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  • 1. Finding the Best Source of Energy<br />Gan Thomas Osborne<br />Grantham University online<br />EN101 English Composition<br />Instructor: Kim Donovan-KaraffAbstract<br />The benefits of renewable energy sources far outweigh the positive effects of the use of fossil fuels for our energy needs. The harmful byproducts of the fossil fuel processes leave a trail of disease in its wake. Although renewable resources are not without fault of their own, the effects are not nearly as destructive to the world. By choosing to incorporate even a fraction of energy use to a renewable resource the dramatic impact that fossil fuels have can be offset. <br /> Energy is defined as the ability to do work. The benefits of renewable energy sources far outweigh the use of fossil fuels for energy needs. Renewable sources cost far less per watt considering the return on investment, cause less environmental damage and are inexhaustible. The alternatives are fossil fuels, which are toxic, rapidly decreasing in volume and monetarily taxing. Using renewable energy sources is the wisest investment for the future, considering the extreme amount of pollution that fossil fuels produce when being used as an energy source. The world's energy needs should be supplied with renewable resources if for no other reason than the economical benefit as an incentive. In order to understand the benefits and negativities of the options for energy sources, we must examine the pathology. Once a thing is defined, then the ability to weigh the pros and cons becomes much easier.<br />Renewable energy is produced by the sun, or from other natural forces of an environment, and it naturally regenerates in a short period of time. Any resources resulting from fossil fuels, their waste product, or the waste product of inorganic sources are not considered renewable energy (TREIA, 2010). Although the energy source may be renewable, the instrument used to collect the energy has a creation process. In some cases, the process of making the devices has a negative environmental impact. <br />One of the many benefits that renewable resources have is that they are cost effective with a valuable return on investment in a long-term scenario. Once the ROI reaches 100%, energy generated becomes profit, which equates to money being saved. This brings true the old adage that a penny saved is a penny earned. The initial investment may be considered steep no matter which renewable option you choose to examine, and the mathematical certainty of cost-benefit over time is one of the key elements regarding renewable energy.<br />The benefit of using fossil fuels in a monetary sense would be that they are currently considered cheap. The reason for the term cheap would be that there is an infrastructure in place to transport, process and utilize each fossil fuel to create the electricity that we need to power our daily lives. The economics regarding fossil fuels is like an extremely complex machine with many moving cogs and gears. The cost of 1 kWh today generated from fossil fuels is only about five cents, not including the fuel adjustment charged by the energy company.<br />A photovoltaic cell is a conversion device that changes the energy in sunlight into electrical energy. The most common component used in today's solar cell is silicone, and there are four general types of silicon solar cells: single-crystal silicon, polycrystalline silicone (multi-crystal silicon), ribbon silicon and amorphous silicon (thin-film). The silicon absorbs photons from sunlight and releases electrons, which creates direct current (DC) electricity (Cogenerative, 1999). <br />The price of an initial solar panel system may be expensive, but can be offset substantially by both federal and state tax incentives. According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), many states offer generous tax credits for integrating solar power into your current energy system (DSIRE, 2010). Adding these incentives into the calculation, the return on initial investment can dramatically reduce the overall cost. Depending on the state in which a person lives, net metering is probably available. Net metering is a method that allows people to sell unused energy they generate to their energy providers, no matter what renewable energy system they use. It also gives consumers the option to store excess energy for use during a later billing cycle (Green, 2010).<br />Silicone is an element that is the second most abundant in the Earth's crust (Environmental Chemistry) and is used in many of today's electronics, especially in the photovoltaic arena. During the process of doping silicon, bringing it into a usable form for electric generation, toxic byproducts are formed. Potassium leaches into groundwater, which feeds algae and kills fish. Carbon dioxide is released into the air, which depletes the ozone layer. The largest cost in creating photovoltaic panels is the transferring of toxic byproduct back into inert environmentally safe substances. The environmental impact that silicone processes have are substantially lower than any fossil fuel process.<br />Hydroelectricity is power generated by the force of moving water (Chiff, 2010). It is the most widely used renewable energy resource on the planet, likely due to its dependable output and low maintenance needs. For the most part it is pollution-free, but there are environmental and social ramifications. The operation of hydropower stations, which includes the construction of dams, can represent a significant disturbance to the natural environment and local communities. Changing the natural environment, especially a water system, in any way can dramatically affect the ecosystem (Chiff, 2010). In developing countries, local populations tend to benefit less from hydropower, as the generated electricity is often exported to urban regions or outside the country (WWF, n.d.). <br />Hydroelectric generators are one of the most prevalent sources for renewable energy worldwide. The impact that the part generating process has on the environment for the creation of each generator is directly proportionate to the use of fossil fuels for energy. The reasons for this are that the companies who machine the metal and plastic pieces for the generators are often using fossil fuels for energy needs. However, once the generator is in operation over the course of its lifetime, it will be worth more than its weight in gold.<br />Wind power is actually solar generated, due to the fact that wind is created when air is heated by the sun's rays and begins to move, as well as the movement of the Earth as it is caught in the sun's gravitational force, causing it to revolve. Harnessing the wind as a source of energy is much the same as hydroelectricity in the way that it uses a turbine to generate electricity. On a residential scale one or two wind turbines can supplement or completely fill all energy needs without any significant environmental impact. On a larger scale, 5 MW wind machines that have three blades each are generally a part of a larger wind farm. Each blade is as long as an 18-wheeler truck and is just as wide. Understanding the dimensions allows for the comprehension of the area that must be cleared and prepared for the establishment of such a farm. Although a tremendous amount of energy can be gained, the process impacts approximately 5 acres per turbine. This equates to a change in the environment, which involves destruction of trees, widening and reinforcing roads and detracting from the beauty of a natural environment.<br />Geothermal energy is power that is harvested from the earth itself. The Earth contains thermal energy beneath its crust (National Geographic, 2010). One of the most famous examples of geothermal energy at work is Old Faithful, which is a geyser at Yellowstone National Park. Although geothermal energy has been used for thousands of years, man has recently begun to pipe this hot water to heat homes using geothermal heat pump systems at a residential level. On a global level there are three types of geothermal power plants working today. They are dry steam, flash and binary systems, which all utilize the mechanism of steam driving a turbine to generate electricity. Geothermal energy is always available, unlike solar rays and wind, and it can be extracted without burning any fossil fuels. In addition, the cost can be as little as 20% of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, tapping this resource can cause the release of hydrogen sulfide, which can cause nasal and lung irritation in both short-term and long-term exposure (New York State Board of Health, 2005). <br />Fossil fuels are nonrenewable energy resources derived from the remains of plants and animals that are millions of years old. The fuels are found in deposits deep within the earth, and are burned to release chemical energy (Chughtai, n.d.). There are three types of fossil fuels: petroleum oil, natural gas and coal.<br />Petroleum, or crude, oil is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon-based liquid, which is sometimes present in porous rocks beneath the Earth's surface, and is easily moved due to its liquid state. Petroleum affects our daily lives in so many ways by occurring in so many products that we use frequently. It can be found in all plastic, as well as in cars, children's toys, surfboards and pesticides. Although petroleum oil prices are steadily rising, the prices are low compared to those of renewable resources. Despite the multiple alternatives, petroleum fuels have a pre-existing infrastructure in place and are capable of meeting demand with a steady supply (Joaquin, n.d.). However, price fluctuation is possible when oil is being imported from foreign countries, as the price is often determined by the political beliefs of the country where the oil originates. The largest oil fields are located in the Middle East, which is often at odds with the rest of the world.<br />In addition, petroleum oil has harmful effects on the environment. Combustion emits carbon dioxide, which is the primary greenhouse gas. Also, spills caused by drilling can devastate marine life, tourism and local economies, as most recently demonstrated by the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, there are no positive environmental impacts for the use of or processing of fossil fuels for our energy needs.<br />Natural gas is composed of carbon and hydrogen (CH₄), commonly known as methane. Natural gas is considered the cleanest fossil fuel because it has fewer impurities, is less chemically complex and produces less pollution (American Gas Association, n.d.). However, the use of pipelines associated with natural gas requires high maintenance costs, and extraction causes the ground to sink. In addition, it is highly combustible and poisonous (Swain, 2007).<br />Coal is a fossil fuel composed of a mixture of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that is used to produce heat and burned by some power plants to produce electricity. Coal is extremely plentiful and cheap. It is easily converted into electricity by burning it to boil water, which turns a turbine that generates electricity. Coal is easy to harvest by removing mountaintops layer by layer. Coal accounts for almost half of the electricity used in the United States. However, the silica and carbon in coal dust can wreak havoc on one’s respiratory system. Also, the burning of coal emits enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and pollutants (A National Directory of Solar Services, n.d.). <br />The consequences of generating electricity from fossil fuels are devastating to the environment. The effects are incalculable due to the steady increase of demand worldwide. The current processes leave a toxic sludge or black silt, and expel massive amounts of carbon dioxide that depletes the planet’s ozone. These toxicities leach into our waterways, into the air we breathe and into the food we eat. Even though there is no easy solution, new methods must be implemented if Earth is ever to become a relatively toxic-free world. Unfortunately, one common characteristic shared by all fossil fuels is that they are too cheap and readily available to ignore and there is no viable alternative for our energy needs in the respect of monetary cost.<br /> From a residential standpoint there are multiple renewable resources available. When the wind is scarce, there may be heat. Where heat is scarce there may be plenty of sunlight and wind. Even if the addition of a renewable energy resource merely supplements the overall use of a residence, it will have a positive impact on the environment and the budget. By replacing some of the appliances in a home with an Energy Star rated product the benefits can be a reduction in energy usage. Funding companies that sell products made by renewable energy is literally empowering this country’s future economic stability. While consumers have been steadily forced into a life of buying from power monopolies, there are now choices on the horizon. <br />As humans, each step taken in the direction of releasing the constraints of fossil fuel bondage is a step toward the goal of free energy for all. Once the return on investment is past one hundred percent, it becomes only positive in relation to environmental benefits and monetary cost. Taking these options into consideration, renewable resources are the way of the future.<br />References<br />TREIA (2010). Definition of Renewable Energy. Retrieved from Technologies (1999). Solar Energy Systems. Retrieved from<br />Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (2010). Tax Credit for Solar and Wind Energy Systems on Residential Property (Corporate). Retrieved from<br />The Green Power Network (2010). Net Metering Policies. Retrieved from (2010). Hydroelectric Power. Retrieved from electric.htm<br />World Wildlife Fund (n.d.). Hydroelectric Energy Facts. Retrieved from HYPERLINK " renewable" renewable_energy/clean_energy_facts/hydro_energy_facts<br />National Geographic (2010). Wind Power. Retrieved from http://environment.national<br />National Park Service (2008). Geothermal Resources. Retrieved from <br /><br />National Geographic (2010). Geothermal Energy. Retrieved from http://environment.national geothermal-profile/<br />New York State Department of Health (2005). Hydrogen Sulfide Chemical Information Sheet. Retrieved from<br />Chughtai, O., & Shannon, D (n.d.). Fossil Fuels. Retrieved from http://www.umich. edu/~gs265/society/fossilfuels.htmJoaquin, Sheryl (n.d.). Petroleum-Its Uses and Benefits. Retrieved from HYPERLINK ""<br />American Gas Association (2010). Environmental Benefits of Natural Gas. Retrieved from Swain, D (2007). Disadvantages of Natrual Gas. Retrieved from<br />A National Directory of Solar Services (n.d.). Advantages and Disadvantages of Coal? Retrieved from of-coal<br />