Industrialization has created numerous environmental hazards to the planet, one of which is widespread pollution from fossil fuel-powered engines in vehicles, factories, and for domestic use. Alternative sources of energy have become increasingly popular as the world recognizes the need to protect the natural resources that it destroys to generate fossil fuels. In this literature review, we shall embark on an assessment of five sources that address the issue and come up with better solutions towards universal renewable energy use.
Alrikabi (2014) introduces the types of renewable energy in use to include wind, solar and hydrogen. The article discusses the numerous uses for solar and wind in heating water, warming houses, lighting homes, among other domestic, commercial, and industrial uses. The main attraction of renewable sources, according to Alrikabi (2014), is that they are freely available and only require equipment such as solar panels and turbines for eternal use. Another renewable energy source mentioned in the article is biomass, an energy source that comes from organic plant matter.
On the availability of renewable energy sources, the author addresses the sources of energy in turn. On solar energies, the article mentions the two types of solar energy as passive and active solar, giving the distinction that active solar energy harvests electromagnetic waves from the sun's rays to produce energy while inactive solar energy use simply harnesses the heat from the sun for thermal energy. The article's main failing is that it does not give enough weight to hydroelectric sources of energy, yet they are some of the widest used renewable sources of power.
The book 'Sustainable Energy' by Tester et al. (2012) addresses the crisis that increasing energy needs of the human populace increasingly endangers non-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels to depletion. The authors focus on broad facets of renewable energy use, including estimation of energy needs, the environmental aspects of non-renewable energy use, economic costs of both renewable and non-renewable sources, and finally, the authors attempt to estimate future energy needs by assessing present energy needs. The authors are concerned with the challenges of designing more efficient energy use decisions to assure humanity of a more sustainable future.
For all its detailed information and insightful evaluations, the authors fail to present a convincing argument for the use of renewable energy, appearing instead to focus too much on the technical and financial aspects use of increased renewable energy sources. The book is also too academic and professorial. To present an argument as well thought as the one that Tester et al. (2012) present, it is imperative to keep the language of research texts simple and relatable.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is without doubt one of the most vocal advocates for increased renewable energy use. In their report 'Benefits of Renewable Energy Use', the Union addresses the global warming effects of fossil fuels, including increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere that leads to the destruction of the ozone layer. Their report also gives other benefits of renewable energy use, including predicting an improvement in public health, jobs and more industrialization because of cheaper and more sustainable energy sources, and stability. The report cites a study by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that found that generating 80% of US electricity via renewable energy sources would lead to a reduction in emissions by about 81%.
While informative and invigorating, the report, and its political bend towards confronting global warming skeptics makes it come out as overtly political and likely to alienate some of the readers. Its discussion of the technical aspects of renewable energy is also minimal and is obstructed by a detailed analysis of the socioeconomic implications of using renewable sources to generate power.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Mineral & Energy (DMME) wrote the handbook 'Renewable energy and other alternative energy sources' to create more awareness about the environmental risks of non-renewable sources of energy and drum up support for renewable sources. The handbook gives a brief history of energy use in the world from the 1700's all through the industrial revolution to modern times. The handbooks states that the sun is the ultimate source of renewable energy, present even in hydroelectric sources, biomass, and wind power. The DMME also addresses alternative, higher efficiency sources of energy (the only literature reviewed to do so). These means use new techniques to burn fossil fuels for longer and substantially reduce the rate of depletion of natural features.
The main limitation to the handbook is the promotion of non-renewable energy sources through alternative methods of extracting energy from them. Ultimately, the extraction of energy from non-renewable energy sources will only create more pollution, global warming, and depletion. The DMME should stick to promoting 100% renewable energy sources for 100% sustainability.
Heal (2009) states clearly that increasing the consumption of renewable energy is key to the fight against climate change. However, the writer addresses the issues of sustainability not discussed elsewhere such as the unpredictability of weather (the main component source of renewable energy). The article suggests that proponents of renewable energy sources should work harder to come up with ways of storing the energy for future use to avoid the intermittent nature of renewables from interfering with critical functions. The author calls for innovative storage techniques and predicts that only then will renewable sources of energy enjoy widespread use in domestic, commerce, and industry.
The author's article covers the issues facing renewable sources of energy quite objectively. However, the author ignores the innovations that have allowed turbines to produce energy at extremely low wind speeds, solar panels to generate with just the light from the sun, and temperature differences to be harnessed to produce electricity in water. The issues raised on the need of storage mechanisms are important and worth addressing, but it is worth noting that innovations on production of energy can very well cover for storage is continuous production of electric power is assured.
Union of Concerned Scientists (2018). Benefits of renewable energy use. Accessed online https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable-power#.Wq7WZU-kR_H on 19th march 2018.
Heal, G. (2009). The economics of renewable energy. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 15081. http://www.nber.org/papers/w15081
Virginia Department of Mines, Mineral, & Energy. (2018) Renewable energy and other alternative energy sources. Big Stone Gap: DMME https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DE/LinkDocuments/HandbookAlternativeEnergy.pdf
Alrikabi, N. K. M. A. (2014). Renewable energy types. Journal of Clean Energy Technologies, 2(1), 61-64
Tester, J. W., Drake, E. M., Driscoll, M. J., Golay, M. W., & Peters, W. A. (2012). Sustainable energy: Choosing among options, Second edition. Cambridge: MIT Press
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