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PASSAGE Alteranative Energy Sources Student copy

By CJcarry Apr 23, 2015 1420 Words
PASSAGE: Alternative Energy Sources
Alternative Sources of Energy
Leisa Pichard
     For six years, I lived with my family in a solar-powered home. We met all of our electrical needs with an eight-panel solar array, a battery system for storing the electricity, and a gas-powered, back-up generator.      For us, solar power was a practical solution to a real problem. For what it would have cost us to have the power company run lines to our remote home, we could buy a complete power system and never have an electric bill. We did our research, learned about typical household loads, and set up our system. Except for the fact that there were no power lines to our house, we looked and lived like just about everyone else in the modern world.      But our neighbors thought we were peculiar. "Back to nature" is what they called us. This stereotype didn't convey everything about our decision to go solar, but it made them feel better to put us into a category they understood. We were known throughout the county as "solar hippies."      However, living with solar power—and other such systems—is not that unusual. Our house was one of a growing number of homes that has added alternative power to reduce electricity bills, supplement an unreliable utility company, or provide total power.      In addition to individual users, an increasing number of utility companies are turning to solar, wind, and other clean sources of power to supplement traditional power-generating systems. In fact, if development continues, solar and wind power will soon become regular components of electricity.

Rise of Alternative Energy
     How are alternative sources of energy different from conventional power systems? The alternative sources typically use "green," or non-polluting, sources of power. The 1990s were a time of great development in the area of alternative sources of energy.      There were many reasons for this development. First, the world's increasing population created greater energy needs and more pollution. Increasing problems with air pollution made scientists research cleaner sources of energy.       Second, energy depends heavily on fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. However, these fossil fuels will eventually run out. Researchers have begun focusing on renewable energy sources that will never run out. The cost of these "green" systems has steadily decreased, making them affordable sources of power.       Finally, the government created conditions that favored alternative energy systems in the late 1990s when it deregulated, or removed restrictions, on electric power. People in California, especially, had to pay very high prices for electricity. They also experienced power outages and shortages because of this deregulation.      For all these reasons, conditions in the United States have begun to favor alternative energy systems. Two such systems are wind and solar power.

Wind Turns the World
     United States energy output from wind power has grown over the last twenty years. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Program, the U.S. had 70 megawatts (MW) of installed wind power capacity in 1982. In 2001, the agency predicted 4,500 MW of installed capacity. That's an amazing rate of expansion.       Many people assume that wind power plants in the United States are found only in the west or in California. However, wind farms can be found all over the country. Even though they might not know it, many consumers are already tapping into wind power when they turn on the lights. Most likely, their utility company ties into an existing wind farm.      Given the widespread use of wind, and the potential power available, it seems clear that a good percentage of the average American citizen's electric power will soon come from wind.

The Ultimate Power: The Sun
     Solar power comes in two forms: solar thermal and solar electric. Solar thermal is a system that heats water for power (think steam) or for consumption (hot showers, clean clothes). The other form of solar power produces electricity directly. When sunlight strikes a semiconductor material, it causes an electric current. The sun's ability to generate electricity is called the photovoltaic effect (photo=light; voltaic=electrical potential).      More households are using solar as a back up to the traditional systems. In Europe, for example, 1.4 million homes have solar water heating systems. Currently, half a million homes are powered by photovoltaic (PVs) systems. In Florida, schools in Jacksonville, Gainesville, New Smyrna Beach, Cocoa, and Pensacola have added solar systems to their buildings. With a little bit of planning, new municipal construction projects can include solar systems. For example, a new aquatic center in Tallahassee (The Trousdell Center) doubles as a solar electricity generating system, creating 18,000 kilowatt hours (KWH) per year.      Many people argue that solar is too expensive to be a practical alternative to conventional electricity. The average home solar power system can cost between $12,000 to $15,000 dollars. Solar electricity currently costs about 25 cents per KWH to produce. Why would anyone choose to pay that when coal fired electricity is available at 7 cents per KWH? First, most solar panel components come with a warranty for between 20 and 25 years. So if you spread the cost over the lifetime of the system, it is much more reasonable: less than $750 per year.      Second, critics who argue that solar is too expensive make comparisons to cheaper sources of energy, like nuclear power. It's true that nuclear energy is cheaper per KWH for the individual consumer. However, these critics fail to factor in the cost of cleaning up the waste and contamination of nuclear power. These "conventional" sources of electricity may seem cheaper, but the overall cost to society is high. To see how a PV system works, go to the Learn More section on the left.

What does the future hold?
     In the last 10 years, the use of PVs has risen 17 percent each year. Wind generated electricity has increased 26 percent each year. In addition, the cost of adding alternative energy systems to homes or buildings has dropped dramatically.      Many state and local governments have begun offering tax rebates to homeowners and businesses that install solar power equipment. Even major oil companies have started investing in renewable energy sources. With the continued improvements in technology, application, and cost, it seems clear that solar, wind, and other clean sources of energy will continue to gain in appeal and use.      Solar and wind generating power plants are not a futuristic idea. They are a modern reality. The people who support and use these "alternative" solutions aren't freaks or "hippies," either. They are, like me and my family, normal everyday people who think electric power isn't something we should take for granted.      Given our increasing need for electricity, and our desire to reduce pollution, we must begin exploring all the options we have for power. We should, like the "solar hippies" of the world, welcome these changes.

Item: #1
-- Passage displayed Above --

The author would probably agree with which of the following statements? A. Nuclear power has proven to be the least expensive energy source. B. Nuclear power only appears to be an inexpensive energy source. C. Nuclear power is a more inexpensive energy source than solar power. D. Nuclear power is a safer energy source than solar power.

Item: #2
-- Passage displayed Above --

Based on the information in the passage, what is the most likely reason that the neighbors called the author and her family "solar hippies"? A. They lived in a greenhouse surrounded by solar symbols.

B. They believed that nature would provide a healthy lifestyle. C. They practiced peculiar, misunderstood customs.
D. They used unconventional sources of electricity in their home.

Item: #3
-- Passage displayed Above --

According to the passage, what was the main reason many consumers were seeking alternative energy sources? A. Lowered costs and more research led to greater public interest. B. The government offered rebates and incentives to attract customers. C. Solar panels have 20- to 25-year warranties on their parts. D. Solar energy can easily be converted into a variety of practical forms.

Item: #4
-- Passage displayed Above --

What makes the author a knowledgeable source of information on alternative sources of power? A. The author has been the manager of Wind Energy Projects in the United States. B. The author has spent only $750 per year on home electricity for the last six years. C. For years, the author lived in a house where the sun was the main power source . D. The author has argued for the deregulation of electricity in the United States.

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