Most energy sources take advantage of the fact something is moving with a force great enough to drive a electrical generator. If we can exploit some physical quantity that is in motion already, then we can convert this natural phenomenon into usable energy. Hydroelectricity or hydro-power takes advantage of constantly moving water through existing rivers. The water running over and powering a turbine excites electrons to move from one location to another.
Although many rivers around the world have been dammed to produce hydroelectricity, micro-generation can be produced wherever you have a moving water source on your property; even if the surface water is only available seasonally. According to John Schaffer of Real Goods, a renewable energy e-commerce site, if you are lucky enough to have a good site, hydro is really the renewable energy source of choice. System component choices are much lower, and watts per dollar return is much greater for hydro than for any other renewable source. If you have a high vertical distance this increases the amount of pressure available to drive a hydro-power producing turbine. Here is more detailed information on hydroelectricity.
Biomass is a general term that refers to any combustible liquid, gas or solid that does not come from traditional fossil fuel drilling. The sources of biomass fuel could be human produced waste such methane extracted from refuge dump sites; bi-products of agricultural crops such as sugar cane, lumber, or corn used to produce liquid fuel such ethanol; or growing crops such Jatropha or palm tree specifically for the production of fuel to be used for transportation, heating, or electricity generation.
This controversial source of energy has some benefits and drawbacks. As conventional fossil fuel sources of energy costs continue to increase, using biomass energy sources can provide a localized alternative. However, for some types of biomass energy such as ethanol, it has been shown that the cost of production, including clearing old growth forests to plant palm or corn crops, can end up being more costly than the fuel it is trying to replace. However, if the sources are from waste or bi-products, human or farm animal, then it may be more cost effective to refine the waste rather than dispose of it. The popularity of biomass is dependent on traditional fuel costs. Above some threshold of traditional fuel costs, it becomes more advantageous to produce biomass fuel. However, when fuel cost drop biomass investment tends to slow to a craw. Here is more detailed information on biomass energy.
The splitting and recombining of water molecules releases energy that can be converted into electricity. Hydrogen power requires an infrastructure that does not exist today. It takes quite a bit of energy to separate Hydrogen from other elements that it is attached to. Then you need to store and transport it to where it needs to be used. The advantages of Hydrogen power is that it produces no carbon. The only output from a hydrogen powered device such as a car is water. Here is more detailed information on hydrogen power.
Nuclear Energy uses fission reactions to create heat to convert water to steam, which is used to drive a turbine. Although this type of energy production produces no carbon, it does have a hard to manage by product. Nuclear reactors eventually get tired and need to be disposed. The disposal of nuclear waste is a controversial subject. You can bury it deep within the earth, however, there is a great potential to spoil usable ground water. Because of safety issues, nuclear power plants are very expensive to build. They must be heavily reinforced in the event of a nuclear meltdown, where the cooling sources are cut off and the nuclear material overheats.
Tags: alternative energy, Hydro Electricity, Biomass Energy, Hydrogen Power, Bio fuel, Nuclear Energy