What Is Alternative Energy

Sunflower in front of solar panel

The term alternative energy has become a bit of a catch phrase these days. People who use it often have entirely different ideas of just what it means.

Here, I want to give my answer to the question “What is alternative energy?” I want to clarify what I mean when I refer to alternative energy, and also describe the types of energy production I’ll be talking about on this site.

Most energy produced in the world today comes from burning fossil fuels in the form of coal, oil or natural gas. The simplest definition of alternative energy then is energy from some other source.

That’s the definition I’ll use.

Because of the pollution concerns associated with burning fossil fuels, many people automatically assume that alternative energy will be “green”. It isn’t necessarily so.

Some definitions of alternative energy insist that if be renewable, or non-polluting, or have minimal environmental impact and so forth.

I think those characteristics are desirable in an energy source but aren’t appropriate for a definition of alternative energy. Defining alternative energy in those terms limits discussion and also immediately suggests bias and a political agenda.

Besides, alternative energy sources can have their environmental problems as well. Often this depends on appropriate implementation.

For example, wood is a renewable alternative energy source. However, burning wood improperly produces huge amounts of pollution. Done right, it’s a great addition to our energy mix.

Similarly, early wind farms had some negative environmental affects that needed to be addressed.

Hydropower is a very clean source of energy, but constructing dams to harness it can disrupt the environment.

Implementation and refinement are key. One can make the argument that a new natural gas power plant with appropriate pollution controls has less of an environmental impact than poorly done alternative sources set up to replace it.

I don’t chose to get into that argument.

I prefer to think that no source of energy is innately good or bad, but that all have consequences we need to be aware of. My bias (I’m announcing it here) is that we should move away from fossil fuel use as rapidly as possible. I believe a mix of energy sources will probably be the best answer and that the solution will evolve in the near future.

On this site I want to explore the alternatives, as many as possible, in as objective a fashion as possible given my bias.

I hope you find this information useful.

Links

Click here to go to Alternative Energy Primer Home from What Is Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy Types

Solar Energy

Wind Power

Biomass Energy

Geothermal Energy

Hydropower