Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alternative Sources of Energy

by Antonio C. Antonio
October 13, 2014

Fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal are considered primary sources of energy.  Electrical power is considered a secondary source of energy because electricity depends on a primary source to run electric generation machinery and equipment.  Having mentioned this, what could now be considered alternative sources of power?  The following are some of the energy sources outside of the primary sources of energy:
  1. Biomass Energy – Biomass is the total accumulation of living materials.  Biomass conversion is the process of obtaining energy from the chemical energy stored in biomass.  A common example of biomass conversion to energy is the burning of fuel wood.  Biomass energy plays a vital role in the Philippines’ energy supply.  Nearly 30% of the energy of the total population of 100 million people comes from biomass; mainly used for household cooking by the rural poor.  Almost 73% of this biomass use is traced to the cooking needs of the residential sector while industrial and commercial applications accounts for the rest.
  2. Geothermal Energy – Geothermal energy is energy coming from the heat produced by the earth.  The main heat sources come from the magma located in the core of the earth; the closest locations to the earth’s surface are areas near volcanoes.  According to the International Geothermal Association (IGA), the Philippines ranks second to the United States in producing geothermal energy… 3,093 megawatts of geothermal power for the US and 1,904 megawatts for the Philippines.
  3. Nuclear Energy – Nuclear energy is the energy of atomic nucleus which produces energy through nuclear fission (splitting of atoms) and nuclear fusion (combining of atomic nuclei).  Nuclear energy produced by nuclear fission and fusion is a non-renewable form of energy since it utilizes Uranium as fuel.  Uranium is a geological resource that is very limited and it takes a long period of time (millions of years) for natural accumulation of this resource before it could be profitably mined.  Although there was a previous Philippine government program to install the first nuclear power plant (the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant), the project has been mothballed for several safety issues and concerns.
  4. Solar Energy – Solar energy is said to be inexhaustible and perpetually available and is largely characterized with very minimal contributions to environmental degradation.  For most ecosystems, the sun is the ultimate source of energy that drives life processes.  The only disadvantage of solar power is the fact that it is spatial and temporal in nature as it is very dependent on sunlight and sunshine.
  5. Water and Wind Power – Water power is a form of stored solar energy because weather and the flow of water on earth are driven by the sun.  Water stream have been traditionally used by man to power a variety of machines for a long time.  At present, water energy is used to power hydroelectric plants which accounts for 7% of the world’s energy requirement.  On the other hand, wind power is also used to generate electricity as in the case of the Bangui Wind Mills in Ilocos Norte, Philippines.
There are many worldviews on the propriety of the use of these alternative sources of energy… some approve of most sources while others strongly question the sustainability and safety of the use certain sources.  In this article, I would just like to elicit and provoke thoughts aimed at engaging readers to seriously consider what is ideal for the Philippines from among these alternative sources of energy.

Just my little thoughts…

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