Alternative energy refers to energy sources that have no undesired consequences such for example fossil fuels, nuclear energy and falling water. Fossil fuels are coal, petroleum and natural gas. There are some characteristics of the fossil fuels that made the concept of alternative energy come into place. (Alternative Energy) One of the fossil fuels, Petroleum, forms a thin film around the grains of the rock where it formed. Pressure from the overlying rock and water move the petroleum and gas through the rock until it reaches a rock type or structure that stops it. If natural gas is present, it occupies space above the accumulating petroleum. Such accumulations of petroleum and natural gas are the sources of supply for these energy sources. The supply of petroleum and natural gas is limited. Most of the continental drilling prospects appear to be exhausted, and the search for new petroleum supplies is now offshore. In general, over 25 percent of our nation's petroleum is estimated to come from offshore wells. Imported petroleum accounts for more than one-half of the oil consumed, with most imported oil coming from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia. (Tillery,2010) A fossil fuel, coal, formed from an accumulation of plant materials that collected under special conditions millions of years ago. Stagnant swamp water protected the plants and plant materials from consumption by animals and decomposition by microorganisms. Over time, chemically altered plant materials collected at the bottom of pools of water in the swamp. This carbon-rich material is peat. Peat is used as a fuel in many places in the world. The flavor of Scotch whisky is the result of the peat fires used to brew the liquor. Peat is still being produced naturally in swampy areas today. Under pressure and at high temperatures peat will eventually be converted to coal. The mineral impurities leave an ash when the coal is burned, and the sulfur produces sulfur dioxide, a pollutant. Industries and utilities are required by the U.S. Clean Air Act to remove sulfur dioxide and fly ash from plant emissions. About 20 percent of the cost of a new coal-fired power plant goes into air pollution control equipment. Coal is an abundant but dirty energy source. (Tillery, 2010) Moving water has been used as a source of energy for thousands of years. It is considered a renewable energy source, inexhaustible as long as the rain falls. Water from a reservoir is conducted through large pipes called penstocks to a powerhouse, where it is directed against turbine blades that turn a shaft on an electric generator. A rough approximation of the power that can be extracted from the falling water can be made by multiplying the depth of the water by the amount of water flowing, then dividing by 10. The result is roughly equal to the horsepower. Nuclear power plants use nuclear energy to produce electricity. Energy is released as the nuclei of uranium and plutonium atoms split, or undergo a nuclear reaction called fission and form new elements. The fissioning takes place in a large steel vessel called a reactor. Water is pumped through the reactor to produce steam, which is used to produce electrical energy, just as in the fossil fuel power plants. Nuclear power plants use nuclear energy to produce electricity, but some people oppose the use of this process. The electric utility companies view nuclear energy as one energy source used to produce electricity. They state that they have no allegiance to any one energy source but are seeking to utilize the most reliable and dependable of several energy sources. Petroleum, coal, and hydropower are also used as energy sources for electric power production. The electric utility companies are concerned that petroleum and natural gas are becoming increasingly expensive, and there are questions about long-term supplies. Hydropower has limited potential for growth, and solar energy is...
Cited: Alternative Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from alternative energy.org: http://www.altenergy.org
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