Photovoltaic (PV) Solar power is harnessing the suns energy to produce electricity. One of the fastest growing energy sources, new technologies are developing at a rapid pace. Solar cells are becoming more efficient, transportable and even flexible, allowing for easy installation. Although residential solar panels are becoming popular, a growing number of commercial solar plants are being deveoped throughout the world to support this alternative renewable energy source.
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy by wind turbines into a useful form, such as electricity or mechanical energy. Large-scale wind farms are typically connected to the local power transmission network with small turbines are used to provide electricity to isolated areas. Residential units are entering production and are are capable of powering large appliances to entire houses depending on the size. Wind farms installed on agricultural land or grazing areas, have one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources.
Geothermal energy is a very powerful and efficient way to extract a renewable energy from the earth through natural processes. This can be performed on a small scale to provide heat for a residential unit (a geothermal heat pump), or on a very large scale for energy production through a geothermal power plant.
Hydro Electric Power
Small scale hydro or micro-hydro power has been an increasingly popular alternative energy source, especially in remote areas where other power sources are not viable. Small scale hydro power systems can be installed in small rivers or streams with little or no discernible environmental effect or disruption to fish migration. Most small scale hydro power systems make no use of a dam or major water diversion, but rather use water wheels to generate energy.
Biomass and biofuels are one of the largest renewable energies currently in utlized worldwide due to availability and ease of use. Environmental concerns from biomass fuel producting high amounts of air pollution including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and VOCs from traditional burning methods limit use in developed nations and only makes up 1.4% of US energy production. More efficient utilization of energy extraction from biomass sources and the availibilty of waste as bio fuel are leading research and development as an alternative energy.
Tidal energy can be generated in two ways, tidal stream generators or by barrage generation. The power created though tidal generators is generally more environmentally friendly and causes less impact on established ecosystems. Similar to a wind turbine, many tidal stream generators rotate underwater and is driven by the swiftly moving dense water.
Wave energy can be difficult to harness due to the unpredictability of the ocean and wave direction. Wave farms have been created and are in use in Europe, using floating Pelamis Wave Energy converters. Most wave power systems include the use of a floating buoyed device and generate energy through a snaking motion, or by mechanical movement from the waves peaks and troughs.