Sustainable energy refers to energy that can be used for our energy needs in the long term without adversely affecting the environment or its inhabitants. Sustainable energy also has the requirement of being able to be used indefinitely or at least virtually indefinitely. For example, our current primary power source of Coal is only expected to last no more than around fifty more years and causes extreme damage to the environment through the pollution it emits when being burned and is a health risk to those involved in the extraction of coal which makes it extremely unsustainable. Therefore, there is a need for an alternative energy source which can meet the ever-increasing energy demand from the world while being sustainable. This article describes several of the leading alternative energy sources with their applications.
Biomass energy refers to energy obtained by combusting the gases (usually methane) released when biological waste products such as food and plant matter decays. This is used as a method to convert kitchen waste into usable energy. The resulting gas can be used as an alternative to natural gas, which has a similar composition and can be used to generate electricity. Organisation such as gas hot water system Geelong may manufacture, or service equipment built to use alternative energy sources. The complete combustion of methane releases no harmful substances to the environment and since the raw material is kitchen waste, it is relatively sustainable. However, this method is not scalable and is generally only applicable to residences.
Solar power is the generation of electricity using sunlight. This requires solar panels and a means to store the energy (battery) which makes the initial investment quite high. However, subsequent energy generation has virtually zero cost which makes it a sound long term investment. Solar power is one of the most popular alternatives for fossil fuels and is widely adopted in residential scale. It is scalable to a certain extend but not quite so that it can fuel the power needs of an entire city. It is also highly dependant on battery technology to overcome its reliance on the availability of sunlight which limits its adoption.
Nuclear power generation uses the energy released in the fission reaction of unstable nuclei and uses it to turn water to steam which is then used to turn a turbine and generate electricity. The nuclear reaction releases a large amount of energy with very little fissile material making it one of the cheapest options for power generation. However, the construction of a nuclear power plant is difficult and time consuming due to the need to ensure proper standards to prevent disaster. In the current state however, nuclear is the most viable of the alternatives to replace fossil fuels. Nuclear power emits no harmful substances to the environment other than the waste which can be contained compared to the emissions of coal power plants and fissile material is expected to last on Earth for several thousand years.