From the moment we wake up in the morning until the time we go to bed each night, we all use different forms of energy to perform our daily activities. On a daily basis I use energy for transportation to commute to and from work and run errands; for cooking meals using either my gas range, microwave or charcoal grill; for heating my home in the winter and cooling my home in the summer; for daily showering, and for lighting my home in order to be comfortable and productive. Most of the resources we rely on for energy are nonrenewable and will soon be depleted. Let’s take a closer look at how energy affects the following daily activities: Transportation – I use my vehicle to commute to and from work and to run any errands during the week or on weekends. In order for my vehicle to operate properly it needs fuel.
With the implementation of telework in many companies, our gasoline consumption can be reduced by working from home several days a week; by eating out more often, we can reduce our energy consumption from not cooking every day; our heating/cooling energy consumption might increase due to working from home several days a week; our energy consumption for computer use may increase due to working from home several days a week and this would also increase our energy consumption costs for lighting. Our energy consumption can vary from month to month or day to day, depending on the factors involved, such as teleworking more, eating out more or the temperature on any given day. If it is seasonably warm or cool, the temperature would impact the amount of heating/cooling we would do in our homes and offices.
I currently get my electric from PEPCO. PEPCO does not produce electricity they purchase the electricity on an exchange and sell it to the consumer. I get my natural gas from Washington Gas. Like PEPCO, Washington Gas does not produce the product they purchase it from a producer and sell it to the consumer. I purchase my water from Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission who owns and manages about 10,000 miles of water and sewer mains.
At this time they currently operate three reservoirs, with shared access to a fourth reservoir (www.wsscwater.com/hme/jsp/content/www-intro.faces). Gasoline, natural gas, propane, and electricity are all sources of nonrenewable energy. Since these sources of energy are nonrenewable, we need to find other ways to generate the energy we need for every day essential activities before our current supplies are depleted. We have to consider the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy sources and what effect they will have on our environment.
There are several renewable sources for generating energy that can be used as alternative energy sources, such as geothermal energy, wind energy and hydropower. As with the nonrenewable energy sources, the renewable energy sources have both advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage to them all is the unlimited supply of resources and less negative impact on the environment.
Geothermal energy is heat from within the earth that is often referred to as geothermal power. “Geothermal energy can be put into four classifications: dry steam, hot water, geo-pressurized and hot, dry rock resources” (Tillery, 2009 p. 70). This energy form is found near the earths inner surfaces where temperatures reach much higher degrees than what we feel on the surface. When the water or lava comes up from the inner core from either a volcano or from a geyser, the temperature of the liquid it produces would be able to produce the same result we get from using fossil fuel to supply our energy. Geothermal energy could possibly be used to directly heat buildings or used to power turbines and thus generate electricity.
Some advantages to using geothermal energy are: potentially an unlimited supply; does little damage to the environment; does not produce air pollution; does not require any additional structures (solar panels or windmills) to collect the energy; and it does not need to be transported to the power plant. The major disadvantages to using geothermal energy is the need to dig deep below the surface causing damage to the soil when drilling test wells, availability is limited; and there is not much power per vent. This type of energy source would only be available in the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, countries of Central and South America, countries in eastern Africa and in eastern Europe, Italy, Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, France and very few places in the United States, mostly in California and Nevada (www.altenergy.org).
Wind energy is another renewable source of energy that could be a potential alternative energy source. “Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy such as using: wind turbines to make electrical power, windmills for mechanical power, wind pumps for water pumping and drainage or sails to propel ships” (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power). This type of energy would greatly benefit people living in rural areas, such as farmers.
Even though space is needed for the equipment there is plenty of space between them for farmers to use the land for agriculture. Wind energy can be used to pump water or generate electricity, but it requires extensive land coverage to produce significant amounts of energy. At this time, Asia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, and the United States all use wind power to some extent.
As with geothermal energy, wind power also has advantages and disadvantages. Several advantages to wind power would be: inexhaustible fuel source; does not cause pollution; and can supplement other renewable energy sources. On the other hand, it is a low energy producer that requires large numbers of wind generators and large land areas to produce useful amounts of heat or electricity; only areas with lots of wind are suitable for this type of energy source; bird fatalities are up; and it is relatively expensive to maintain.
Flowing water creates energy that can be captured and turned into electricity. This is called hydroelectric power or hydropower. Hydropower only requires moving water, is available almost everywhere, and is sustainable. The United States has been using hydropower for over 100 years, proving it is an alternative energy source. The top 10 states utilizing hydropower are Washington, Oregon, New York, California, Alabama, Idaho, Tennessee, Montana, Arizona and North Carolina. This is one of the most cost effective sources of energy since it taps into our waterways to produce electricity, keeping it from being exposed to the unpredictable price swings for other sources of electricity. There are many advantages to using hydropower. Once a dam has been created, electricity can be produced constantly. If there are times when less electricity is being used, the dam gates can be closed saving the water for another time when the demand for electricity is higher.
Dams are designed to last for decades and when they are used to generate electricity, there are no green house gases being emitted. The lakes that form behind the dams can store the water until it is needed to generate electricity. As with anything, there are also disadvantages. Dams are very expensive to build and must meet very high standards; the return on the value of building a dam takes many decades before they become profitable due to the high cost of constructing a dam; there are concerns for large areas of land being flooded and the natural environment being destroyed; and building a large dam “alters the natural water table level” (www.altenergy.com).
If we were to compare the current nonrenewable energy sources we use today with the renewable energy sources that are available to us, we would find that using fossil fuel (nonrenewable) is cheaper. Geothermal energy is extremely price competitive in suitable areas; wind energy is very economically priced and is one of the lowest priced renewable energy sources available to us; and solar energy prices have come down in the past few years making it a little more affordable. Although all of these sources of renewable energy are available to us, not all of them are conducive to all areas.
In the United States, places like California and Nevada would do well with geothermal energy; rural areas like Idaho would benefit from wind energy; any climate that has lots of sunshine, such as Hawaii and Florida would benefit from solar energy. All of these alternative energies will come with an expensive upfront cost. The drilling for geothermal energy will cause problems for the soil; windmills take up vast amounts of area and have been found to increase bird fatalities; and solar energy requires a lot of sunshine. In Maryland where I reside, the use of geothermal energy is highly unlikely since we do not have any active volcanoes; wind energy might benefit farmers in the southern region; and solar energy would only be beneficial during the spring and summer months when we have plenty of sun.
Most of us have always taken for granted that our energy resources would be around. As we are noticing more and more each day, our energy resources are being depleted and we need to do our part in conserving energy where we can. In order to conserve energy I wash my clothes in cold water, set my thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and at 55 degrees at night, changed all my light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs and I recycle as many items as possible. These are just a few things that can help conserve energy.
Other things that can be done to conserve energy would be buy the most energy-efficient appliances when you need to replace your old ones, only run your dishwasher when it is full, turn off the water when brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, clean or replace air filters as recommended, wrap your hot water heater with an insulated blanket, and replace your shower heads with low-flow shower heads. If everyone were to do these things we would be able to reduce the demand for fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas as well as save some money. Most of the ways we can conserve energy do not cost us anything and the items that might require a cost, it will be a relatively small price to pay in order to preserve our energy sources.
Alternative Energy Solutions for the 21st Century (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2012, from www.altenergy.org. Energy Matters (n.d). Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://library.thinkquest.org/20331/types/solar/advant.html. Ryan, V. (2005-2009). Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydropower. Retrieved December 1, 2012, from www.technologystudent.com/energy1/hydr2.htm. Tillery,
B. W., Enger, E. E., & Ross, F. C. (2008). SCI110: Integrated science: 2009 custom edition (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission web page. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2012, from www.wsscwater.com/hme/jsp/content/www-intro.faces. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2012, from www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power.