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Alternatives to Fossil Fuels

Sarah Dieckman, Abby Downey, Jonathan Fisher, and Shijun Gu Introduction Fossil fuels, including crude oil, natural gas, and coal, supply over 80% of our world's energy They are nonrenewable resources

Damaging to our environment Need to use sustainable alternatives

Lessen our dependence on foreign fuel imports Cannot be easily depleted Gentler on the environment Most are renewable

Global Energy Production Alternatives to Fossil Fuels

The focus of the presentation is on the following four energy sources:

Wind Energy Solar Energy Bioenergy Geothermal Energy

Other sources include nuclear power and hydropower

Wind Energy

Energy derived from the movement of air Sun's differential heating of air masses on Earth

Wind turbines: mechanical devices that convert wind's kinetic energy into electrical energy 1973: Industries and government in North America and Europe gave funding for research and development

How The Turbines Are Used

Wind blows into turbine, the blades of the rotor turn, and the machinery in the nacelle rotates

Nacelle holds gearbox and generator

Higher wind towers decrease turbulence, increase wind speed

Turbines designed to rotate back/forth depending on wind direction

Advantages and Disadvantages


Can be built in shallow waters (lower turbulence, higher winds) No gas emissions into air Produce more energy than they consume Wind farms use less H2O than conventional power plants Towers on ranches/farms

Creates jobs No ongoing fuel costs Wind is unpredictable Variation from place to place Transmission networks needed to get wind power to where people live Not-in-my-backyard: public disapproval for aesthetic reasoning Pose a threat to birds and bats


Wind Energy Is Growing

Five nations account for 3/4 of world's wind power, but dozens now produce wind power

2008: US became world leader in production No long-term tax credit for wind development Only short-term renewals, but experts certain rapid growth will occur

Solar Energy

Energy supplied by the sun Nuclear fusion

Conversion of hydrogen to helium

1 day of solar energy retrieval = ~25 years of human consumption

Standard homes have sufficient roof space to satisfy all its power needs with rooftop panels Two mechanisms: passive solar and active solar

Passive Solar Energy Collection

Most common Focuses on maximum absorption of sunlight Example:

Installation of south-facing windows

Active Solar Energy Collection

Used to focus, move, or store solar energy Example:

Installation of flat-plate solar collectors on rooftops Solar cookers

Also used to cook food

Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

Most direct way to produce electricity from sunlight Photovoltaic effect

Converts sunlight to electrical energy

Advantages/Disadvantag es

Inexhaustible No fuel required Quiet Safe No turbine or generator required "Isolated communities" benefit Enable developing countries to cook meals without creating fuelwood


Not all regions of the world are sunny

Initial cost of equipment is expensive

~20 years to break even on investment

A Promising Future

Dates from the 18th century, but pushed aside due to fossil fuel use Solar energy use has grown 31% worldwide since 1971 Immensely attractive to developing countries Fossil fuel corporations investing in solar energy

BP Solar: British Petroleum's solar energy wing

PV cell production is increasing and prices are falling at the same time


Bioenergy is obtained from biomass resources Biomass is the organic material from living or recently deceased organisms Wood, charcoal, grasses, farm and animal waste Generally originates from the sun and plant photosynthesis

Ethanol and Biodiesel

Powers automobiles

Most commonly corn ethanol and soy or palm oil biodiesel Sugars are bonded together to form starch, broken down through hydrolysis and amylase enzymes, then fermented. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandated 36 billion gallons annually by 2022


Plants are a renewable resource Less carbon emissions than gasoline


Negative energy balance: a liter of ethanol requires 29% more fossil energy than is produced as ethanol Even optimistically, EROI is only 1.5:1 Competes with food crops Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers Lower fuel efficiency Higher levels of some pollutants

Other Options


Grows quickly Non-food More oil than other crops Can use factory or power plant waste Non-food - switchgrass, farm waste Lower pesticide and fertilizer use Lower GHG emissions than corn ethanol and gasoline

Cellulosic Ethanol

Geothermal Energy

1. Theory
- Origin: Earths formation (20%), Radioactive decay (80%) - Transfer: Geothermal gradient

2. Application
(1) Heating and cooling

2. Application
(2) Electricity

3. Analysis
(1) Benefits
a. Reduce emissions

3. Analysis
b. Save money

3. Analysis
(2) Limitations
a. May not be truly sustainable b. Geothermal activity is not stable - Time: Geothermal activity shift naturally over time - Space: Availability depends on geographical region

c. Maintenance