There are many advantages in using renewable sources of energy.
The forces of nature have been powering the Earth’s activity since the beginning of time. The wind, the sun and the thousands of lakes, oceans, rivers and streams have moved soil, heated rock and provided life-giving moisture for all of the biological and geological events that occur every day on this planet. These same forces are available to the human race to use, and there are many advantages of renewable energy sources such as these.
Crops for Fuel
Biofuels are a topic of growing interest for many who see definite advantages in using plants normally grown for food to be processed for fuel. Although the main focus is on corn and its fuel by-product, ethanol, other food crops are being studied for their potential use as an alternative source of energy.
Additionally, land use is being researched as part of the effort to maximize the available renewable sources. One such study, being conducted by an environmental engineer at the Argonne National Laboratory as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program (EERE), is looking at ways to use land that previously was seen as marginal for crop production because of inadequate soil quality or because of its location. The study focuses on areas of Nebraska farmland that have been disregarded as suitable for food crops, either because the land is used as a buffer zone between roads and fields or hasn’t been productive due to soil or water integrity. The results of this study so far have shown that an increase of 22 percent in biofuel production is possible if marginal land is used for this purpose. One of the other advantages of this approach would be to use groundwater contaminated by nitrates from farming processes, which is unsuitable for crop production, as renewable sources of irrigation water for biofuel crops.
The awareness of suspected damage to the environment from industrial power plant processes has resulted in an enormous amount of research by scientific groups and citizen organizations concerned about this issue. One such group, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), reports that emissions from power plants release a significant amount of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the air each year. The group believes that the advantages of using renewable sources of energy include not only reducing the presence of these harmful elements in the environment, but easing the overall effect of implementing compliance regulations such as the Clean Air Act and the Kyoto Treaty as well. UCS points to the difficulty in maintaining a sufficient governmental regulation of pollutants due to cost concerns, resulting in a piecemeal approach that will prove to be ineffective in the long run. In their estimation, renewable sources of energy, such as biomass technology, produce virtually no emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants compared to fossil fuels such as coal and even natural gas.
The discovery of solar power as an energy source in 1767 by Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure set into motion an interest in the use of the sun’s heat and light. In 1839, French physicist Edmund Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic properties of the sun’s energy, which has led to vast amounts of research into the ways that solar power can be used for electricity needs. These pioneers in solar energy research started a trend that continues today, as solar panel designs and geothermal technology attempt to improve on the capability of mankind to use this ever-present source of energy to power the world. These technologies have shown that solar energy can be tapped, even in areas where annual sunlight availability is low, or where the remoteness of the location isolates energy users from main electricity grids. The advantage of photovoltaic systems in particular is seen in the lack of moving parts required in most systems, the low level of pollutants produced and the ease of installation and lack of large-scale maintenance required to keep such a system running for 20 or 30 years.