0 Starting point. An introduction to the concept of the fuel cell and what it means to society. Some alternative energy technologies are introduced; solar energy and intelligent load-balancing are discussed. A look at global warming, and the sensationalism that often surrounds it. What are the truths about global warming, and what is merely hot air? Surface temperature and sea levels are discussed. A history of fuel cells and a look at their inner workings. A more detailed look into various energy sources, with links and helpful insights into the energy sources of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Links to the finest energy source resources in the world. Use these to get started on your quest to building the solar home of the future, or as a research tool in your quest to find new renewable energy sources. Concluding remarks; what can we do to preserve energy and fossil fuels while we wait for fuel cells to come to fruition?
 Alternative Energy Sources
I. Introduction
II. Solar Power
III. Wind Energy
IV. Biomass Energy


A wide variety of alternative energy sources have been developed and are in use throughout the world. We have not yet perfected the fuel cell, but we do have other viable alternatives while we're waiting.

Solar Power

The sun's rays can be captured by solar panels and saved for a rainy day. On a clear, sunny day, the sun can provide 1,000 watts per square meter on the earth's surface. Solar power can be used to provide electricity, and also to heat buildings. For large office buildings, this could potentially mean saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in winter heating costs.

Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells. These cells are made up of semiconducting materials like silicon. When light hits the solar panel, energy from the sun knocks electrons loose within the cell. Metal contacts attached to the panel keep the electrons flowing in the proper direction, and this electrical energy is harnessed through wires and batteries. By connecting multiple cells in series (or in parallel), greater power can be obtained from the sun.

By wiring the cells in series, greater voltage is achieved; by wiring them in parallel, greater amperage is obtained and the voltage remains the same.

This solar array provides 2,400 watts of power!
[Home Power Magazine]
Home Power magazine encourages fans of renewable energy to "give back to the grid" by installing their solar panels and wind power generators intertied with the power grid. Power companies complain that this practice endangers utility line workers and is dangerous to the grid. Solar enthusiasts (like the gentleman to the right) believe that sending their power to the grid is helpful to the environment. Home Power calls these entrepreneurs "Solar Guerrillas." For some, the connection allows excess power not charging batteries to flow back onto the grid. For others, it keeps their heating bills down. For all, it offers the joy of making the meter run backwards. More information is available at Home Power magazine.

More information on solar power and links to various companies providing products and consultation is available here.

Wind Energy

With wind power, a turbine rotates when the wind blows. This turns a system of gears, and the gears send the power to an electrical generator. Current technology has pushed the efficiency of wind power generators to 20-30%.

There are two concerns with wind turbine use:
Turbines can be very loud in strong winds. One wind power enthusiast says that his turbine sounds like a truck rumbling down a New England dirt road when the winds blow harder than 30 miles per hour.

The other issue with wind turbines is that they kill birds unfortunate enough to fly in their path. However, manufacturers say that new designs and better placement of turbines decreases this risk. Overall, the benefits outweigh the negatives.

More information on wind energy and a list of companies specializing in wind energy products are located here.

Biomass Energy

Garbage materials such as wood, manure, and crop residues can be burned to release trapped hydrogen and carbon. These materials are known as biomass, and the resulting energy is called biomass energy.

Ever billion gallons of ethanol produced in the US results in the creation of 17,000 jobs, according to the US Department of Agriculture (via the American Biomass Association website). The rural farmer economy will get a great boost if biomass energy is investigated as a primary source of power for the United States.

Biomass will also help to lower US greenhouse gas emissions. By burning biomass, CO2 is released, but it is used again in the growth of other biomass, maintaining a closed cycle. Extensive root structures can capture carbon, actually resulting in a net reduction in CO2!

More information on this renewable resource is available here.
Last Modified 2 December, 2001 22:16
©2001 Samuel Shaw