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Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energy

Essay by   •  October 23, 2011  •  Essay  •  807 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,749 Views

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Since the beginning of time, humanity has been striving to grow and do great things. This goal can only be met by effectively generating power. In today's times, debates have arisen about how to achieve this goal; some say that fossil fuels will sustain us indefinitely while others say renewable energy sources are the way to go. Currently the U.S. gets 85% of its energy from fossil fuels: 40% oil, 25% natural gas, and 20% coal. This means only 15% of America's energy comes from renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy sources are sources that humans cannot deplete or use up. As they are used, more is created naturally in nature. One of the most common renewable energy sources is solar power. Other well-known renewable energy sources are wind and waterpower. All of these energies are considered green, in other words they are safe for the environment because they leave no harmful chemicals or gasses. The only thing holding the world back from going completely green is the cost of these green energy sources.

Solar energy goes back for thousands of years when people would use the sun to heat water. The first electricity made from solar power was in 1883 when the American Charles Fritts created the first photovoltaic cell. The cells he created were very weak and made from selenium. Only a few electrons were captured by these weak cells. In 1954, Bell Telephone Laboratories created a new photovoltaic cell; it was 4% proficient and made from silicon. They later recreated the cell and made it 11% efficient. NASA got involved in P.V. technology, in 1958, when they used P.V. cells to power their satellite radio on the Vanguard Space Program.

The current Photovoltaic process harnesses the power of the sun with thin slices of silicon, and converts energy directly into electricity. This means no generator is used so it produces no harmful byproducts. Individual P.V. cells are wired together to create a panel. Panels are grouped together to make an array. Arrays are grouped into fields to make array fields, which are wired to put power straight into the power grids. Since there is no effective means by which to store the electricity produced by the array fields they can only work during the day.

Nuclear power is clean but not completely renewable. The general process is when water is heated in the core through fusion. Fusion happens when the nuclei of two atoms join to make another element. The heated water then runs through a pipe in a container of cold water. This boils the water turning it to steam which builds up pressure and turns a turbine. The boiling water in the pipe is run back through and heated again, while the steam is re-condensed and run back into the container. The uranium, which is used to boil the water, cannot be recycled. In addition to not being recyclable, the Uranium is radioactive. This means that when a fuel rod is spent it cannot just be

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