The science of alternative energy has been spawned by the ever growing world population and the increasingly higher consumption of energy per person. The need for less polluting sources of energy and the need to prevent global warming, and the possible complete depletion to fossil fuels. These are the reasons scientists today are improving existing technologies and creating even better energy technologies. Some of these technologies will include nuclear, solar and wind power. Each of these technologies has the ability to contribute to the solution, but none can do this alone.
Commercial nuclear fission power has been around since 1956 when the Calder Hall in Sellafield, England nuclear reactor opened. Nuclear plants can provide a clean source of power in relation to production, unlike coal which has to be mined in great quantity and is not a clean burning resource. Although the pollution from nuclear fission does not reach the atmosphere nuclear fission does create waste, radioactive waste, that retains its radioactivity for millions of years after it has been used to create energy.
Commercial photovoltaic solar power is still being refined but does have a “bright” future ahead. The first photovoltaic solar cell was built in 1883 by Charles Fritts. Solar power provides clean non-polluting power taking advantage of the secondhand nuclear fusion energy of the sun. Photovoltaic solar cell technology has also made great strides in the last decade. In the 1990s silicon cells were twice as thick, efficiencies thirty percent lower and lifetimes shorter then today may not have collected enough energy to offset the energy used to produce the panel. Modern solar cells have advanced to the point were it is now as cheap as coal to produce electricity.
Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines. Wind power has been used for grinding grain as early as 200 BCE. The first windmill for electricity production was built in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles Brush in 1888. Wind power also provides clean non-polluting source of energy. Wind power can be installed on land or offshore and both have their pros, and cons. Wind energy has become a viable supplement to electricity consumption now and in the future.
The science of alternative energy has spawned many new innovative technologies as-well as the revitalization of older technologies. Each of these new and old technologies will help lessen our addiction to fossil fuels and someday replace them completely. The future of billions of humans depend on these technologies. Unlike the past, no one solution will be the power of the future, but many different technologies working in together in coherence.