Homeowners and small farmers in windy, flat areas are already using the wind as a source of power. However, the use of wind energy is problematic: the wind provides an intermittent source of energy, and once captured, it must be rationed carefully.
Power plants and homes with solar power systems or solar panels can use the sun as a heat source or source of renewable energy. However, solar power, like wind energy, is problematic because of its intermittent nature, particularly in areas of the country that have high energy needs and relatively low exposure to the sun (NREL, 2009). Residential homes in California and the Western states have used solar power, with some success.
Geothermal, hydroelectric, and tidal energy
Drilling into the core of the earth to extract geothermal energy uses ground heat water to produce steam, which then powers electric generators. It is more easily to control than wind or solar energy, but poses more of a risk to the environment given that harmful by-products can be released when drilling into the earth. Water-based power like hydroelectric dams offer a more sustainable source of energy: "water can be accumulated above the dam" in a fresh or salt-water area, "and released to coincide with peaks in demand. So, unlike other types of power stations, hydroelectric power stations can promptly increase to full capacity," and be generated constantly" (Oroloff 2009). But these dams are expensive to build and only areas with enough of a supply of water can benefit from this type of energy.
Many potential alternative energy sources exist, but there is no singular, perfect solution to the dependence of the world on fossil fuels. A multi-pronged approach is necessary, and each approach must be tailored to the specific topography, climate, and usage patterns of the area. Although energy dependence on non-renewable sources of energy is an international problem, it likely requires local solutions.
Burns, Judith. (2009, November 16). Update: Group seeks U.S. tax credits to spur electric car use.
CNN Money. Retrieved November 16, 2009 at http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/djf500/200911161801DOWJONESDJONLINE000398_FORTUNE5.htm
Orlofff, Jerry. (2009). Alternative energy. About.com. Retrieved November 16, 2009 at http://saveenergy.about.com/od/alternativeenergysources/a/altenergysource.htm
Solar power. (2009). National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Department of Energy.
Retrieved November 16, 2009
Wind energy basics. (2009). National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Department of Energy. Retrieved November 16, 2009 at http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_wind.html