Alternative Energy Sources, What Can the Elements Do for You?

Why would anybody need alternative energy sources? You are probably thinking, “I have electricity coming from the wall socket and it works just fine”. Well there are a couple reasons you should have some type of backup energy source. Think about this: as we all know, the power at your home can and will go out from time to time. It may only be for ten minutes, but depending on the situation, it could be quite a bit longer. There also may be a time that the power goes out indefinitely because of a disaster, social collapse or overuse of resources. Having alternative energy sources for your home can keep you from having to throw out all the food in your freezer and refrigerator because of a power outage. In addition, you can keep the luxuries-such as, microwaves, freezers, refrigerators, computer and phone chargers, televisions, etc.-that you use on a daily basis running. Alternative energy sources are also great if you plan on camping. RVs are already equipped with alternative energy sources that don’t need to be hooked up to incoming electricity. This article will provide a starting point and introduction to the types of alternative energy sources currently available. The sources I will discuss are gas/diesel generators, solar power, wind power, water or hydro power, wood gasifiers for powering gas engines, and batteries to store this power.

Gas/Diesel Generators

The first of the alternative energy sources is gas/diesel generators. Generators are very widely used and can be quite inexpensive and efficient. They are used by campers and RV owners. A generator works in essentially the same way a car’s engine spins the alternator to provide electricity to the car. In a generator, that energy, provided by the generator’s alternator, is then converted to the correct voltage to power household appliances. The benefits of generators include their cost efficiency, their mobility, and their easy maintenance. Some of the downsides of generators are that they must have gasoline or diesel to power them and, depending on the model, they can be noisy.

Solar Power

This is one of the alternative energy sources that uses a completely renewable resource. As long as the sun is still shining and your solar cells are functioning, you will have power coming from them. Solar cells are also known as photovoltaic cells. The cells absorb rays from the sun, which in turn react with the metals in the cell to provide electricity. This type of alternative energy source is beneficial because it uses no other fuel besides sunlight. Additionally, there is no maintenance involved. The downside to solar cells is that they can be quite expensive. Also, if there is no sunlight, there will be no electricity. Furthermore, the electricity must be stored in a battery and does not provide continuous power. Finally, if just a small area of a solar cell is damaged, it can drastically reduce the electrical output.

Wind Power

The third source of the alternative energy sources is wind power. There are predominantly two uses of windmills. At one point, they were used exclusively for pumping water out of a well. More recently, they have been used to produce electricity and have been termed wind generators. This is because they work like a generator, but instead of an engine turning the alternator, it uses the wind’s power. Wind generators have propellers that are attached to the alternator. When wind is present, it spins the propeller as well as the alternator. The benefits of wind power are similar to solar power in that it uses no fuel. Also wind generators or windmills can be pretty easily designed and made by hand. Wind generators also have drawbacks, however. If there is not enough wind to power the propellers and alternators, they won’t provide much electricity. They are also usually fixed in one location, large and therefore difficult to move, and are very conspicuous.

Water Power

Hydro power is much like wind power, one of the other alternative energy sources. Hydro power provides electricity with the use of turbines. Flowing water runs over a turbine, which then turns the turbine and the alternator. The benefits of hydro power are that no fuel is necessary to power it. In addition, it can provide quite a bit of power. The problem with hydro power is that the water mills are generally bulky and large, and if the water source powering the water mills dries up or has low flow, the power will cease.

Wood Power

One of the least used alternative energy sources, but also one of the coolest alternative energy sources is a wood gasifier. This energy source does not actually provide electrical energy; it provides the energy that is needed to power an engine. This can then turn an alternator producing electricity. A wood gasifier uses the energy stored in wood to provide a wood fuel. It also has a section where wood chips are smoldered to release a gas. This gas is full of tar and other things that are bad for engines so the gas is then filtered. At this point, the gas is safe to be used in combustion engines. The benefit of wood gasifiers is that they can power gas generators as well as vehicles. Wood gasifiers are also quite easy to make and very inexpensive. The problems with them are that it doesn’t produce actual electricity, but rather fuel. Realistically, this would not be a problem if you are looking for an alternative fuel source. Another possible problem is that you must have wood chips, which means you must either chop the wood into small pieces or chip it.

Storage and usage are necessary components of alternative energy sources. You want to ensure that the power is compatible with 120 volt devices. The best way to store the electrical energy is with a battery bank. These batteries are usually automotive deep cycle type batteries. Many times batteries are wired in parallel to give a higher capacity to allow for longer use than a single battery. An inverter is then needed to convert the electricity into the correct voltage to power household appliances.

The alternative energy sources industry is huge and this article barely scratches the surface. Using all these alternative energy sources together can help you to become more self sufficient, lower your electric bill or even allow you to live completely off the electrical grid.