Many Canadians may think that the only viable alternative energy sources are hydro power, wind power, and solar power, because these are the main ones available in the country. There are, however, many more sources of energy that are being researched and used in other countries. Some of these sources of alternative energy would have the potential to produce immense quantities of energy in Canada. Below are some examples of such alternative energy sources.
One example of alternative energy that is not yet used in any country is an efficient generation of electricity from waste heat discovered by physicists at the University of Arizona. Heat is a by-product of machines, electrical equipment, and industrial processes. Since the world is heavily industrialized, there is a large amount of by-product heat that is generated and thought of as waste. Waste heat can, however, be very useful; it can be used to harvest energy.
Though this has been done in the past, it used to require the use of machines or ozone-depleting chemicals such as steam turbines and CFCs, which naturally does even more harm to the environment. Physicists at the University of Arizona have, however, recently designed a self-contained thermoelectric device with no moving parts that converts heat directly into electric energy. Their design places a rubber-like polymer between two electrodes. When it is exposed to heat, the flow of electrons along the polymer is interrupted and builds up voltage between the electrodes. The physicists speculate that this easy-to-manufacture device will be able to significantly increase the efficiency of cars, power plants, factories, and solar panels. Since waste heat is generated everywhere, the device may one day be used all over the world. As environmentalists always say “everything has the ability to be reused, reduced, and/or recycled” if you just think sustainably and creatively, even waste.
Like the main renewable energy sources in Canada, hydro, wind, and solar; wave power is renewable and is a promising source of alternative energy, as it converts energy from waves into electricity. Wave energy can be harnessed directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface of an ocean or sea. Since 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, and 97 percent of that is salt water, oceans are a vast and rich resource. In fact, it is estimated that the world’s ocean waves could generate up to 2 terawatts of energy. This alternative energy source is still currently being researched. One of the most effective ways found to generate energy from wave power is using the rise and fall of wave action to compress air in a chamber. The air pressure is then released and used to drive a turbine and a generator. Portugal has the world’s first wave farm in which three wave energy converters produce a total of 2.23 megawatts, which is enough to generate electricity for 1,500 homes at peak hours. The Western Coasts of Scotland, Southern Africa, Australia, the Northern coast of Canada, and the North-eastern and North-western coasts of the United States are areas with the potential to generate large amounts of wave power energy. The potential of wave power is currently being investigated for Canada’s West coast.
Lastly, another alternative energy source that captures energy from sea water is tidal power. Tidal power can be generated using a dam that can harness the potential energy generated by the change in height between high and low tides. The water flows through tunnels in the dam that either turn a water turbine or compress air through a pipe that then turns a turbine. Tidal power can also be generated by tidal fences and tidal turbines that are turned by tidal currents in coastal waters. If used globally, tidal power has the potential to generate over 450 terawatts of power. Just imagine how many homes that can provide energy to! Unfortunately, in spite of this huge potential, this alternative energy source is not yet being widely used. The total capacity of all of the tidal energy sites in operation in the world is less than 250 megawatts. The largest operations are on the White Sea in Russia and the Rance River in France. Norway has several small sites. There are only a few tidal sites in Canada, though the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia has the potential to produce as much as 30,000 megawatts of energy.
Of course, there are more alternative energy sources out there that I have not mentioned in this article such as geothermal, biofuel, hydrogen, and biomass, which are all equally worth doing research on and which too have a lot of potential energy that can be harnessed from them. Here are some links to where you can obtain more information on alternative energy.
In order for alternative energy to become main-stream there are a few crucial obstacles that it must overcome: First there must be increased understanding of how alternative energies work and why they are beneficial; secondly the availability components for these systems must increase; and lastly the pay-off time must be decreased. You can do your part to help.
What you can do to help? A lot! To start, you can search up on more facts on alternative energy and why they exist. Seeing as knowledge is power, upon gaining more information on the matter, you can then wisely share these alternative energy sources to your friends and families, school and community at large. Spreading awareness and educating people about viable alternative energy resources is essentially the primary way to decrease our reliance on coal, oil, fossil fuels, nuclear power…etc, which as you know releases high carbon dioxide emissions and other toxic fumes that is known to lead to the acceleration of Global Warming and the contamination of wildlife, the destruction of natural habitat around the world and even the health of world citizen as the air and water around get more and more polluted. Thirdly and most practical, you can make your own home more eco-friendly by reducing your household carbon footprint and the amount of energy you use.
Use this link to calculate your carbon footprint: