Alternative Energy Sources

What are alternative energy sources?

Alternative energy is power that comes from nontraditional and non-polluting sources like the sun and wind. For centuries people have harnessed the renewable power from the sun (for heating and light) and wind (for transportation), but its use fell out of favor around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Now nearly 200 years later, we are realizing the dangers posed by burning fossil fuels to the environment, economic costs caused by rising prices, as well as national security risks from dependence on foreign energy sources. At the same time, non-traditional energy sources are experiencing prices drops as innovation and market maturity take hold. Outside of wind and solar energy, other types of alternative energy include geothermal, tidal, and biomass.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy is power that is derived from the heat produced deep within the Earth. Temperatures at the center of the Earth can reach over 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit and this heat can be used to generate steam to power turbines that generate electricity. Geothermal is slowly growing because it is still more expensive than other types of alternative energies. It is most popular near places of frequent tectonic activity like the Pacific Rim. As of 2013, the U.S. (3,389 MW), the Philippines (1,884 MW), and Indonesia (1,333 MW) were the three countries that combined had an installed geothermal capacity of over 1000 megawatts.1

Tidal energy

More predictable than the availability of wind or solar power, tidal power utilizes the steady force of the tides to generate electricity. The predictability and relative strength of water compared to wind make tidal an attractive option, but its growth has been hampered by current high costs and maintenance issues. As water flows from low to high tide and vice versa, it passes through a turbine, creating electricity. The largest tidal plant in the world is the Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Plant in South Korea (254 MW) that was constructed in 2011.2

Biomass energy

Biomass energy is similar to fossil fuels in that it requires combusting a material to release energy, but it is classified as an alternative and renewable energy source because it can be replenished quickly. Biomass comes from living or recently deceased organisms like trees, plants, algae, and even rotting garbage in landfills. Wood currently produces the largest amount of biomass energy, but agricultural waste like clippings and methane produced from rotting garbage are quickly becoming major players in the biomass sphere. Biomass energy is carbon neutral because the carbon released during combustion is absorbed while the material is growing.

Why is alternative energy necessary?

Alternative energy is necessary because we are rapidly depleting our most accessible and traditional forms of energy like oil, coal, and gas. Furthermore, we have become aware of the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions and man-made climate change, so a shift to clean energy is vital for the health of the planet. Renewable energy also makes economic sense especially as prices become cost-competitive to fossil fuels, especially in the case of solar and wind.

Alternative energy sources are quickly gaining traction in replacing conventional fuel sources, and Mosaic is at the forefront of the clean energy movement allowing people to support and earn returns from clean energy. With competitive returns between 4.5-7%, investors will make a positive impact on the environment as well as their wallet.

1 Geothermal Energy Association International Report 2013

2; Schubert, Derek K. & Ko, Yekang