Written by Prognog Staff

Geothermal Energy
Geothermal Energy
Renewable energy resources are those, unlike fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, can be replenished or continually harnessed in some way, without end. Some of the most common renewable or alternative energy sources include solar, or photovoltaic, wind, hydrogen and geothermal. The following provides a quick summary of these four forms of renewable energy resources.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. Currently, solar cells, while increasingly better than before, is still relatively inefficient in converting light into power. Much of the light is reflected away or absorbed, thus yielding only roughly 15% energy from the incoming rays. Research, at this point is continuing and future yield rates look to be much more promising. The California Public Utilities Commission recently approved an initiative that provides $3.2 billion in incentives for research in improving solar power. Other states and agencies are providing similar incentive and the results look promising.

One of the faster growing alternative energy resources is wind power. Wind energy is generated by both stand alone turbines for individual use as well as fields of interconnected turbines that are connected to the present utility grid. There are already several utility companies, like Green Mountain Energy, that use electricity derived from wind power. One of the biggest drawbacks to wind power, of course, is the need for sustained, year round winds for efficient production of power. This limits the use of wind power to those choice areas that fit these criteria. Other negatives of wind power include objections to the visual impact of turbines as well as possible damage to the eco-system particularly for birds and bats.

One of the most touted technologies of late proposed to be the next big alternative fuel is hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel cells used in vehicles emit only water vapor, thus making it an attractive alternative in America’s smog-filled cities. Unfortunately, there are several drawbacks to using hydrogen as a feasible fuel. Currently hydrogen is largely produced by steam reformation of natural gas which releases carbon dioxide as a by product. Additionally, hydrogen produces a relatively small amount of energy relative to its volume. These drawbacks, however, are being tackled as new technologies are being developed to produce, transport and store hydrogen as for use as an alternative fuel. Some experts, like Colorado's Amory Lovins, believes that hydrogen might be the dominant energy carrier by the year 2050.

Finally, another form of renewable energy, though not as common as solar and wind, is geothermal energy. This technology uses the heat from within the earth to run heat pumps, provide “direct-use” energy or generate electrical power production. The best geothermal resources are found in the western portion of the United States, but other things such as geothermal heat pumps can certainly be utilized just about anywhere else.