There is no doubt that alternative energy has the potential to replace some of the more inefficient energy producers such as coal plants, nuclear energy and oil, but which alternatives will have the most influence? Utilizing the following forms of alternative energy may be more sustainable for the planet and cheaper for the U.S. A study by Mark Jacobson of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University determined that these seven alternative energy sources were on top.
- Wind: In January 2009, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) published a release stating that wind energy grew by 8,358 MW, which is enough power to serve more than 2 million homes. In addition, this growth provided $17 billion into the economy.
- Concentrated Solar Power/Solar Panels: In a March 2001 report, the Department of Energy published a report stating, “Enough energy from the sun falls on the Earth everyday to power our homes and businesses for almost 30 years.” Concentrated solar power uses mirrors with the aid of the sun to heat towers of water. One of the largest solar power tower systems is called Solar Two, which is located in California.
- Geothermal Energy: According to the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), in August 2008, seven U.S. states had geothermal electric power plants, which had an energy capacity of 2,957.94 MW. An additional 3,959.7 MW of geothermal power is being built. This source of energy is providing additional jobs in a down economy, and the GEA says it has provided well-paying jobs to almost 300 people as well as more than $12 million in tax revenue for Imperial County, California.
- Wave & Tidal Energy: Tidal energy is a process that turns the ocean’s waves into energy. In 2007, the Electric Power Research Institute estimated that these alternative energies might be able to supply 10 percent of the U.S.’s demand for electricity.
- Hydroelectric Dams: According to EcoLeaf, the U.S. consumed 77,821 MW of hydroelectric energy in 2006. As hydroelectric dams become larger in capacity, it will be interesting to see how much energy they will be able to supply. For example, the Three Gorges Dam in China is estimated to produce 18.2 GW of energy with its 26 generators.
It requires money to expand on the alternative energy production in the U.S., but these advances are providing jobs and some of them such as wind energy are even putting money back into the economy.