

Biomass is a renewable organic resource and comes from animals and plants. Biomass energy, or energy derived from living things, has been used by humans since the earliest cave dwellers used wood fires for cooking and heating. Today, we utilize biomass for power generators and other machinery.

Currently, wood is still the most common source of biomass energy. Other potential sources are food crops, grassy and woody plants, oil-rich algae, agricultural or forestry residues, and the organic component of industrial and municipal waste. Even landfill fumes–which contain methane, the primary component of natural gas–can be used to generate biomass energy.

Biomass was the predominant source of total annual energy consumption in the United States until the mid-nineteenth century. Biomass is a common cooking and heating fuel in many nations, particularly in developing countries. To minimize carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel usage, several industrialized nations are increasing their use of biomass fuels for transportation and energy generation.

5 Hydrogen Energy

Hydrogen: fuel of the future? | The Economist

Water, plants, animals, and people contain large amounts of hydrogen atoms. However, while it is found in almost all living organisms’ molecules, it is scarce as a gas. It can, however, be utilized as a fuel for energy generation once it has been separated from the molecules. Natural gas, nuclear power, biogas, and renewable energy sources like the sun and wind can all be used to generate hydrogen.

Hydrogen is an environmentally friendly fuel that creates water when burned in a fuel cell. Because of this, it’s a popular fuel for transportation and power generation. We can utilize it in automobiles, homes, portable power sources, and other applications. Hydrogen has become a popular technique for storing renewable energy for use at a later time.

Today, several ways exist for producing hydrogen fuel. Natural gas reformation (a thermal process) and electrolysis are the most commonly used technologies. Solar-powered and biological processes are also viable.


4 Tidal Energy

Tidal energy is derived from the natural rise and fall of ocean tides and currents as a result of gravitational interactions between the earth, the sun, and the moon. When water travels through a constriction, which causes the water to move faster, tidal currents create enough energy for harvesting.

Locations with significant tidal ranges (the difference between low and high tides) and where tidal channels and waterways get smaller and tidal currents become stronger are good candidates for harvesting tidal energy. Although numerous demonstration projects are in various stages of construction, there are no commercially operating tidal energy generating plants in the United States.

3 Wave Energy

How It Works: Wave Energy

Wave energy is a renewable energy source generated by ocean waves. Unlike tidal energy, which is derived from the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravitational pulls, wave energy stems from waves traveling across the ocean’s surface caused by wind.

Wave energy technology can be divided into three categories. The first uses floats or buoys to generate electricity from sea swells, which are then used to power hydraulic pumps. The second form generates electricity by rising and falling water inside a cylindrical shaft using an oscillating water column. A tapering channel, either on or offshore, is used in the third kind. All of these methods can be either onshore or offshore.

Wave and tidal energy are more reliable than many other renewable energy sources because they have longer lifespans and are more efficient. Other renewable resources, e.g., solar and wind power, have always been unpredictable, and wave and tidal energy, like them, are changeable in nature. However, unlike many other renewable energy sources, wave and tidal patterns are more predictable.


2 Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Energy Explained: How does it work? 1/3

Fission, or the breaking of uranium atoms inside a nuclear reactor, is how nuclear energy is produced. An atom’s nucleus (or core) is made up of protons and neutrons surrounded by electrons. The bonds that keep the nucleus together contain a tremendous amount of energy. When those bonds are broken by nuclear fission, this nuclear energy is released, which may be utilized to generate electricity.

Nuclear power is an efficient method of boiling water to produce steam–powering turbines to generate electricity—utilizing uranium fuel bundles. A single uranium pellet, around 1 cm in diameter and length, has the equivalent energy of three barrels of oil, 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of coal, or 5,181 cubic meters (17,000 cubic feet) of natural gas. Each uranium fuel pellet may provide enough heat for five years of electricity generation.

Uranium is one of the most plentiful metals on the planet, so it can provide fuel for commercial nuclear power plants for years to come. Nonetheless, nuclear energy is generally regarded as a nonrenewable energy source. Nuclear energy is a renewable energy resource in and of itself. However, the materials utilized in nuclear power plants are not.

1 Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion ( OTEC ): The Future of Baseload, Dispatchable Renewable Energy

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) generates electrical energy utilizing the temperature difference between the deep sea and the waters near the surface to run a heat engine.

The working system of OTEC is similar to the working system of the cycle of rain. The cycle of rain (hydrological cycle) happens when, during the day, the sun lifts water molecules to evaporate into the clouds. Then, the wind blows them toward the land. When condensation occurs in the clouds, the water previously in the form of gas turns back into a liquid and then descends to the land.

OTEC imitates this system, namely pumping high-temperature (warm) surface seawater and evaporating it into a turbine to generate electricity and then condensing it again with cold seawater taken from the deep sea, then repeating the cycle.

Higher electricity costs, more significant worries about global warming, and a governmental commitment to energy security have recently made the first OTEC commercialization economically appealing in tropical island communities where oil is used to create a large amount of electricity. This island market is enormous, even inside the United States; internationally, it is many times greater. As OTEC technology improves, it should become more cost-effective in the Southeast United States.

fact checked by Rachel Jones

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